With seven out of 16 awards, India bagged the highest number of awards among all the participant nations in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation for 2017.
While the award for merit was given to three Indian historical sites, the others four sites were given honorable mentions in the UNESCO awards, announced on November 1. Four of the awards winning structures are in Mumbai.
The award recognizes work done by individuals and organizations 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 Christ Church in Mumbai’s Byculla, the Royal Bombay Opera House in Mumbai and Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tiruchirappalli.
Byculla’s Christ 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 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 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.
Honourable mentions were given to the Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Fountain and Clock Tower in Mumbai, the Wellington Fountain in Mumbai’s Colaba, Gateways of Gohad Fort in Bhind and Haveli Dharampura in Delhi.
“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. The 16 winners of the UNESCO award are from six countries: Australia, China, India, Iran, New Zealand and Singapore.