the-capitol

The Capitol Complex is Le Corbusier’s most spectacular work. The magnificent edifices, set against the Shivalik peaks, stand “as massive concrete sculptures, representing the monumental character authority that the complex represents. It is the seat of the government of the States of Punjab and Haryana. It comprises three epoch-making master-pieces: the Secretariat, the High Court and the Legislative Assembly. Separated by large piazzas, the subtle and most evocative grouping of these buildings is of breath-taking beauty.

And in the centre stands the giant metallic sculpture of The Open Hand, the official emblem of Chandigarh, signifying the city’s credo of ‘open to give’ open to receive’.

Le Corbusier envisioned Chandigarh as a living, breathing being with the different centers representing and functioning as its body parts. Within this design analogy, The Capitol was and is the city’s head, with the Shivalik ranges in the north. It consists of the city’s neural networks–the High Court called the Palace of Justice, Secretariat called the Palace of Ministries and Legislative assembly called the Palace of Assembly. The buildings have been designed and executed with minute detail and grace natural to Le Corbusier, gifted architect that he was. You can see his architectural philosophy brilliantly weaved into the colossal yet graceful dimensions and arches of the buildings.

Towards the end of the Capitol complex, with Shivaliks in the backdrop, you can spot the Open Hand Monument, a landmark in itself. At a height of 26 m, made of sheet metal set atop ball bearings, it is a giant metal hand, being able to rotate when it is windy, appearing like a bird in flight. Called the Depth of Consideration, the place where the Open Hand monument is situated, is 40 m wide and 5 m in depth. With stepped seating and speaker’s rostrum, the place was conceived to be a space for public debates and open discussions, though the vision never really materialized, with the place kept empty for security reasons. The Tower of Shadows located within the Capitol plaza traces the path of the sun through the shadows cast by it and was actually designed by Le Corbusier on the lines of Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Being a pavilion, the shadows of the sun tend to be cast inversely, inside out. The ramp leading from the Tower of Shadows heads into a pit from which the Geometric Hill rises. Sitting in the middle of the plaza, breaking its continuous flow of space, Geometric hill is essentially an enormous solid, opaque mass and was meant to have been inscribed with a large sine curve, Le Corbusier’s symbol of the 24 hour solar cycle. The Monument to the martyr, next to the tower and hill, is a ramp with a summit from where the entire Capitol, more specifically the plaza, can be viewed in great detail, especially its three-dimensionality- pits and declivities that appear as sunken volumes from that height but at ground level tend to vanish. The Monument to the Martyr’s is, in fact, the only monument in the country commemorating the victims of partition.