In 1951, Nek Chand was hired as a roads inspector to help construct LeCorbusier’s master plan for the new capital city of Chandigarh in northern India. When not laboring in service of the great architect’s vision, Chand quietly carved out a secret legacy of his own in the jungle outside town—one that eventually trumped the great Corbu’s city of Chandigarh.
To give LeCorbusier a blank slate to design an entire 240-acre city, the shining symbol of a modernizing India, twenty villages had to be razed. Chand worked in a secluded clearing under cover of darkness for 18 years transforming scavenged materials from that rubble into mosaic-tile trees, monkeys, bears, men, women, walls, and waterfalls--all using the newest construction techniques he picked up during his day job. He created some 2,000 sculptures by the time his illegal Rock Garden--created without permission on government land--was discovered in 1972. Despite countless threats to destroy the garden--one in which a human wall prevented bulldozers from plowing a roadway through the park—Chand’s work still stands, a symbol of his autonomous spirit.
(Nek Chand photos courtesty the Nek Chand Foundation, except for the last one, by Carl Lindquist.)