The Chandigarh Master Plan, in particular, acknowledges the city planning and modern buildings across the city as heritage under three categories of Heritage Zones, Heritage Precincts and Heritage Buildings that are graded and protected as Grade I, II and III based on their historical and cultural significance. The city administration is consciously working towards conservation of various heritage buildings categorised under Grade I, especially so the iconic exposed concrete structures of Le Corbusier’s Capitol Complex post its recent inscription on the World Heritage List. All listed heritage zones, precincts and structures require approval of a Special Heritage Committee before any changes/interventions can be undertaken.
The Gandhi Bhawan has been categorised as a Grade I Heritage building categorised in the Chandigarh Master Plan. As per guidelines under this category, any major intervention/changes in the exterior or interior need to be approved by the Special Heritage Committee of Chandigarh. Therefore, this Conservation Management Plan will be submitted to the Committee for their approval. At the National Level, recently the ASI has also outlined criteria for ‘National Cultural Heritage Sites’ that identify them of Outstanding National Value. Clearly, Gandhi Bhawan satisfies the criteria that would qualify it under the National Cultural Heritage Sites. However, this listing programme is yet to be made operational.

Establishing Cultural Significance

The proceedings of the Expert Meeting ‘Developing a Historic Thematic Framework to Assess the Significance of Twentieth-Century Cultural Heritage: An Initiative of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Twentieth-Century Heritage’ held in 2011, identifies various themes or phenomena under which various processes of the twentieth century can be classified and assessed. Gandhi Bhawan is located in two of these frameworks; namely (i) the main theme of‘ The role of government and changing approaches to governance’, and its sub-theme of ‘Education’ as well as (ii) the main theme of ‘Culture and Society’ and its sub-themes of both ‘Cultural Institutions’ and ‘Memorials’. Besides these two themes that associate the significance of Gandhi Bhawan with two important thematic processes of 20th century India, i.e., ‘National Identity’ and ‘Campus Building’, the third and the most important aspect is that Gandhi Bhawan belongs to the genre of ‘urban architectural ensemble’ as part of the Panjab University Campus, which is a testimony of the intercultural and transnational exchange in Modern architecture at the global level.
Gandhi Bhawan is an outstanding national example of Modern architecture in India that simultaneously illustrates formal, technological and material innovation in Modernism to reflect post-independence ideals of nation building and Gandhian philosophy. At the same time, it represents the category of outstanding Modern architectural edifices in India that signify and represent transnational exchange of architectural ideas, with a long mutual impact on Indian as well as western architecture. It is an iconic sculptural masterpiece designed by the Swiss born French architect Pierre Jeanneret at the peak of his 14-year long professional practice in India. Strategically placed as a white lotus symbol reflected in a pool of water surrounded by red sandstone structures in the campus of Panjab University, it stands out aesthetically as an outstanding sculptural form. The cultural significance of Gandhi Bhawan is established through:

  • Associative and Historic value at national level as Gandhi Bhawan, reflecting Gandhian ideals and principles in its form and function
  • Aesthetic value as one of the most exceptional form reflected in a surrounding pool thus adding to the beauty with its unique landscape and setting
  • Architectural value as an exemplary example of Modern architecture using innovations in materials, technology, colours, texture etc.
  • Intercultural value with its association to the transnational cultural exchange of ideas between Indian and European architects, designers and patrons

Besides these primary values, a more detailed analysis of the attributes of various elements of Gandhi Bhawan, its form, exteriors, interiors, materials, colours, furniture, artworks and landscape are presented in the table on the following page to be used for further assessment and policy formulation. The following prioritisation of significance and authenticity will form the basis for policies and interventions :

  • Exceptional Elements : Can only be replaced if essential due to their condition and need to be replicated in their original form, colour, material and texture in totality.
  • Elements with High Value : Material has already been compromised to some extent and can be replaced with matching material as and when required retaining similar colour and texture.
  • Elements with Low/ Medium Value : Material has been replaced completely due to needs of usage with time and can be replaced again as per requirements ensuring it does not impact and other element of high or exceptional values or overall significance of Gandhi Bhawan.
  • Infrastructure and services including functional elements such as waterproofing layer, electrical connections and toilet fixtures/fittings etc. fall under low category as they are only associated with use and operational aspects of the structure without contributing directly to any aesthetic or historic value.