Manuel Bougot’s interest in Le Corbusier’s architecture began in the 1980s when he worked on Caroline Maniaque’s thesis in architecture–on the Jaoul Houses built in 1954 in Neuilly, France. From 2006 onwards, Bougot renewed his interest in Le Corbusier, attending talks on Chandigarh and photographed the only building the architect ever built for himself — a cabanon (a summer cabin) in Roquebrune- Cap-Martin. Photographing Chandigarh was therefore necessary to further any understanding of Le Corbusier, the urban designer and his philosophy about architecture and modernism.
The idea of creating Chandigarh, a new city post Independence, free from the shackles of history, unbound and a symbol of modernity belonged entirely to Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1949, on Nehru’s invitation, Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier began his Chandigarh experiment, which became an extraordinary laboratory of architecture and town planning. Together with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret and a team of architects, Le Corbusier conceived and designed a way of living for a people whose culture and life he was completely unfamiliar with. Sixty years later, it is this human encounter with Corbusian architecture, which intrigued Bougot enough to keep returning to Chandigarh over two years to make photographs. Apart from photographing the landmark institutional buildings that define Chandigarh, Bougot also takes the viewer into private spaces — homes and villas, which borrow elements from the Corbusian vocabulary. It is through this navigation of public and private spaces that Bougot’s photographs explore the discordance between the architecture and utopian ideals that inspired it. At the same time, Bougot does not shy away from observing the neglect of the monuments of high modernism in India. Bougot’s photographs don’t dwell on nostalgia and his gaze is not uncritical. His carefully constructed and muted colour photographs reveal much more on closer inspection–a highly nuanced and refreshingly different view of contemporary Chandigarh.