Work on Italian architect’s visitor centre is suspended after architecture fans threaten legal challenge

A Renzo Piano redevelopment of an iconic French chapel designed by Le Corbusier has been put on hold after a row erupted between Piano and supporters of his illustrious predecessor.

The Italian architect unveiled plans in November for an €8m (£6.4m) visitor centre for the Notre Dame du Haut site in Ronchamp, eastern France. The plans also included residential blocks for the community of nuns that lives there.

However, the scheme has been frozen after Le Corbusier’s foundation called for Piano’s “barbaric” plans for the site, designed in 1950, to be scrapped.

The Le Corbusier Foundation, which preserves the heritage of the architect, has threatened legal action if Piano’s plans receive planning permission. Le Corbusier, whose real name was Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, is considered the father of modernist architecture.

A petition, which is understood to have been set up by the foundation, has been circulated. This declares: “The refusal to transmit what was bequeathed us opens avenues to all forms of barbarity.”

But Piano, famous for designing the Pompidou Centre in Paris with Lord Rogers and the Shard at London Bridge, has launched his own petition, alongside the project’s backers, calling for the redevelopment of the site for the good of the chapel.

The petition maintains that the “dreadful” existing facilities should be removed as the chapel’s surroundings are in “dire need of renovation”.

Architects and engineers are now starting to throw their weight behind either side of the argument.

Chris Wise, director of Expedition Engineering, and Wolf Prix of Austrian architect Coop Himmelb(l)au are among the 1,638 people to have signed a petition in support of Piano’s redevelopment.

However, Canary Wharf architect Cesar Pelli is one of the 1,077 people to have signed the petition against it.

A spokesperson for Piano’s office said: “Everything is on hold until this is sorted out. [Legal action] would be the most unpleasant thing to happen.”