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Tower of Shadows, Chandigarh, India

Location: Capitol Complex, Chandigarh, India
Year built: 1957
Architect: Le Corbusier

The Tower of Shadows is a partially-open pavilion structure located inside the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, a modernist masterplanned city built in the 1950’s (shortly after India’s independence).

Le Corbusier designed this symbolic structure to study solar movement, tracing the path of the sun using shadows cast on both the inside and outside of the tower. He wanted to prove his theory that sunlight could be controlled within the four corners of a building.

The structure, which sits between the Parliament building and the Palace of Justice, is precisely aligned on the north-south axis to interrupt the symmetry of the Capitol Complex’s huge central square.

The Tower’s north side is completely open, while the other three sides feature Brise-soleil using vertical cross walls set at various slants and horizontal wing walls of different depths.  The cross walls provide protection when the sun is low on the horizon, while the wing walls block the sun’s rays.

Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier, born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in 1887, was a Swiss-French architect. Now considered one of the pioneers of modernist architecture, Le Corbusier was influential in urban planning and has 17 projects inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of Le Corbusier’s earliest works was the Esprit Nouveau Pavilion, which was built in 1925. This led to a number of commissions in Paris, including the Maison La Roche/Albert Jeanneret, the Maison Planeix and the Maison Cook. In 1928 he began the Villa Savoye, which is one of his most famous works today.

Admittedly my first visit to the Capitol Complex was a bit of a let down. I was expecting perfectly preserved fresh concrete structures and instead witnessed ‘Paan’-stained surfaces. However, that’s hardly Corbusier’s fault. The Tower’s remarkable play with shadows is another example of his determination to prove his theories. Hard to believe despite taking on the mammoth task of designing a whole new city, he still insisted on being involved with the minutest of details in this complex. But we’re lucky he did. – Raghav Goel