Remembering Pierre Jeanneret on his death anniversary on Dec 4

December 03, 2017 09:15 AM

Punjab News Express/Y.S. RANA
CHANDIGARH: Both Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret are incomplete without one another, said Dr S.S Bhatt, former principal, College of Architecture, Chandigarh,  who had written an article on Pierre in 1978 as a journalist. On Pierre 50th death anniversary which falls on December 3 lost himself in the memory lanes and revealed that  In 1919 the French painter Amédée Ozenfant and Le Corbusier founded the avant-garde review L'Esprit Nouveau [literally, New Spirit], in which they explored the sources and directions of contemporary art.

L’Esprit Nouveau was the spring-board for Le Corbusier’s entry into architectural practice. In 1922, Pierre Jeanneret (PJ), who had earlier been an associate of the French building contractor, Auguste Perret [who was the first to use reinforced cement concrete in building], became associated with his cousin, Le Corbusier [he was also apprenticed to Auguste Perret]. Together they opened a studio: Atelier 35; rue de Sèvres, Paris, which Le Corbusier kept open until his death.

 “Eventually both succeeded in revolutionizing architecture and architectural education in the 20th century. The association of the two cousins,” feels Dr Bhatti. Pierre Jeanneret was appointed Chief Architect and Chief Town Planning Adviser to the Punjab Government in 1951. He stayed here until he took retirement in December 1965 following prolonged illness.  During his 14-year-long stay here, Pierre contribution to Le Corbusier’s works in Chandigarh is significant. He was the technological overseer who carried out the maestro’s architectural designs, translating them into actual buildings. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that if Le Corbusier has given us Chandigarh’s master plan it was Pierre Jeanneret who gave us the lovable “City Beautiful, said he.

Dr Bhatti felt that Pierre was not given due credit for his contribution to Corbusier’s oeuvre. It is true Corbusier did drawings and designs of Chandigarh but it was Pierre who gave practical shape to construction work by tackling technological problems.  “We have too often overlooked this important architect and unique person, leaving him too much in the background of events,” said he. He designed schools, nurseries, hostels, hospitals, offices, libraries, faculty buildings, low-cost furniture, lighting fixtures, boats, and such. The bulk of his oeuvre is so massive and its quality so exclusive, that it is no exaggeration to state that what may legitimately be called “Chandigarh Architecture” was largely shaped by his genius but still regarded himself as of “humbler creation” in relation to Le Corbusier.

Pierre Jeanneret demonstrated that he had the genius for subtle variations of building components to obviate aesthetic fatigue in the viewers of architecture as the domineering element of the built-environment. The amazing thing about  Panjab University planning and architecture is that this campus has not become dated and still irradiates an aesthetic charm which is hard to match even after nearly half a century since its inception! The campus breathes in perennial freshness of significant architectural creativity.

From luxury to culture:  Jeanneret tried to distil the function of the furniture piece to its fundamental shape. A pedestal lamp, contrived out of iron taslas and conduits, has the same directness and honesty of approach as other pieces of furniture. According to Dr MS Randhawa, first chief commissioner of Chandigarh and connoisseur and promoter of art and architecture, “The contribution which Jeanneret made to home decoration is that he led people’s thoughts from the notion of luxury to that of culture..

Dr Bhatti suggested the Chandigarh Administration on his 50th death anniversary (falls on December 4)  to recommend their names for Bharat Ratna to the Central Government which will be a real tribute to his unmatched contribution to the making of Chandigarh as world-class modern city..

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