Corbusier’s furniture designs to shine in Chandigarh once again

September 10th, 2008 - 10:08 am ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Sep 10 (IANS) In dusty corners of government offices in Chandigarh, officials are now searching for furniture designed by famed architects Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in the 1950s and restoring what they can find to be part of the city’s cultural heritage.”The Chandigarh administration will constitute a special team that will visit all government offices, institutions and corporations to identify and catalogue the heritage furniture. The administration will also restrict any kind of auction of heritage furniture,” Sanjay Kumar, home secretary of Chandigarh, told IANS.

Le Corbusier was the Swiss-French architect who designed this north Indian city - one of the few planned cities in India. His cousin Pierre Jeanneret is also responsible for many icons of modern architecture here including the Gandhi Bhawan and the library building at Panjab University. He was so attached to the city that on his death, in accordance to his will, his ashes were scattered in the Sukhna lake on the edge of the city.

Movable articles like furniture, small carpets and other things used by these architects or created during their time will be given a face-lift and installed at proper locations, an official said.

Added Kumar: “The Chandigarh administration is committed to preserving the heritage status of the city. This is also a step towards safeguarding the rich heritage of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.”

Until now, most people in Chandigarh were unaware of the value of these articles and many pieces of heritage furniture were sold at throwaway prices or just dumped in store rooms after being used for a few decades.

Even last year, furniture designed by Corbusier and Jeanneret were auctioned at very low prices. They were reportedly bought by French nationals who later sold them for millions abroad.

“People here are not very sensitive towards these unique designs but foreigners attach great value to the furniture made by Le Corbusier and Jeanneret,” Rajnish Wattas, principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, told IANS.

“Designs of both Corbusier and Jeanneret are an inspiration for budding architects of Chandigarh and it is very sad that we lost a huge chunk of our priceless collection of furniture in that auction,” added Wattas.

“Sensing its value, our administration constituted a three-member committee last year to locate furniture designed by these architects now present in the city. Now this committee has been expanded and many bureaucrats have been included,” said Wattas, who is a member of the committee.

He said that Chandigarh needed laws to preserve heritage articles and people found harming them should be punished.

Apart from their efforts to locate valuable furniture designed by the famed architects, the Chandigarh administration is setting up a museum and research centre to showcase the talent of Corbusier. The museum, the sixth such centre in the world, is set to be inaugurated Oct 8.

The museum will house archival records, original plans, sketches and studies, maps, documents, photographs and furniture used by Le Corbusier while designing Chandigarh, said Vidya Nand Singh, the nodal officer of this project.

Corbusier has designed and constructed buildings across Europe, India (in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad), and one each in North and South America. He was an urban planner, painter, sculptor, writer and modern furniture designer.

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