Government Museum & City Museum, Chandigarh

Jan Marg, Sector 10-C, Chandigarh
Punjab, India
closed on: Mondays, and Indian gazetted holidays
Museum Type: Architecture / Urbanism, Art

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The Government Museum in Chandigarh, photo Fondation Le Corbusier

The Government Museum & Art Gallery and the City Museum are two adjacent State-owned museums in Chandigarh, the capital city of the state of Punjab, India; both museum buildings were designed by the celebrated architect Le Corbusier.

History and architecture
Completed in 1952, the buildings which currently house the two museums were part of a Master Plan and a larger urban development Le Corbusier designed for the city of Chandigarh which, in 1947, had become the capital of the Indian states of Haryana and Punjab after the partition of the British Indian Empire into India and Pakistan, and the passage of Lahore, the old capital of the British Province of Punjab, to Pakistan.
In the same period, Le Corbusier designed a similar museum in another Indian city, Ahmedabad.

Along with the museums, Le Corbusier’s buildings in the Chandigarh include the Palace of Assembly, the High Court of Justice, and the Secretariat building – which together form the Capitol Complex – various administrative buildings, the colleges of art and architecture, and some private houses.

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The general plan of the Chandigarh Capitol Complex, original drawing by Le Corbusier, 1956

The design of the Government Museum in Chandigarh is very similar to that of the museum in Ahmedabad; both have a square plan based on a 23 by 23 feet grid system, a structure composed of reinforced concrete beams and thin round columns, and brick facades.
The building has three floors, connected by a pedestrian ramp, a service staircase, and a freight elevator.
The ground floor accommodates the entrance lobby, the collection storage, a conservation laboratory, a temporary exhibition space, and an auditorium. The first floor houses the permanent exhibition galleries. The second floor accommodates staff offices, meeting spaces, and a library.

Daylight enters the building through a series of openings, located just under the roof slab and equipped with louvers designed to avoid excessive illumination level on the artworks in the galleries.
Similarly to the museum in Ahmedabad, rainwater collected by the flat roof is stored in an array of pools.

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Exterior views of the Government Museum, photos FLC

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The City Museum (center) and the Government Museum (right) buildings, photo FLC

Accessible through a long ramp, the City Museum is currently housed in a small concrete building, also conceived by Le Corbusier, adjacent to the Government Museum and very similar in shape and size to the last building designed by the Swiss-French architect, the Heidi Weber Museum, completed in 1967 in Zurich, Switzerland.

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The building of the City Museum, photo Bev and Thierry

Government Museum & Art Gallery
Established in 1968, the Government Museum & Art Gallery holds a permanent collection chiefly focused on fine and decorative arts from the Indian subcontinent. Amounting to about 10,000 pieces, the collection is divided into nine sections: Gandhara sculpture, Ancient Indian sculpture, Indian Miniature Painting, Medieval Indian Sculpture, Metal Sculpture, Epigraphy and Numismatics, Decorative Art, Textiles, and Contemporary Indian Art.

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Interior views of the Government Museum, photos FLC

Notable works part of the collection includes the schist stone sculpture of demoness Hariti (2nd century A.D.), the Sikandar Nama Rumal shawl (1852), 10 decorated Laur Chanda poem folios (16th century A.D.), the Gita Govinda gouache on paper set (1730), and the Nepalese wooden statue of Buddhist God Manjushri (15th-16th century A.D.), among many others.

The museum – which includes a 180-seat auditorium, a reference library, a cafeteria, and a gift shop – organizes temporary exhibitions, seminars, educational programs, special events, and traveling exhibitions.

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Top left: a sculpture of demoness Hariti; top right: statue of Buddhist God Manjushri. Bottom: Sikandar Nama Rumal shawl; images courtesy of Government Museum & Art Gallery of Chandigarh

City Museum
Opened in 1997 and also known as Chandigarh Architecture Museum, the City Museum presents the history and the urban development of Chandigarh utilizing original drawings and sketches, architectural models, historical documents, and photographs.

Cover image by Ptwo

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