Retain visual identity
In a globalising world, where visual spaces are rapidly becoming homogenised, it is necessary to retain the specific visual identity of a place created by the presence of unprotected architectural heritage and sites. Yet, this image should not be preserved in the manner of legally protected monuments, but must accommodate the imperatives of change in making the heritage relevant in contemporary society. The objective must be to integrate unprotected heritage and sites into daily social life by balancing their needs so that neither overshadows the other.
The visual cacophony created by advertisement boards, signage, hanging electric cables, air conditioning units, dish antennas, etc. must be carefully controlled to enhance the visual character of the architectural heritage and site. Additions of street furniture, pavement material, lighting, signage, etc. can add to the experience and appreciation of the heritage.
In this respect the objectives of conservation can mediate even new buildings or neighbourhoods by requiring them to make reference to the old by employing elements, methods and devices characterising the architectural heritage of the area so that the new is linked with the old.
The re-use of historic buildings and neighbourhoods is economically sensible. It is an effective strategy to conserve architectural heritage, particularly by using traditional craftspeople in the process. Such re-use distinguishes between preservation as an ideal on the one hand and, on the other, the goal to prolong the useful life of architectural heritage by retaining as much (and not necessarily, all) of the surviving evidence as a vestigial presence.
Priority must be accorded to retaining the continuity of original functions. Any new use must be introduced only after studying its effect on the local context, and must conform to the carrying capacity and vulnerability of the architectural heritage.
All changes to the original fabric should be preceded and followed by comprehensive documentation. Additions and alterations must respect the coherence of the whole, and must, to the extent possible, engage traditional materials, skills and knowledge in the process.
When it becomes necessary to modernise and comprehensively alter the original internal functional characteristics of the building or site, its external image must be retained.
At the outset, the local community must be made aware of the changes envisaged and explained the benefits to be derived.
Restoration/ Replication/ Rebuilding
Restoration is an appropriate conservation strategy to reinstate the integrity or complete the fractured ‘whole’ of the architectural heritage/ site. It must aim to convey the meaning of the heritage in the most effective manner. It may include reassembling of displaced and dismembered components of the structure and conjectural building or replacement of missing or severely deteriorated parts of the fabric. Invariably, restoration work must be preceded and followed by comprehensive documentation in order to base interventions on informed understanding of the resource and its context, and in conformity with contemporary practices of local craftspeople.
In consonance with traditional ideals, replication can be accepted as an appropriate strategy not only to conserve unprotected historic buildings, but especially if such replication encourages historic ways of building.
At the urban level, the objective of rebuilding historic structures should be to enhance the visual and experiential quality of the built environment, thereby providing a local distinctiveness to contest the homogenising influence of globalisation.
In addition, reconstruction/ rebuilding can provide the impetus to develop a parallel market for local buildings materials and new opportunities for the use of alternative systems of building.
Reconstruction based on minimal physical evidence is appropriate where it is supported by the knowledge of local craftspeople, including folklore, beliefs, myths and legends, rituals, customs, oral traditions, etc. The objective of this practice must be to interpret the original meanings of the resource in the contemporary context and reinforce its bond with society.
Conservation strategy must focus on the potential for employing local raj mistris, labour and materials because this will prolong the economic viability of traditional ways of building. In conditions of resource scarcity, the use of architectural heritage can provide an alternate and more economic strategy to meet contemporary needs as well.
Local material and traditional technology
The use of local materials and traditional technologies must invariably be preferred. Their choice must be based on the availability of traditional knowledge systems. Modern substitutes should be considered only after their use is proven efficient and judicious, and must not compromise the integrity and continuity of local building traditions.
It is necessary to recognise that the use of certain traditional building materials may be inadvisable on account of the damage this can cause to the natural ecological systems. Thus the use of shell lime in coastal areas and wood generally may need to be judicially substituted with alternate materials.
Conservation of architectural heritage and sites must be integrated with the social and economic aspirations of society. Conservation-oriented development must be the preferred strategy for social and economic progress. This necessitates the formation of multi-disciplinary teams to undertake integrated conservation projects. Since social aspirations are diverse and often at odds with each other, the conservation team must include social workers to facilitate dialogue and decision-making.
The objective of conservation should be to sustain the building and/or the traditional skill and knowledge system of building. In this context, continuity must be seen as evolving over time. The test of its validity must be the positive contribution it makes to the quality of life of the local community.
Through the ASI, the Central Government protects monuments more than 100 years old declared to be of national importance. Monuments of importance to States are protected by the respective SDAs. However, the existing legislation covers only about 5,000 monuments at the national level and approximately 3,500 at the state level. Considering India’s vast cultural heritage, these numbers are inadequate and their focus monument-centric.
INTACH has undertaken an inventory of built heritage in India which includes notable buildings aged 50 years or more which are deemed to be of architectural, historical, archaeological or aesthetic importance.
This inventory will become INTACH’s National Register of Historic Properties. It attempts to create a systematic, accessible and retrievable inventory of the built heritage of this country. It will serve as resource material for developing heritage conservation policies and regulations. In due course, this database should be made more comprehensive and the information compiled should be available online. It should also be made compatible with similar registers of other countries to facilitate international research.
A similar Register of Craftspeople associated with the architectural heritage must be undertaken by specialist cultural organizations (Article 8.6.3). It is important to reiterate that both buildings being listed and associated activities that keep these building in use constitute the ‘living’ heritage. The Register of Craftspeople is, therefore, essential to viewing the architectural heritage in a holistic manner.
Inventory of properties / buildings
Since a large part of India’s cultural heritage has so far remained undocumented, preparing an inventory of heritage buildings worthy of preservation is the most important task with which to begin the process of conservation.
The primary aim of listing is to document the fast disappearing built heritage and then present it to scholars and the general public in a user-friendly format, which aids conservation by generating public awareness. Once a property/ building is included in such a list, it becomes justifiable to undertake necessary conservation activities by formulating special regulations for its conservation or according it due protection under Town Planning Acts. Ideally, the footprints of all listed buildings should be included in the Master Plan documents of cities.
Buildings protected by the ASI and SDA should also be included in the list prepared by INTACH.
Although interrelated, the following three key attributes will determine whether a property is worthy of listing:
- Historic significance
- Historic integrity
- Historic context
One or more of these attributes need to be present in a building to make it worthy of listing.
Historic significance refers to the importance of a property to the history, architecture, archaeology, engineering or culture of a community, region or nation. In selecting a building, particular attention should be paid to the following:
- Association with events, activities or patterns.
- Association with important persons, including ordinary people who have made significant contribution to India’s living heritage.
- Distinctive physical characteristics of design, construction or form, representing the work of a master craftsperson.
- Potential to yield important information, such as socio-economic history. Railway stations, town halls, clubs, markets, water works etc. are examples of such sites
- Technological innovation represented. For example: dams, bridges, etc.
- Town planning features such as squares, streets, avenues, etc. For example: Rajpath in New Delhi.
Historic integrity refers to the property’s historic identity, evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics and significant elements that existed during the property’s historic period. The “original” identity includes changes and additions over historic time.
Historic integrity enables a property to illustrate significant aspects of its past. Not only must a property resemble its historic appearance, but it must also retain original materials, design features and aspects of construction dating from the period when it attained significance.
Historic integrity also relates to intangible values such as the building or site’s cultural associations and traditions.
Historic context refers to information about historic trends and properties grouped by an important theme in the history of a community, region or nation during a particular period of time.
Knowledge of historic context enables the public to understand a historic property as a product of its time.
Precincts or properties with multiple owners
A historic building complex may comprise of numerous ancillary structures besides the main structure. Each structure of the complex must be documented on individual proformas. For example, Jahangir Mahal, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas and Moti Masjid all form part of the Agra Fort complex but are also individual buildings in their own right and, as such, must be documented individually.
The determination of significance is the key component of methodology. All conservation decisions follow from the level of significance that is assigned to a building or site.
Listing work is comprised of two phases:
- Background research
- Field work
Before commencing actual fieldwork, the lister should gather basic information from various sources including gazetteers, travel books and other specialised books containing information about the architecture and history of the area to be listed and documented. This work could be done in university libraries, the ASI, the National Museum, the Central Secretariat, the respective State Secretariats, Institutes of Advanced Studies and Schools of Planning andArchitecture. In a given area, local experts and university scholars are resource persons who could also provide required guidance and help.
Background research helps to ensure that no important structure or representative style of building is left out of the list. It enables the identification of historic areas, historic development of the area, significant events in the area and important persons associated with the area. In some well-documented areas, distinctive physical characteristics of design, construction or form of building resource can also be identified.
First and foremost it is necessary to carry out a field survey to identify the buildings and the areas to be listed. Following this, a detailed physical inspection of the property and dialogues with appropriate local people such as the owners of the property, area residents, local panchayats, etc. need to be undertaken. By physically inspecting the property the lister can gather information regarding the physical fabric of the building, such as physical characteristics, period of construction, etc. that need to be cross-checked with the literature survey. By conducting a dialogue with area residents, the lister can determine the changes to the property over time, ownership details, historic function and activities, association with events and persons and the role of the property in local, regional or national history.
When gathering information, the lister must be mindful of proforma requirements (Article 5.12). The proforma is, first of all, a record of the property at the time of listing and consists of current name; historic or other name(s), location, approach and accessibility, current ownership, historic usage, and present use.
Claims of historic significance and integrity should be supported with descriptions of special features, state of preservation, relevant dates, etc.
Mapping of vernacular architecture and historic settlements
The major shortcoming of the current list of legally protected architectural heritage is that it does not recognise vernacular architecture and historic settlements as categories of heritage worthy of being conserved. The listing of unprotected architectural heritage and sites must, therefore, include this category. An example of such an inclusive document is INTACH’s “Listing of Built Heritage of Delhi” published in 1999.
Sacred sites must be dealt with due sensitivity and knowledge of the local social and cultural imperatives governing their sanctity. Listing must record such characteristics associated with these sites.
Detailed format for all the structures
Information for each building or site should be recorded as per INTACH’s standard format as described below.
Each proforma must contain information about listers and reviewers. Listing must be carried out by or under the supervision of experienced conservation architects.
At least one photograph of the property/ building should be recorded for identification purposes. All significant elements of the property also need to be photographed. All photographs should be properly catalogued.
A conceptual plan (if available, a measured drawing) should be given for each building/ area listed.
Any additional information related to or affecting the built heritage of the city/town/region documented and its conservation should be included as appendices, for example: laws and regulations on planning and conservation, etc.
A glossary should be provided explaining the technical and the special words used must be provided. For example: “Imambara - a shrine/ religious structure of Shia Muslims”.
A bibliography of all books, publications, articles and unpublished work must be provided. The uniform format should be followed throughout.
The primary objective of listing is to record extant architectural heritage and sites. But the outcome of this process should invariably be to grade the listed heritage into a hierarchical series.This process must be undertaken in a rigorous and transparent manner by a multi-disciplinary team of experts whose recommendations should be available for public scrutiny. The importance of this process cannot be underestimated because its results determine subsequent conservation decisions. Such hierarchical categorisation facilitates the prioritisation of decisions relating to the future of architectural heritage and sites.
This Charter recommends that buildings and sites be classified as Grade I*, I, II and III in descending order of importance.
Buildings and sites classified as Grade I*, I and II should be conserved in accordance with the provisions of official and legal manuals of practice (for example, ASI’s Works Manual). Some Grade II buildings, however, and all other listed buildings and sites, i.e. Grade III, may be conserved in accordance with principles enunciated in this Charter (Article 2.6). The decision to apply the principles enunciated in this Charter to Grade II buildings must invariably be based on the concurrence of the Advisory Committees of INTACH (Article 7.2.5).
The process of listing should be constantly upgraded and the list updated in keeping with the availability of fresh information, financial and material resources, advances in technology and developments in the understanding of architectural heritage and its constituents.
Guidelines for Conservation
For the present, the latest edition of INTACH’s “Guidelines for Conservation” should be followed, unless otherwise indicated by the imperatives of this Charter. These Guidelines should be updated by conservation architects periodically. It may also be necessary to bring out regionspecific guidelines so that conservation practices can be sensitive to regional material and cultural attributes.
6.2 Heritage zone
Conservation of architectural heritage sites can be undertaken in terms of the Heritage Zone concept propagated by INTACH. In general, Heritage Zones are sensitive development areas, which are a part of larger urban agglomeration possessing significant evidence of heritage. The Heritage Zone concept requires that the conservation of unprotected architectural heritage and sites must be sensitively planned, but also aligned with the imperatives of routine development process.
Urban conservation plans must be incorporated into the statutory Master Plan of cities. This necessitates undertaking a process of dialogue and negotiation with government town planning departments as part of the conservation strategy. Regulations to control or mediate development within the Heritage Zone, including new construction, demolition or modification to existing buildings around historic structures or within historic precincts can be formulated and incorporated within the “Special Area” provision of the respective Town Planning Acts of different States.
Role of conservation architects
The role of the conservation architect is to provide expert advice for conserving the architectural heritage and site. Conservation, however, is a multi-disciplinary activity and conservation architects must work closely with professionals of other disciplines in order to address its diverse objectives. Depending on circumstances, the conservation architect may either lead the project team or simply participate as a team member with specific expertise. In any event, the role of conservation architects must be clearly defined, either by conservation architects themselves or by the initiator of the project.
Conservation architects also have an important advocacy role to play in promoting the conservation of unprotected architectural heritage and sites. They need to catalyse awareness both among administrators and beneficiaries to achieve the objectives of conservation enunciated in this Charter.