Grading for Conserving Antiquity - An Overview

Heritage Architecture Dated:  Aug. 7, 2015
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Heritage Conservation, Source: amheritageconservationsolutions.in

It is the responsibility of the civil society to transfer its precious heritage to the next generation. Towards this, it is essential to put in place a system to prevent damage to invaluable archaeological masterpieces which in fact are national treasures. Hence, these monuments need to be conserved and protected.

As per the definition of Central Public Works department:- 

Conservation is the process of looking after a place so as to retain its historical and/or architectural and/or aesthetic and/or cultural significance and includes maintenance, preservation, restoration, adaptation or a combination of more than one of those.

Conservation in India was initiated by Emperor Ashoka in the 3 AD. During the British rule, the regulations introduced, vested the Government with powers to intervene in the public buildings under threat of misuse. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was established in 1861 to put in place a legal mechanism to protect the historical structures all over India. In order to effectively preserve the antiquity of ancient India's architectural and heritage values, the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act (VII) was passed in 1904. In 1984, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) was founded to stimulate awareness for conservation of cultural heritage among the people.

Three concepts:- The three key concepts that need to be understood to determine whether a property is worthy of listing as a Heritage are their Historic significance, Historic integrity and Historic context.

The primary objective of listing heritage buildings is to record the extant architecture and site. The decisions taken by an interdisciplinary committee after a rigorous process of study undertaken by it facilitate listing of buildings in an hierarchical series. Transparency of such subsequent conservation decisions shall encourage public participation and approval.

Ideology of conservation- Western vs. Indian:-

While Western ideology of conservation advocates minimal intervention, India's indigenous traditions idealize the opposite. Western ideology underpins the Indian official and legal conservation practices which are appropriate for conserving protected monuments. However, conserving unprotected architectural heritage offers the opportunity to use indigenous practices. This does not imply any hierarchy of the either practice or site, but provides a rationale for encouraging indigenous practices thus keeping them alive.

Heritage grading:- Heritage structures are normally categorized as Grade I or Grade II (A or B) or Grade III. If a building is listed as Grade I, it is deemed to be of national or historical importance and no structural changes are allowed in it. All development in the areas surrounding a Heritage Grade-I structure shall be regulated and controlled, ensuring that it does not mar the grandeur of, or view from, the structure.

In case of buildings listed as Grade-II (A), internal changes and adaptive re-use may by and large be allowed but subject to strict scrutiny. Care needs to be taken to ensure conservation of all special aspects for which it is included in Heritage Grade-II. In case of Grade-II (B), in addition to the above, extension or additional building in the same plot or compound could in certain circumstances, be allowed provided that the extension / additional building is in harmony with (and does not detract from) the existing heritage building(s) or precincts, especially in terms of height and facade.

Grade III structures and precincts, on the other hand, are those that are considered important to the townscape. While assigning a grade, experts have to weigh the structure or precinct's architectural value, age, its national and local importance, its physical condition, among other things.

It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind.’- Branch Rickey

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