On August 12, 2008 city of Chandigarh (India) lost an eminent architect, designer, painter, a theater enthusiast, academician, Le Corbusier’s associate. He was Ar. Aditya Prakash.
He was on his way to Mumbai for staging the play Life Never Retires, created by G.S. Channi, in which he played the central character. He died on the way, at Ratlam station.
Aditya Prakash is well known in the world of modern architecture as Le Corbusier’s associate in the planning, design and building of the Chandigarh Capital Project which was initiated by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Known internationally for its architecture and urban planning, Chandigarh is home to numerous architectural projects of Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Edwin Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew, Matthew Nowicki, and Albert Mayer. Nehru famously proclaimed Chandigarh to be “unfettered by the traditions of the past, a symbol of the nation’s faith in the future.”
Designed in a grid pattern, Chandigarh stands out from the rest of India with its clean lines, broad avenues and imposing government buildings built on a vast scale in concrete with columns, ramps, sculpted roof lines and screens to protect against the punishing sun.
Prakash joined the Chandigarh Capital Project in November of 1952 as one of the nine architects on the team. He had just finished studying architecture at the London Polytechnic, and became an A.R.I.B.A. in 1951.
Interestingly Corbusier had not visited India before he was awarded the Chandigarh project and Prakash’s being an Indian, his European training, and unique understanding of architectural styles and design was a great aid to Corbusier. “He showed us drawings of villages and bullock carts, of the beautiful women laborers,” remembered Prakash. He also worked on the Type VI houses and General Hospital, Sector 16, with Jane Drew.
”When we started designing houses here we thought of Western houses,” said Aditya Prakash, “we began using those sunbreakers in a very big way,” he continued, speaking of the sunscreens that are part of the design of many houses in the city, ”it was very a la mode. But I did a study of the sun in Chandigarh subsequently and found that sunbreakers,” a screen or lattice of bricks, ”cut out sun but retained heat and dust. We found it was better to create deep verandas. These keep out rain and sun, but allow life to move in and out as it always has done in an Indian home.”
He worked closely with Le Corbusier on the design of the School of Art, Chandigarh in the mid-1950s. In 1961-62 he adapted the same design for the Chandigarh College of Architecture and later on became the Principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture (1968-1982) or CCA as it is popularly known!
He published several papers and three books advocating extensive recycling, mixed use developments, development of the informal sector, integration of agriculture and animal husbandry into the urban system, and rigorous separation of motorized and all forms of non-motorized traffic.
The Indian Institute of Architects awarded Aditya Prakash its Gold Medal in 1996.
Long after Corbusier was gone, Aditya Prakash continued to work on defining the characteristic visual identity of Chandigarh as a modern city by creating the frame controls of the several of the markets and housing types. He also designed the petrol pumps and the some of the major cinema theaters of the city (Jagat, Neelam and KC.)
Some of his other projects in Chandigarh are the District Courts, Central Scientific Instruments Organization Hostels, the Treasury Building, the Central Bus Stand, Military Rest House, Central Crafts Institute, the Jang Garh, Indo-Swiss Training Center and the Cable Factory, and residences.
From 1963-1968, Aditya Prakash was the Architect of the Panjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. At this time he also designed the campuses of the Agricultural Universities in Hissar and Palampur.
His most significant project in Chandigarh was the Tagore Theater which was constructed to celebrate Rabindranath Tagore birth Centenary in 1961.
As an academic, Aditya Prakash was an early advocate of urban ecological design, or “self-sustaining settlements.”
Prakash was a painter too. He studied art at the Glasgow School of Art and was deeply influenced by Le Corbusier in the 1950s. An early interest in intersecting the Modulor with free-flowing curves, evolved into a style exploring Indian birds, animals and figures within a modernist idiom.
Aditya Prakash served two terms as President of the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Academy. He exhibited in several major cities in India. His paintings are in private collections throughout the world.
The architecture community of Chandigarh and worldwide is going to feel this loss. Aditya Prakash lived his life in the cause of modern architecture. It is our responsibility now to preserve his architectural legacy, his beliefs, his thoughts, and his works.
The way he led his life reminds me of what Ralph Waldo Emerson said,
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Architect, Painter Aditya Prakash has sure left an extraordinary trail. His works, his designs, his creativity and energy is going to inspire many.
He lived what he believed.
Sir, You will be remembered for long.
All Images: Courtesy Dr. Vikramaditya Prakash, Professor of Architecture, University of Washington, email firstname.lastname@example.org http://faculty.washington.edu/vprakash/