Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret 'Committee' table, model no. LC/PJ-TAT-14-B, designed for the Assembly, Chandigarh, 1963-1964

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Lot 60† TP
Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
'Committee' table, model no. LC/PJ-TAT-14-B, designed for the Assembly and Administrative Buildings, Chandigarh, 1963-1964

Sold for £ 75,062 (US$ 100,053) inc. premium

Design

14 Oct 2020, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
'Committee' table, model no. LC/PJ-TAT-14-B, designed for the Assembly and Administrative Buildings, Chandigarh, 1963-1964
Teak-veneered wood, teak.
74 x 362 x 137 cm

Footnotes

  • Provenance

    The Assembly, Chandigarh

    Literature

    Eric Touchaleaume and Gerald Moreau, Le Corbusier Pierre Jeanneret, The Indian Adventure, Design-Art-Architeture, Paris, 2010, pp. 246-47, 582

    A UNIQUE HARMONY by architect John O'Shea

    Building the future
    'It was a matter of occupying the plain. The geometrical event was, in truth, a sculpture of the intellect ... It was a tension ... a battle of space, fought within the mind. Arithmetic, texturique,1 geometrics: it would all be there when the whole was finished' (Le Corbusier, Modulor 2).

    Following Indian Independence and the resulting partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, a new administrative capital was needed for the Indian Punjab. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed that the building of the new city of Chandigarh was to be 'symbolic of the freedom of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past ... an expression of the nation's faith in the future'. The commission was originally awarded to the American architect Albert Mayer, but after he withdrew from the project, Le Corbusier was approached to work on a masterplan for the new city. Here was the opportunity the great architect had been waiting for since the 1920s: to construct an entire city and thus fully realize his thesis on urban design. After complex negotiations, Le Corbusier agreed to accept the commission on condition that his cousin, and collaborator since 1922, Pierre Jeanneret serve as project architect:

    'In 1922 I joined forces with my cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. With loyalty, optimism, initiative and persistence, with good humour ... and in league with the resistance forces of the age we set to work. Two men who understand each other are worth three who stand alone. By never pursuing lucrative goals, by refusing to make compromises, but, rather, being in love with our passionate quest, which is what makes life worth living, we have managed to occupy the entire field of architecture, from the minutest detail to the vast plans of a city' (Le Corbusier, Design 3).

    The team had a colossal task: to deliver the masterplan, which included infrastructure, landscaping and buildings for uses related to education, government, healthcare and recreation, as well as housing for all of the city's new inhabitants. Le Corbusier saw himself as the 'Spiritual Director' of the project and appointed himself two main tasks: shaping the masterplan and designing the Capitol Complex, the group of buildings dedicated to governance. Jeanneret's role was to run the site office at Chandigarh, overseeing the design and construction of the city as an integrated whole.

    The Masterplan
    Faced with the challenge of planning a new city for 500,000 people on a vast rural site, Le Corbusier turned to geometry and his recently patented invention, the Modulor, a proportional system for design based on a set of measurements – relating to the 'golden section' (a ratio of approximately 1:618) – taken from a 'universal' human form, Modulor Man.

    'On the 28th March, 1951, at Chandigarh, at sunset, we had set off in a jeep across the still empty site of the capital – Varma, Fry, Pierre Jeanneret and myself. Never had spring been so lovely, the air so pure after a storm the day before, the horizons so clear, the mango trees so gigantic and magnificent. We were at the end of our task (the first): we had created the city (the town plan). I had noticed then that I had lost the box of the Modulor, of the only Modulor strip in existence, made by Soltan in 1945, which had not left my pocket in six years ... A grubby box splitting at the edge.4 During that last visit of the site before my return to Paris, the Modulor had fallen from the jeep onto the soil of the fields that were to disappear to make way for the capital. It is there now, in the very heart of the place, integrated in the soil. Soon it will flower in all the measurements of the first city of the world to be organized all of a piece in accordance with the harmonious scale' (Le Corbusier, Modulor 2).

    The principles of Albert Mayer's original plan for Chandigarh that aligned with Le Corbusier's theories on urban planning were retained: differentiated zones for civic functions, with residential, industrial, business and governance activities separated by a circulatory transport system. The most radical of Le Corbusier's departures from Mayer's plan was the implementation of an ordered rectilinearity to the masterplan grid. This ordering was governed by the dimensions of a residential sector, a basic unit of 800 x 1200 meters derived from his mathematical system. Each of these sectors was designed as a self-sufficient neighborhood for living, working and leisure, and whose dimensions meant a person could walk to its centre from any point within ten minutes. The sectors were subdivided into 'villages' of around 150 houses – the size of a typical Punjabi village. At Chandigarh, the polemic plans of Le Corbusier's early speculations are tempered by the realities of the site and local context. The iconic towers of the utopian model are replaced with low-slung residential superblocks, and the traffic systems are designed to accommodate native modes of transport including rickshaws and camels.

    The Capitol Complex
    We are in a plain; the chain of the Himalayas locks the landscape magnificently to the north. The smallest buildings appear tall and commanding. The government buildings are conjugated with one another in a strict ratio of heights and sizes ...' (Le Corbusier, Modulor 2).

    Le Corbusier envisioned the city as an organism and articulated the layout of Chandigarh accordingly. The Capitol Complex was analogous to the head, the commercial centre to the heart; the university and industrial areas at the city's peripheries were conceived as the limbs, and the green spaces the lungs, with everything connected by the 'arteries' of the transport network.

    A Complete Work of Art
    'I say it with pride. Finally, here at 67 years of age ... I was able to erect an architecture which fulfils day to day functions, but which leads to jubilation' (Le Corbusier, Sketchbook 3). The Chandigarh project was Le Corbusier's most important commission, a rare opportunity to create a Gesamtkunstwerk: a 'total work of art' encompassing masterplan, neighborhood layout, landscaping, construction, interiors and furnishings. In the very fabric of the city, and at every scale, lie Le Corbusier 's two great inspirations and disciplines: geometry and symbolism. The arithmetical ratios of the Modulor ensure a harmonious relationship between elements, but it is at the intimate human scale of Chandigarh's furniture, its interior 'equipment', that we can most directly experience the exactitudes and harmony of elegant proportions.

    The Committee Table
    The other great source of Le Corbusier's inspiration was symbolism. Le Corbusier often distilled his design philosophy into elemental symbols. The recurring forms found in the architect's art and buildings were often inspired or directly generated by metaphor, symbol or figurative reference. The enamel-clad doors that form the entrance of the Assembly building feature a combination of motifs drawn from landscape, nature and mythology. The Le Jeu Du Soleil ('the daily path of the sun') is the dominant visual theme across the width of the door, with green fields, blue water, trees and animals creating a vivid sense of life. The legs of the Committee table directly echo the double curve of the path of the sun described by the images in the door. A direct expression of Le Corbusier's unique vision, the Committee table provides a recognisable embodiment of the architect's fascination with geometry, texturique and symbolism.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note the following amendments were made to this lot after the catalogue was printed; this lot was designed for the Assembly 'and Administrative Buildings', also amended in the Provenance. Please also note; that VAT is due on the hammer price and buyer's premium.
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