welcome to chandigarh

WELCOME

Please keep your sector neat and clean.

Dogs are not allowed in the park.

Smoking in public places is an offence.

-House Owners Association, (Regd) Sector 20-A, Chandigarh

I will be living in Chandigarh for the next 3 weeks. While it resonates with various facets of metropolitan India, in many ways the city feels very different from any other urban area in the country. Public spaces are kept clean with foliage trimmed, traffic follows (most) rules, and leafy, tree-lined streets face nothing but walls.

In my first few days here, aside from organizing the logistics of living, eating and moving around, I have walked and walked and walked. So far I have seen 26 sectors, twice that many traffic circles, a surprising number of public restrooms,

and 1 exotic bird (anyone know what that is?).

The people of Chandigarh have been incredibly warm and generous…many have bent over backwards to help me arrange things, and have given their time to answer my questions. I have also been invited to tea by at least one family each day, and have had multiple offers for hosting me! I have appreciated all the help as I navigate the city on my own.

To understand how the city has grown away from its plan, I am looking at examples from each of its different, separated functions (commerce, administration, residence, leisure and transit), in each case measuring what was there versus what is, and how these separations have, in some cases, begun to melt, while in others they remain firm.

The city consists of 47 sectors (but actually over 80 if you include Mohali, which extends the grid but sits across the border of Punjab), organized by a gridded road system.

Sector 17, the “heart” of the city and the main commercial area, contains most of Chandigarh’s restaurants, shops, banks and services in a large plaza flanked by grandiose pedestrian pathways offering more alternatives for consumption. 4-story buildings surround pedestrians with their signs.

In the remaining sectors, commercial areas should include just daily needs, since all other commercial needs would be met in Sector 17. However, many of the markets have become specialized (sarees in sector 11, bikes and mechanics in sector 15 etc.). Commercial zones are creeping outward as well.

More to come…