Le Corbusier's Indian masterpiece Chandigarh is stripped for parts

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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.

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.

Now a group of local architects, art historians and officials are hoping to mobilise international help to prevent further damage to Le Corbusier's unique Indian legacy. A report commissioned by the government in Chandigarh has recommended a campaign targeting the UN heritage agency, Unesco, as well as foreign governments, especially in Europe where many of the items have been auctioned. Informal approaches to embassies in Delhi have failed, the unpublished report, seen by the Guardian, says.

The campaigners are led by Manmohan Nath Sharma, who was the first assistant of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh and later took over as chief architect of the city. "What is being lost is irreplaceable," he said, speaking in the home he designed in the centre of Chandigarh and surrounded by prints and paintings given to him by Le Corbusier. "Our heritage is going to be gone forever. This matter is being taken very lightly by the authorities so now we need international help. This is a handmade city. It is unique. It can never be replaced."...

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