During an illustrious career that spanned around five decades, he played many roles – architect, designer, painter, urban planner, writer. Today, buildings throughout America, Europe and India bear testimony to his brilliance; yet what Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier is most revered for is not a structure, a building or a thought – but for a pioneering vision of modern architecture. Interestingly, this year, which marks the 50th death anniversary of Le Corbusier, India officially has taken up the challenge of building smart cities, keeping people at the core of inclusive and enriching urban experiences – a concept very close to this pioneer's heart. In fact, one of the greatest testimonies to the timeless relevance of his ideas is the city of Chandigarh, which houses the largest of the many Open Hand sculptures he created; it is known as the Open Hand Monument. Open hands are a recurring motif in Le Corbusier architecture, symbolizing peace and reconciliation. The hand is open to give and open to receive.

Coming back to one of the uncanny coincidences of our times, Le Corbusier's interest in urban planning has one specific focus - to provide better living conditions for those in crowded urban spaces like most Indian cities today. The resemblance does not end here; his design for Ville Contemporaine or the Contemporary City meant to house three million inhabitants was worked around sixty-story skyscrapers, steel and glass work buildings offset by specific rectangular green spaces. There was even space for helipads, multi-level transport systems which possibly only China and Japan have mastered as of now, and sidewalks for pedestrians. Low-storied apartment blocks were set away from the skyscrapers with increasing accent on open spaces and free green stretches. What was then hailed by some as 'an audacious and compelling vision of a brave new world' and by the rest as 'a frigid megalomaniacally scaled negation of the familiar urban ambient', is for us the pressing need of the hour.

It is true that a lot of his work is marked by the use of modern building materials and concepts, but the fact that this architect-thinker was way ahead of his times is clearly seen in the way he fashioned space. Le Corbusier considered it more than a compliment to design; rather to him, spaces were destinations between which inhabitants moved freely and experienced life-moments. In his many designs are uninterrupted stretches of windows, large aesthetically spare interiors and minimalistic accessories that compliment the concept of open. But space was just one part of his holistic approach to creating livable areas – Le Corbusier's famous five points of architecture is still held as guiding principles by today's urban planners. Today, it makes greater sense than ever to lift the bulk of a structure off the ground, supporting it by concrete pillars and then to advocate a free façade and a free floor plan that allow for free flow of views and light within rooms unfettered by walls. Roof gardens compensate certainly for the lack of green breathing spaces around modern structures.

Let us not however assume that this maestro dwelt only the philosophical nature of life experiences in the course of his work.His Modulor – a proportional system of building comprising of the measurements of the average human body and Fibonacci numbers, even had Einstein referring to it as a "scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy."

Image Source: http://www.iconeye.com/

While the world gathers to pay tribute to Le Corbusier in many ways this year, it seems ironically we Indians will salute him in a way perhaps no one else will. Led by its progressive government, the world's largest and youngest democracy will be dedicating its efforts to realize the vision of enriched urban living as he saw it years ago.

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    Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of UltraTech Cement.

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