‘Don’t move Jeanneret play sculptures from school’

The Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret (LCPJ) Forum has appealed to the Advisor, Chandigarh Administration, not to move the Jeanneret sculptures at the Government Nursery School, Sector 16, Chandigarh from where they currently are. The LCPJ, a high-level think tank devoted to restoring the glory of the City Beautiful, said having been designed by Pierre Jeanneret as part and parcel of the elementary school, the play sculptures need restoration in line with the authenticity of form, design, material and technique. As per the NARA document of authenticity, there will be a need to include the sculpture in the heritage listing for the city — as of now the school building is only listed, the play sculpture was missed out.

The sculpture was found broken into three pieces. Later a Sarbjit Bahga, a city-based architect shared its pictures on his Facebook account, saying: “I took these pictures in the late 90s or early 2000s. Till then, it was intact.”

Dr Sandeep Goyal, President of LCPJ, an expert on intellectual property in creative arts, said the context of the site, its immediate surroundings, the undulating landscape, mounds, trees, foliage and the school building are all very critical to the sculpture. The same must be surveyed properly, documented and inventoried.

“Removing the sculpture and restoring it at another location in the city as a museum piece would lead to complete loss of integrity and authenticity as per the NARA document. Its purpose of play and enlivening the childrens’ learning environment would be compromised completely.”

The thread of history created by architectural buildings, associated landscape, natural and manmade landscape and other elements will be surely compromised if the Chandigarh Administration decides to change/remove any or even one of the elements of the setting.

“The way forward should be to undertake the challenge on the lines of Sir Patrick Geddes’s –Diagnostic Surgery. A complete condition assessment of the fallen sculpture and the school building and environs to ascertain the damage and carry out conservation and restoration of the damaged sculpture at the original site. This would serve as a best practice for future subjects/ensembles in the city. If the sculpture is taken away it degrades the value and the basis for authenticity and thus jeopardises the scope of being appreciated and recognised as heritage in the future” said Sandeep Goyal.

Prof. Avanindra Chopra, Secretary of the Forum, added, “With this small sculpture’s sensitive and stepwise condition assessment, restoration and conservation we can develop the framework of do’s and don’t’s for heritage buildings, their context and landscape for better management of heritage.”

Goyal emphasised that the Advisor has not been well advised on moving the sculptures to the Le Corbusier Centre. That building itself is temporary. Soon the sculptures may again need to be moved.

“Yes, the school authorities need to be sensitised about the priceless heritage pieces in their precincts and should be made responsible for their well-being and preservation. But moving these pieces to a museum should just not be done, emphasised Goyal.

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