Nek Chand's Rock Garden
July 16, 2005 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Nek Chand was working as a roads inspector in northern India in the 1950's. Around 1958, he began collecting materials from demolition sites and using them to create a secret place which would soon grow into a beautiful rock and sculpture garden. But it happened to be on a national land conservency, and in 1975 authorities discovered it and the garden was nearly demolished. However, by this time it had already grown into a twelve acre complex of interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of pottery-covered concrete sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals. Chand soon gained much public support and in 1976 the garden was sanctioned as a public space. It then continued to grow and today it is over 40 acres.
posted by p3t3 (21 comments total)
Sorry, afther posting it looks like only 25 acres - not sure where I came up with 40. Still very impressive if I do say so myself.
posted by p3t3 at 7:28 AM on July 16, 2005

Okay, the official site says 25 acres, and the PBS story says 40 acres. Either way a big ass place with loads of cool artwork. I especially like the animals; they remind me of Keith Harring.
posted by p3t3 at 7:32 AM on July 16, 2005

Wow, another amazing, insane, large scale "labor of love" outsider art project. I've found a few similar projects and I'm glad it's a worldwide phenomenon. I wonder what kinds of things the men who create them have in common, besides being workaholics.

What I've found so far:
Watts Towers in California, USA
Coral Castle in Florida, USA
Salvation Mountain in Niland (near Slab City), California, USA

Great FPP, p3t3, thank you
posted by redteam at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2005

There's a similar type of place close to my home as well:
The Heidelberg Project in Detroit, MI

I've also seen a handful of these sort of projects and am always fascinated, but I tend to forget the names of them so I only focused my post on the one that I happened to come across today.

Anyone got links to more of these places?
posted by p3t3 at 8:17 AM on July 16, 2005

What a fantastic, well-written, and well-researched post. Great stuff.
posted by iconomy at 8:22 AM on July 16, 2005

Very nice post. Just the kind I like. Thanks so much.
posted by OmieWise at 8:25 AM on July 16, 2005

Two heroic achievements here: first, the garden, and second, its preservation by enlightened bureaucrats. Nice post.
posted by Toecutter at 8:34 AM on July 16, 2005

They just tore down the Nek Chand sculptures at the Children's Museum in DC. :(
posted by destro at 9:01 AM on July 16, 2005

If you are ever in Colorado, Bishop's Castle is quite the sight.
He 'stole' all the rocks out of, and built it on, National Forest land, and has been through lots of legal hell because of it.

It's open to the public, and is being constantly built on to.
But watch out, there aren't any safety rails.
posted by Balisong at 9:09 AM on July 16, 2005

p3t3 -- I think you'll like Raw Vision magazine.
posted by buzzv at 9:11 AM on July 16, 2005

Thanks for that one, buzzv. I'll bookmark it for later reading.
Nice to see someone's already organizing a central place for info on these places and projects.
posted by p3t3 at 9:24 AM on July 16, 2005

posted by kozad at 9:26 AM on July 16, 2005

I have paid the place a visit. Needs some maintainence though. But the concept is unique.
posted by webmeta at 10:47 AM on July 16, 2005

How wonderful Nek Chand's art has received international recognition. To think this man lost his homeland at 23, faced a devastating military crisis during the Partition and then in his spare time as roads inspector for the Public Works, built this fascinating park. It's an inspiring story.

Chandigarh, where Nek Chand made his park, is, imo, one of Corbusier's worst works as an architect and city planner. In my perception his architecture is a terrible mismatch with Indian culture, the buildings of Chandigarh, for the most part flat, painted or grey concrete, quirkily geometric sometimes but without charm. Nek Chand's work humanises the city's robotic appearance and it's no wonder people of Chandigarh flock to Nek Chand's complexly human vision. I visited his rock garden in 1978. In a way it's the kind of delightful labor of love found all over India in so many places, just on a very grand scale.

It's strange that of all places Corbusier would have chosen to build such rigid, boxy looking housing complexes as India, because he was capable of exquisite architectural vision, such as his Notre Dame du Haut, where the residence for the priest is decorated with wonderful paintings by Delaunay.

buzzv, thanks for the great link.

Balisong, amazing place Bishop's Castle!

redteam, Coral Castle is extraordinary.

It's invigorating and inspiring to think these creative people just went out there and fulfilled themselves, in spite of all obstacles.

Way cool link p3t3, thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 12:35 PM on July 16, 2005

I also visited the Rock Garden, during my stay in Chandigarh for most of 2001. My reaction to both is quite the opposite to yours, nickyskye.

I thought the Rock Garden was just weird. Interesting to a degree, certainly, especially the story of how it was put together. But I wouldn't consider much of what's in the garden to be aesthetically pleasing.

As for Chandigarh's architecture, I quite liked it. Bold and contemporary, and not at all disjoint with the rest of the city. Oh, and Corbusier actually had little involvement with all the designs you see -- he participated in the early stages and then two other dudes (whose names escape me and I'm too lazy to google for) did all the rest. But Le Corbusier's name kept getting associated with the Chandigarh's architecture because the city government wanted to exploit Le Corbusier's reputation.
posted by randomstriker at 12:44 PM on July 16, 2005

randomstriker, how interesting our aesthetic perspectives differ on Chandigarh and Nek Chand's garden. Tastes really vary. I like "weird". And I generally also like "bold and contemporary" but don't think of Chandigarh that way, except it technically could be called that. I prefer the bold and contemporary, tempered with a number of other flavors of New Delhi.

You're right in talking about the other two architects: "the initial master plan was prepared by the American architect-planner Albert Mayer who was workign with the Polish born architect Matthew Nowicki. It was only after Nowicki's untimely death in 1950 that Le Corbusier was pulled into the project."

But "Ultimately, Le Corbusier was responsible for the overall master plan of the city, and the design of some of the major public buidings including the High Court, Assembly, Secreteriet, the Museum and Art Gallery, School of Art and the Lake Club. Most of the other housing was done by Le Corbusier's cousin Pierre Jeanneret, the English husband and wife team of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, along with a team of nine Indian architects -- M. N. Sharma, A. Ar. Prabhawalkar, B. P. Mathur, Piloo Moody, U. E. Chowdhury, N. S. Lamba, J. L. Malhotra, J. S. Dethe and Aditya Prakash

I think the local inhabitants of Chandigarh love their city, especially for work. As a foreigner visiting India, Chandigarh was very unattractive to me and Nek Chand's work a wonderful enhancement.

Glad to hear you do like Chandigarh in any case. I basically adore India and even Chandigarh, my least favorite place there, is wonderful in so many ways.
posted by nickyskye at 1:54 PM on July 16, 2005

Very nice post. Just the kind I like. Thanks so much.

At the risk of being called a Dittohead, let me add ”Me too” to that.

Anyone got links to more of these places?

One that fits the category (with the added plus that Sam Dinsmoor, the workaholic who created it, is buried in his own creation) is The Garden of Eden in Kansas. Dinsmoor is one of the immortals, Roadside America's top examples of, in redteam's words, ”amazing, insane, large scale ’labor of love’ outsider[s].”
posted by LeLiLo at 4:23 PM on July 16, 2005

Great post and a terrific thread - thanks for the link to rawvision buzzv and how come I've never heard of Delaunay before? Thank you nickskye.
This is the stuff that I keep coming back to mefi for.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 4:41 PM on July 16, 2005

Here is an extraordinary sculpture garden by the artist, Niki de Saint Phalle (wife of another artist I love, Jean Tinguely), which is a labor of love over many years. Her garden reminds me also of Nek Chand's garden.

Some quirky creations include funny houses made of bottles. I'm especially fond of Tyringham's Gingerbread House - in Tyringham, Massachusetts. There's a lovely walk across the street up Cobble Hill with lots of wild blackberries and spectacular autumn views. It's fun to visit if one is going to Tanglewood, near Lenox, Massachusetts, for a concert.

thatwhichfalls, ah Delaunay. So pleased you like those paintings, I love both Delaunays. I was reading Flight Over Arras by Saint-Exupery and a Delaunay was on the cover. I learned both Robert and his wife Sonia painted very similar paintings, which were called Orphism by Guillaume Apollinaire.

I recall seeing a Klee in the priest's house in Notre Dame du Haut as well. Perhaps Corbusier was friends with the Delaunays and Klee? I don't know. Fun to talk about these pleasures.
posted by nickyskye at 9:35 PM on July 16, 2005

nickyskye - again, thank you.
I actually thought of Saint-Exupery when I saw the picture you linked earlier, although I'm not sure why. Both the Delaunays are painters I'm going to have to find out more about.
I've probably bookmarked more stuff from this post and thread than I have in years. Thanks all.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 11:26 PM on July 16, 2005

huh thatwhichfalls, perhaps Delaunay's images are a kind of objective correlative for Saint-Exupery work? (I mistitled the book, the correct name is Flight To Arras).

A fun Song of the Rocks you might like.

The person who put up a site with the bottle house pic has some wonderfully quirky ones of teepee and wigwam architecture.
posted by nickyskye at 7:04 AM on July 17, 2005

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