In 1942, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the term creative destruction to describe the process of change that characterized our industrial-based economy in the twentieth century.1 Defined by modernity, this past century embraced new ideas and technologies while celebrating the disruption of the old. For Schumpeter, innovation creates obsolescence.
In today’s Information Age, innovation is a constant in our lives, to the point where radical new discoveries in technology have become part of our everyday. These innovations come to us in such great numbers and so quickly that it’s difficult for us to keep pace with the countless ways in which they affect us. However, this enormous wave of innovation has also created an age of obsolescence, one which has shaken the foundations of our society and culture. This is especially true in the worlds of physical media. Not just photographs but books, newspapers, music recordings—to name a few—are all being re-invented into new forms, and I believe we all share a common anxiety about staying current, so we are not left behind and we don’t become obsolete.
The city of Chandigarh, in India, marked by its modern buildings and neighbourhoods, its housing and leisure parks, its infrastructure and landscapes, has been fully associated with a single Western designer: Le Corbusier. My objective is, rather, to give an account of Pierre Jeanneret’s contribution to the construction of this new administrative capital of the state of Punjab, situating Pierre Jeanneret in his relationship to Chandigarh as equally essential, to initiate an appraisal of Jeanneret’s professional and cultural contributions. While examining the multifaceted aspects of Pierre Jeanneret’s responsibilities during his long mandate as “Senior Architect” for the Capital Project, I wish to reveal his role as one of the major actors in the development of the city. Jeanneret’s assignments in Chandigarh ranged from building supervisor for the monumental area of the Capitol, to project manager, and developer of plans for housing and public premises; from furniture design to training the young team of Indian architects who were his collaborators for fifteen years. As such, Jeanneret’s role was instrumental in the transfer of knowledge that operated as a means of creating the language of modern Indian architecture.
The CCA Mellon Foundation Senior Fellowship Program was established in 2001 to encourage advanced research in architectural history and thought. With the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CCA has welcomed distinguished scholars for residencies of one to eight months, culminating in a public lecture.