Giving Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh a Contemporary Twist
May 25, 2012
Atavism can be quite the repellent thing, especially in design. The return to or the appropriation of past forms inevitably requires a dilution of the cultural histories and sources that originally gave rise to them. We’re still living with modernism in one form or another, from industrial design to architecture, though one that’s long been stripped of its founding social and utopian content. But on occasion “retro” design can be a delightful indulgence. See London-based Doshi Levien‘s “Chandigarh” collection of new armchair and sofa designs that purport to tap into the strains of Indian modernism established by Le Corbusier and the mid-century capital he built.
Produced for Italian furniture maker Moroso and displayed at the Salone del Mobile last month, “Chandigarh” consists of upholstery pieces set within a bent tubular steel frame. The foam-molded seats are covered in either leather or patterned fabric, custom designed to evoke the redeeming rectilinearity Corbu’s modernity represented. A pair of circular terrazzo and glass coffee tables offset the rigid geometries while adding to the sets rich palette of materials.
The forms possess the same graphic-like profiles that are ubiquitous in Corbu’s Chandigarh, from the flatness (and symbolically flat) of the “Open Hand” and the architect’s hieroglyphic murals and sgraffito emblazoned on the government buildings to the city’s now much-prized engraved sewer tops. These symbols are rooted in Chandigarh’s collective urban identity that marks, in the words of the designers, “the coming together of modernity, sensuality, graphics and eccentric qualities”.