The idea for my Fulbright project came from the time I spent in India with CapAsia IV in 2005. Although we didn’t go to Chandigarh on the trip, in our readings we talked about Corbusier and his theories of dehistoricization and defamiliarization with regards to his plan for Chandigarh. I found it really interesting that he disregarded the culture and history of the country. From my few weeks in India, I realized how complex the culture and society are and how important they are there; it was hard for me to believe that a European would come disregarding culture and attempt a plan for a place like India!
The assignments for CapAsia really helped me to think more in depth about these topics – did Corbusier’s theories really work in practice? Was he able to change the way people used the spaces he designed? Do any of these theories hold up in practice or do people negotiate their spaces and use them to fit their own needs, as Nihal spoke about on the trip? If this were the case, perhaps it didn’t matter so much that a European architect designed an Indian city.
These questions led me to my Fulbright proposal in which I will be comparing the planning of Chandigarh and Gandhinagar and how their citizens use space in each city. These two cities served as exercises in new city planning after India gained independence. The first city, Chandigarh, has had a lot of attention and study because of Le Corbusier’s work on its plans; it has been much criticized for being designed from a western viewpoint and failing to accommodate the needs of its Indian citizens. Gandhinagar, in contrast, has been studied very little and will make an interesting comparison since its designers should theoretically have known the culture and therefore taken it into account. So I will be comparing different spaces in each city and how people use these spaces. I am very excited to be continuing with these ideas that began on CapAsia and to be able to nine months exploring India more in depth!
Lindsay will spend the 2009-10 academic year in Ahmedabad, at CEPT University