Over six months after the UT administration sent out a request for help in April, a delegation from France has agreed to visit Chandigarh to guide it on conservation and restoration of city’s heritage items.
A senior UT official said the French delegation, comprising six members, will be in Chandigarh from November 15 to 19. “The team will be guiding us on establishing the authenticity of heritage items and tagging them, besides guidelines/processes to be followed for their conservation, restoration and legal protection,” the official added.
In April, the administration had approached the team after being turned down by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
As per a list compiled by the Chandigarh Heritage Inventory Committee in 2012, Chandigarh has 12,793 heritage items, made and used by French architect Le Corbusier, his cousin and Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret and others associated with the founding and planning of Chandigarh in the 1950s and 60s.
Of these, a large number are in the possession of the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, besides a huge stock of chairs and tables are at the Punjab and Haryana Secretariat and Vidhan Sabha, and the Punjab and Haryana high court.
But since the 1990s, the heritage furniture, made primarily from locally available materials like teak, sheesham and cane, and cushioned with sturdy cotton fabrics, has been finding its way to auction houses of various countries and being auctioned for crores of rupees, despite a 2011 order by the Union ministry of home affairs, banning sale and export of Chandigarh’s heritage furniture.
Ten years later, in 2021, the central government, through the ASI, had also issued orders to all ports (sea or air) to prevent the export of such articles. But the heritage articles continue to crop up in international auctions.
Rajneesh Watts, former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture, said, “The administration has formed committees several times and even readied an inventory, but unless it notifies heritage laws, the furniture will continue to disappear. The administration should also establish a trust to shortlist the surplus heritage items for auction. The funds thus obtained can be ploughed back into spreading awareness about the city’s heritage furniture.”