A 10-YEAR-LONG wait ended for the city on Sunday as the Capitol Complex was on Sunday declared as a world heritage site by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO). The Capitol Complex was part of transnational serial site of “The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an outstanding contribution to the modern movement” along with six other countries.
The decision was taken at a meeting that took place in Istanbul on Sunday where three other sites too were declared as world heritage sites. These are: Khangchendzonga National Park in Sikkim, Pampulha Modern Ensemble in Brazil and Antigua Naval Dockyard and related archaeological sites in Antigua and Barbuda.
Designed as the “head of the city” or the seat of power, the Capitol Complex is considered as one of the most renowned works of Corbusier. It comprises three buildings: Secretariat, Assembly and High Court. The fourth building planned by Corbusier, the Governor’s Palace, is yet to be completed even more than 50 years after his death. Apart from the buildings, there are several monuments that are part of the complex. However, not all the monuments are complete.
UT Home Secretary Anurag Aggarwal said, “We were all expecting this as everyone associated with the project had put in lots of efforts. It’s a big achievement and means a lot for city as it will boost its status globally.”
Aggarwal said selection of the Capitol Complex had propelled Chandigarh into international limelight which would attract tourists from all over the world. It means a lot to hotel and transportation industry, he added.
The administration is planning to cash in on this by attracting foreign tourists to the city. A plan is being prepared for the same in consultation with all the stakeholders. “We have scheduled a meeting in the coming week to prepare a plan in consultation with various stakeholders,” said the home secretary.
The Chandigarh Administration has been unsuccessfully trying to get the world heritage status tag for the Capitol Complex since 2006. While a dossier was made then, Chandigarh’s nomination did not get the support of the Union Ministry of Culture. In 2008, the administration was set to submit its dossier, when the Archaeological Survey of India asked for concurrence to be taken from Punjab and Haryana. The buildings designed by Corbusier, including the Secretariat and the Assembly, are being used by the governments of the two states. The approval was never received. A proposal was also mooted for seeking heritage status for the entire city. But the idea was dropped as it was felt that this would impact the city’s growth.
The process was again started in 2014. It was decided that Corbusier’s work would be made part of a transnational dossier along with Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland. The dossier comprised works of Corbusier in the respective countries. The visit of French President Francois Hollande and two visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Capitol Complex gave a boost to its claim for heritage status.
Former chief architect of the city Sumit Kaur who was instrumental in preparing the dossier said that with the inclusion of Chandigarh in the transnational dossier, the case of the other countries got stronger as the Capitol Complex is one of the most renowned works of Corbusier. Also, Chandigarh got the support of other countries.
The challenge before the administration will now be to preserve the buildings which are being used by the governments of Punjab and Haryana. Over the years, several violations have crept into the buildings with successive governments choosing to make changes as per their needs. As part of its proposals for the Capitol Complex, Chandigarh has made a commitment to ensure that the buildings will be preserved. Some changes will have to be reversed and cooperation of both Punjab and Haryana will have to be sought. Experts warn that if the deadlines given by UNESCO are not followed, then the heritage status can also be withdrawn. The administration will now have to implement the management plan of Capitol Complex prepared in consultation with France. The heritage tag will ensure that Chandigarh gets more help globally in preserving the concrete buildings.
Former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture Dr S S Bhatti asserts that the Capitol Complex is beyond all certification. There is a need to stop meddling with it. “Each building has its own personality individually and in relation to the other buildings,” he said.
Rajneesh Wattas, former principal, Chandigarh College of Architecture, said it could be considered Chandigarh’s second birthday. A universal tribute has been paid to the ‘head of the city’.
Photographer and artist Diwan Manna said that the world heritage site status for the Capitol Complex would bring more attention to Chandigarh. The world over, “world heritage sites are beautifully maintained, and we need to make sure this is done for the Capitol Complex, so no tourist is disappointed”.