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March 15, 2011 / Omar J. Peters

Le Corbu’s City is Being Stripped and Sold

It is a last-ditch effort to save a city built as a monument to modernity and hope but now threatened by neglect and the fierce demands of the global art market. Chandigarh, 180 miles north of Delhi, was built by Le Corbusier 60 years ago.

Le Corbusier was commissioned by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, to build a city that would replace Lahore, the capital of the Punjab lost to newly created Pakistan after partition in 1947. Nehru said the new metropolis was to be of a design “unfettered by the traditions of the past, a symbol of the nation’s faith in the future”. Working on the principle that every detail had to be meticulously planned for the whole to function, Le Corbusier’s team designed everything from the vast sculptures outside the monumental high court and local assembly to the door handles in the offices within.

Since then, many of its finest buildings, recognised as modernist masterpieces, have been neglected. Recently, international art dealers have made substantial sums selling hundreds of chairs, tables, carvings and prints designed by Le Corbusier and his assistants but obtained at knockdown prices from officials often unaware of their value

A Chandigarh manhole cover recently sold for £15,000, although there is no suggestion the furniture was bought or sold illegally.



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