Le Corbusier spent a great deal of time emphasising that he was making a total break with the past and reinventing the rules for architecture and planning, he would admit of no inspiration beyond his own thinking. But an article in January 2008's issue of Architecture Australia showed one specific example that this wasn't always the case. In September 1950, while visiting Bogota, Le Corbusier meets a South Australian agronomist and with him made some sketches of the layout of Adelaide's central square mile; six months later, he begins drawing the designs for the new Indian capitol of Chandigarh.
Now Corbu and Chandigarh are each controversial, but it never hurts to be reminded that back in the day Adelaide was a massive experiment. But it was one taking place so far out of view of Europe and America that perhaps it never got the attention that it warranted. And hence my new theory, that if only Colonel Light had been the flagrant self promoter, casting disapproving glances through thick-rimmed glasses and declaring Manhattan's towers to be too short, that Light's Vision would be as famous a plan as the Ville Radiuesse. And I daresay the world may have been a better place for thatOn his return to Paris from this South American trip, Le Corbusier finds a letter from the Indian Embassy inviting him to participate in the design of the city of Chandigarh, which will become the most significant of his career. Le Corbusier’s never-before-seen Adelaide plan drawing makes an intriguing companion to his sketch plans for Chandigarh. Not only are the two plans made according to CIAM methods of annotation, there are also obvious similarities between each in terms of their layout.
In both instances the city is drawn as a self-contained rectilinear grid with the major civic buildings located outside it, coincidentally on the northern edge. Both plans feature a city encircled by parks and green space, never to be built upon, and each grid is drawn in relation to a landscape “backdrop” – the hills or mountains against which it is viewed. More broadly, the Adelaide plan drawing is interesting for appearing to mirror Le Corbusier’s ideology on urbanism.
Adelaide ... confirms broadly held ideological beliefs about modern urbanism developed by the architect ... yet here those ideals of planning are represented through the example of a realized contemporary city.