Hollande visit boosts case of Capitol Complex for UNESCO heritage status

French President hopes city will get heritage status; expert says will be shocked if it doesn’t happen

Written by Khushboo Sandhu | Chandigarh | Updated: January 25, 2016 3:24 am
hollande in chnadigarh, hollande chandigarh visit, narendra modi, hollande, india, france, indo france, tax, Capitol Complex for UNESCO heritage status French President Francois Hollande, left, poses with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a visit to the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh. (AP Photo)

The visit of French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Capitol Complex — one of the most renowned creations of French architect Le Corbusier — has kindled hopes that the visit would boost chances of the complex getting heritage status from UNESCO.

Hollande, too, seemed to be backing Chandigarh’s case. While addressing the gathering at Hotel Taj, he expressed hope that UNESCO would give Chandigarh the status of heritage city.

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The Capitol Complex comprises three buildings — the Secretariat, Assembly and High Court — apart from several monuments. The duo spent around 10 minutes at the Capitol Complex. They visited the Tower of Shadows and then saw the gate of the Assembly.

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There were stringent security arrangements in place at the Capitol Complex where entry is restricted even on other days. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Punjab and Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, Food and Civil Supplies Minister of Punjab Adesh Pratap Kairon and UT Adviser Vijay Kumar Dev were present at the Capitol Complex to receive the two leaders. After taking a tour of the piazza, Hollande and Modi moved to their next destination.

Hollande, who is the chief guest at the Republic Day function in New Delhi, had expressed a desire to come to Chandigarh to see Corbusier’s work. The city has been included by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on its list of sites to be considered for heritage status. The Capitol Complex is part of a transnational dossier on works of Corbusier that has been submitted by seven countries, including France, together to UNESCO. A team had last year inspected the Capitol Complex and made some recommendations. Another team is likely to visit in February.

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Former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture Rajneesh Wattas says, “The visit by the PM and French President to the Capitol Complex is a salute to Corbusier. It will give a push to its case for inclusion on the list of UNESCO heritage sites. It would have an indirect influence on the case. In fact, if after this, Capitol Complex does not get heritage status then I will be shocked. There are some concerns raised by the teams that inspected the Capitol Complex about defining its boundary which will have to be taken care of.”

Former chief architect of Chandigarh Sumit Kaur, who was instrumental in preparing the dossier, says that the visit has generated a lot of excitement. “It is expected that with the interest shown in Corbusier’s work, the long wait of Chandigarh to get UNESCO heritage status for the Capitol Complex will end,” she adds.

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Chandigarh had been making attempts to make it to the UNESCO list since 2006. At that time a dossier was prepared. However, the attempt that time was thwarted by the Union Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Two years later when the case was to be taken up again, the Archaeological Survey of India wanted concurrence to be taken from both Punjab and Haryana governments as the buildings are occupied by them. This was never received. It was last year that the process was initiated again and a fresh dossier made.

Over the years, the buildings at Capitol Complex have witnessed deterioration. Violations have also crept in and structural changes made. While Corbusier had planned four buildings for the Capitol Complex, one has not been made to date. Some monuments are also incomplete.

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