Nek Chand was a road inspector on the construction of Chandigarh, the Indian city planned and designed by Le Corbusier that was intended to embody the ideals of modernism, not only on a functional and physical level but that, in this particular case, even reached a poetic and spiritual dimension.
In his spare time, Chand started putting together a garden on an abandoned plot of land, with materials discarded from the construction of Chandigarh. Using cement, sand, broken ceramics, bits of electrical cable, and old oil drums, he created waterfalls and courtyards filled with figures of dancers, birds, and musicians. From this point of view it could be considered one of the most remarkable examples of what can be done with waste and how recycling can be brought to a new dimension. He kept working obsessively over the years, covering an impressive thirty-five acres of land, mostly by himself—amateur art produced as a hobby. In terms of infrastructure, Rock Garden follows the logic and rigor of civil works, with its retaining walls, waterworks, pillars, and slabs, but Chand also had the sensibility to create a pertinent and extremely efficient landscape, a cool, fresh public space that is perfect for the hot weather of Chandigarh and therefore loved by the public. In terms of expression and form, a Western critic would not hesitate to label it as kitsch. The work, however, does not contain a shred of cynicism. It is like nothing ever seen before, a completely honest exploration of artisanship that ignores existing design canons and codes. It is invention in the purest sense of the word. It is the candid and passionate redemption of decoration, as distant from the muteness of a modern box as it is from the sneering, putative lessons from Las Vegas.