Many of the major cities in the world have several centuries of history from the time they were founded to the present. In the same way, some of them have had several names or have had to be rebuilt due to natural disasters or wars. However, there are also several cities that were built with the aim of functioning as capitals of newly formed states or to decongest the city that once fulfilled that role (Macedo, Tran, 2013).
Perhaps one of the best-known examples of recently built cities is Brasilia, which was built to replace Rio de Janeiro as the national capital of Brazil and, as a way to increase the development of the interior regions of the country (Macedo, Tran, 2013). However, in this post I will mention other cases of study, also corresponding to the twentieth century, and that show the application of different theories in terms of their urban design.
The masterplan of Chandigarh, drawn up by Le Corbusier in the 1950s, is one of the most important examples of urbanism inspired by the principles of the modern movement. The design of this city, built to be the capital of the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, is organized from a grid formed by Superblocks, a concept developed by Le Corbusier from his ideas for the Ville Contemporaine in 1922 (Bagga, 2014; Ghosh, 2016).
However, beyond the hierarchical arrangement of its streets and the marked zoning of the city (linked to the CIAM principles), it is the monumentality of the architecture that is perhaps the most important feature of Chandigarh, concentrating some of the most important buildings of the legacy of Le Corbusier.
The master plan of the current capital of Pakistan, designed to replace the congested city of Karachi, was commended to Constantinos Doxiadis. For its design, this Greek urbanist used the principles of a theory developed by himself called ‘Ekistics’, which studies the human settlements from a scientific point of view, analysing the factors that affect the habitability of people in a territory (Daechsel, 2013).
The design of Islamabad, like Chandigarh, is based on a geometric system of roads and urban blocks located in 5 sectors. Each of these was conceived to house a population of up to 40,000 inhabitants and, at the same time, occupy different functions within the city. Unlike Le Corbusier, Doxiadis did not design the buildings of the capital in order not to limit the image of the city to a single architectural style (Urban Networks, 2012).
The construction of Putrajaya as the new capital of Malaysia started in 1993, with the aim of moving the seat of government to an area located halfway between Kuala Lumpur and the international airport. The plan for this city was designed under the concept of green and smart city, creating for it a total of 200 ha of wetlands, which surround the central sector of the city (Ho Chin, 2006).
At present, Putrajaya has an approximate population of 90,000 inhabitants. About 38% of its urban area is occupied by wetlands, and the different sectors are communicated by means of boulevards and fast avenues (Ho Chin, 2006).
The previous case studies show three approaches for the design of large-scale master plans. Although they were built in different periods, these three cities share common elements among which are the abundant green areas and the hierarchy of vehicular traffic as a structuring element. Likewise, the scale of the superblocks (especially in Chandigarh and Islamabad) and the dimension of the roads are critical factors for pedestrian mobility, causing a greater car dependence in these capitals. For its part, the urban expansion of Chandigarh and Islamabad in recent years has not followed its original master plans, which has generated problems of coverage of basic services.
Bagga, S. (2014). The significance of Chandigarh – an exemplar of Asian modernity. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 13th Docomomo International Conference Seoul: Expansion and Conflict, Seoul 2014, 368-371.
Daechsel, M. (2013). Misplaced Ekistics: Islamabad and the politics of urban development in Pakistan. South Asian History and Culture, 4(1), 87-106.
Ghosh, N. (2016). Modern designs: History and memory in le Corbusier’s Chandigarh. Journal of Architecture and Urbanism, 40(3), 220-228.
Ho Chin, S. (2006). Putrajaya Administrative Centre of Malaysia Planning Concept and Implementation. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237334274_Putrajaya_Administrative_Centre_of_Malaysia_Planning_Concept_and_Implementation
Urban Networks (2012). La triada de la Ciudad Funcional: Chandigarh, Brasilia e Islamabad. Función, Arte y Método. (The triad of the Functional City: Chandigarh, Brasilia and Islamabad. Function, Art and Method). Available at: http://urban-networks.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/la-triada-de-la-ciudad-funcional.html