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Conservation of built heritage is conventionally viewed through two lenses: a singular monument seen primarily in terms of its physical form, and as a representation of the past or a reminder of our history. But there are many other aspects of heritage that are just as significant. Heritage can cover entire precincts, not just singular monuments; has both tangible and intangible dimensions; and there is rarely a clear dividing line between past and present given many heritage structures are still in active use. Moreover, heritage cannot be restricted to the pre-modern – many works of architecture that are considered ‘modern’, are now six to seven decades old, are milestones of our history, and worthy of inclusion as heritage.
How should we be looking at heritage in this expanded sense? What impacts do we suffer in our current narrow view of heritage? What should be a sensible heritage policy that covers the subject in all of its significant dimensions?
The discussion will cover these questions and more, seeking to pinpoint the core issues in conserving India’s built heritage.
Gurmeet S Rai
Gurmeet S Rai is an architect with specialisation in heritage conservation and management. She is among the first generation conservation architects in India and has undertaken projects related to architectural conservation, management plans for world heritage sites, urban conservation and development strategies for historic settlements, sustainable cultural heritage tourism plans, preparation of advisory and policy documents.
Gurmeet was awarded ‘Award of Distinction’ by UNESCO under the Asia Pacific Architectural Heritage Awards in 2002 and 2004 following which she has been on their jury for over 15 years. In 2011, UNESCO appointed her as the lead consultant for preparation of ‘Cultural Heritage policy for Punjab’. She has also undertaken international assignments in Nepal and Myanmar and has been an advisor to UNESCO in heritage sector in several countries in South East Asia. She is currently a member of the Steering committee of TERRA 2022, World Congress on Earthen Architectural Heritage (Getty Conservation Institute).
Ratish Nanda is a conservation architect the India CEO for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). He studied architecture at the TVB School of Habitat Studies, Delhi where he graduated with the Gold Medal. Ratish then did a master’s programme in Conservation Studies focussed on the built heritage at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, University of York, England.
Ratish heads the multi-disciplinary AKTC teams that are presently undertaking the two major urban conservation projects in India: the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative, Delhi and the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park Conservation in Hyderabad. For AKTC, he was earlier responsible for the Baghe Babur restoration (2002-2006), in Kabul, Afghanistan and the garden restoration of Humayun’s Tomb (1999-2003).
Ratish has served as anInternational Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) expert to missions in Iran, Turkey and Nepal and lectured in over 20 countries including atThe International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), Rome. He has authored over 50 articles and his major publications include, ‘Delhi, the Built Heritage: A listing’– released by the Prime Minister of India; Delhi: Red Fort to Raisina; Conservation of Historic Graveyards (Scotland) and Rethinking Conservation: Humayun’s Tomb.
Awards received by him include the Chishti India Harmony Award (2014), the Eisenhower Fellowship (2007), the Sanskriti Award for Social and Cultural Achievement (2004), the ‘Urban Hero’ title by Prince Claus Fund, Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship and the Charles Wallace Conservation Fellowship (1997), among others.
Prem Chandavarkar is a practising architect, who also writes on subjects like urbanism, environment, art, philosophy, politics, and cultural studies.