// VIEWS

Take a stroll through the beautiful and sustainably designed city of Chandigarh with these 14 vibrant illustrations by Samia Singh.

Chandigarh has a sleepy, suburban, laid-back personality which is shifting slowly as the youth return from different parts of the world to set up circular economy models, opening new cafes selling artisanal coffee sourced from small Indian farms along with handmade chocolates, and fresh high-quality farm-sourced produce.

A small city with an estimated population of 1,239,699 people, Chandigarh was India’s first planned city, created soon after the country gained independence in 1947. This was the dream city of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Picturesquely located at the foothills of Shivaliks, it is known as one of the best experiments in urban planning and modern architecture in the twentieth century in India.

A city with plenty of cycling lanes shaded by Pilkan Fig trees, the overhead tree cover is a lesson for the rest of India in approaching its harsh summers, especially benefitting cyclists and pedestrians.

Le Corbusier, the celebrated Swiss French architect, conceived of this groundbreaking endeavour and forever changed the course of urban planning with his innovative designs. The city’s layout revolves around well-organized sectors, each serving as a self-sustaining microcosm with a balanced mix of residential, commercial, and recreational spaces. This unique concept embodies the essence of a ‘City Beautiful,’ with a grid layout that not only ensures seamless transportation but also promotes the integration of green spaces throughout the urban fabric, enhancing the well-being of its inhabitants.

Chandigarh’s commitment to sustainability and environmental preservation is evident in its emphasis on sustainable infrastructure, setting a shining example for urban planning practices worldwide. Its enduring legacy continues to inspire architects and city planners to think creatively and create harmonious, functional spaces for generations to come.

I came back to Chandigarh after working for nearly a decade in Delhi and other parts of the world including Italy, Spain, Japan, and Scotland. The cities I have lived and worked in proved to be inspiring yet busy. I felt a calling to be back home, in the tiny markets situated in each sector where you can run all your errands swiftly. I longed for the familiarity of the terrain, temperatures, and language.

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. The place you return to is not the same as the place you left.

There are a few challenges ahead as the population increases and public transport is being planned as a metro system. Will it be overground or underground? How many trees will be cut? Will Chandigarh hold its vision of a ‘City Beautiful’ despite the growing urban demands it has been able to tend to so far?

  1. Basant with Corbusier, Terrace Gardens: Basant kites mark the end of winter and the onset of spring. Terrace Gardens are in bloom with flowers with Corbusier’s innovative triangular social housing in the background. 
  1. Delivery men take a break under Pilkan Fig trees: An increasingly rare sight for India, old tree covered streets provide much needed relief from the extreme weather for citizens and city animals and birds.  
  1. Dog Walk under the Jacaranda tree, Sector 10: Flowering trees adorn the streets, every season has its favourites that fill the city with vibrant colour and the scent of flowers. This was due to meticulous planning of Le Corbusier, M.S. Randhawa, a reputed Indian historian, civil servant, botanist, and author, and their team.  
  1. Eating a Guava, soaking in the February sun, Leisure Valley, Sector 10: Chandigarh is an outstanding example of architecture, planning and landscaping. With the provision of large number of open spaces, green belts, city parks and neighbourhood parks, after nearly 60 years of its inception, the city stands out for its high quality of life and clean, relatively pollution free environment, unlike other growing urban areas in the country. The conservation of this green heritage in future is a major concern with regards to the rapid development of the city in the last few decades. 
  1.  Forest Walk Behind the Lake: The City Forest is a beautiful garden with different plants and animals. Different kinds of birds come to this forest, making it a special place for birdwatchers. Walkers enjoy watching the Nilgai, the largest antelope of Asia, ubiquitous across the northern Indian subcontinent. 
  1. Lady in Red Sari under Red Kusum trees: Beautiful foliage gives respite to the workers’ commute in the city. With a panoramic view of the Shivalik hills, Chandigarh’s trees have enhanced its landscape to the ‘City Beautiful’ that Le Corbusier envisioned – “one that takes care of the body and spirit.” 
  1. Lovers reading, Leisure Valley: Le Corbusier retained the eroded valley of a seasonal rivulet on the original site of the city and sculptured it into a Linear Park now over 8km long. 
  1. Peach Blossoms & Birdsong: Fruit trees are grown widely in the houses of Chandigarh. Mango, Litchi, Peach, Plum, Guava, Oranges and Lemons provide special delight in their seasons where locals share their bountiful fruit produce with friends and neighbours. 
  1.  Pilkhan fig tree, rainy drive: A favourite fruit tree for the animals of Chandigarh, this tree tunnel road is frequented by fruit bats and hornbills. The thick canopy of branches is delightful for walking and for rainy drives. 
  1. Policeman by the Eucalyptus Lane, Sector 9: Native to Australia, the Eucalyptus tree has been encouraged to be discontinued in further commercial plantations due to extreme utilisation of ground water in Punjab. A whole lane of decades old Eucalyptus trees were cut, and this remaining part might not last long. 
  1.   Shelter from the Storm: Brought the flowers in from the battering winter rain. 
  1. Silver oaks outside Leisure Valley, Sector 10: A delightful walk  
  1. Yellow February, Sector 3_4 crossing: Foggy grey winter days are brought alive by the yellow autumn colours 
  1. Leisure valley winter sun reading: With extreme temperatures most year-round, the spring brings much awaited time in the outdoors. 
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