While the award for merit was given to three Indian historical sites, the others four sites were given honourable mentions in the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation was announced on November 1, 2017, and India bagged the highest number of awards among all the participant nations.
The award recognises work done by individuals and organisations to restore adapt and conserve structures and buildings of heritage value. Recognizing this, UNESCO seeks to encourage private sector involvement and public-private collaboration in conserving the region’s cultural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations.
The Awards of Merit were given to Byculla’s Christ Church, the Royal Bombay Opera House and Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Honourable mentions were given to the Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Fountain and Clock Tower, the Wellington Fountain, Gateways of Gohad Fort and Haveli Dharampura.
“The Jury was impressed by the heroic nature of the conservation projects, especially those that underscore the importance of protecting the heritage that is rooted in the least powerful segments of society,” said Duong Bich Hanh, Chair of the Jury and Chief of UNESCO Bangkok’s Culture Unit.
For a country whose heritage is under constant threat in the name of development, these new set of awards might bring a wind of change. Seven Indian cultural landmarks were among the 16 winners from six countries; Australia, China, India, Iran, New Zealand and Singapore thus, making India the highest scorer in the game. The sites that have been awarded might now attract a large number of footfalls from India and around the world.
The Awards of Merit
Byculla’s Christ Church
The church opened to worship in 1833. This Neo-Classical church structure was restored in two phases. According to the UNESCO report, the church had suffered from earlier inappropriate repair works that disguised and diminished its cultural value. The panel appreciated the fact that Artisan skills were revived during the renewal of the elegant interior with its gilded columns, memorial stained glass windows and lath and plaster ceiling.
Royal Bombay Opera House
Opera house was restored from a near-derelict state. It opened in 1916 and was called the finest theatre in the East; the century-old building was shut down over two decades ago. The panel acknowledged the extensive restoration of its decorative features using expert knowledge and research, to ensure that India’s only surviving opera house could make its mark again.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Tiruchirappalli
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple has revived through a major public-private initiative. It is said that the use of traditional methods in renovating temple structures and re-establishment of rainwater harvesting and historic drainage system, to augment water and prevent flooding, were the main reasons for the temple to achieve the award.
The Honourable mention
Bomonjee Hormarjee Wadia Fountain and Clock Tower, Mumbai
The 19th-century drinking water fountain and the clock tower was built in memory of the benevolent Bomonjee Hormarjee Wadia. It was restored by Vikas Dilawari Architects(VDA) in association with the Kala Ghoda Association and the local Zoroastrian community. The initiative saved the landmark by strengthening structure’s features and also repair the vandalised clock, thereby bringing this civic landmark back to life.
Gateways of Gohad Fort, Bhind
The fort was built in the 16th century. Jat Kings ruled over this place for several years. The conservation of Hathai Paur (Elephant Gate) and Sankal Darwaja (Chain Gate) has reinstated a significant feature of the 15th -century Gohad Fort and enhanced the surrounding townscape. The gateways are still daily used by the local residents.
Haveli Dharampura, Delhi
This accommodation, located in the cramped lanes of Chandni Chowk recently experienced a complete renovation; the site was restored by a father-son duo; Vijayant and Siddhant Goel. The duo has converted a crumbling haveli into a boutique hotel, where kathak dance performances punctuate the night and tabla artistes come to play.
Wellington Fountain, Colaba
Built in 1865, Wellington Fountain is the only functional ornamental fountain in the city. It is an example of Neo-Classical structure. The restoration of this landmark was supported Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. The UNESCO report appreciated the use of rigorous methodology and scientific technology for preserving the monumental building and the ornamental fountain.