The city of Chandigarh, in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, is well known by architects for its conception and realisation as a ‘modern utopian city’ by the Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. The Corb work is truly amazing (and for another post), yet perhaps the city’s most remarkable story is the creation of a sculpture garden built from re-used materials by a local authority roads inspector named Nek Chand.
As Corb’s grand urban vision was being realised, Chand began collecting unwanted materials from demolition sites around the city and worked secretly in his spare time to create his own vision of a ‘divine kingdom’. Working unnoticed and illegally (for the land he was working on was designated for another use) he was able to hide his work for no less than 18 years before it was discovered by the Chandigarh authorities in 1975! By this time, Chand’s Rock Garden had grown into a 12-acre complex of interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals clad with waste materials such as broken glass, bangles, and crockery.
Upon discovery Chand’s work was in serious danger of being demolished, but in 1976 the park was inaugurated as a public space. Indeed from 1983 Nek Chand was granted permission to set up collection centres around the city of Chandigarh to collect waste materials, especially rags and broken ceramics.
Today the Rock Garden is under the care of the Nek Chand Foundation which was formed in 1997. It is perhaps the most visited – and certainly the most amazing – Folk Art sites in the world. If you are ever lucky enough to visit Chandigarh – don’t miss it!