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Architecture, Cities, Heritage, Urban Design, Urban Renewal

Is heritage a liability?

Mysore, the heritage capital of Karnataka has always been revered for its beautiful palaces, bungalows, civic buildings, well planned roadways, and boulevards. This credit goes to the erstwhile rulers and nobles of Mysore, who have shaped the city to what it is today. Thousands of visitors from across the globe frequent the city to admire its heritage and legacy. The heritage fabric of this city is a matter of pride to the locals. But somewhere this carefully woven heritage fabric has developed a tear.

This heritage fabric that used to trigger place memory and which created the stabilizing persistence of a place is either altering or vanishing altogether. The onset of urbanization and development is leading to booming land values causing the disappearance of heritage landmarks. The main question that arises is, where is this tear starting from? Is it the growing development, the lack of creating and implementing heritage policies, or is it the attitude of Mysore’s citizens?

In the midst of this crisis, Mysore faced a heavy blow to the heritage that it prides. The 135 year old Deveraja Market partly collapsed during restoration works. All parties involved in the restoration relentlessly blamed each other for the loss. Currently the decision is pending whether to continue the restoration or completely demolish and rebuild the Market. This decision may make or break the entire heritage fabric of the city. Examining the impact of either of these decisions about the building is crucial.

If the decision favours the demolition and rebuilding of the market, then, this may create a domino effect, justifying the destruction of several other heritage buildings that are privately owned. This may lead to the loss of heritage preservation activity and to sensitivity towards the cause in general. Would Mysore’s citizens like to see the complete loss of their city’s heritage fabric?

On the other hand, what might the outcome of a reconstruction effort be? Would it be successful in reinstating a 135 year old heritage legacy and its place memory, or would it just be a superficial replica of a place that had been? If latter is the case, this may not only cause the displacement of place memory, but may erase it altogether.

If the decision favours reconstruction, in my opinion there is still hope for the overall preservation of heritage in the city. This could set an example for other heritage rich cities to consciously utilize and preserve their resources, instilling hope to other heritage owners of the city that their buildings are worth preserving and reusing.

An active decision should be taken by the civic bodies to find methods in which Mysore’s heritage can be preserved. Robust heritage cess, policies, and guidelines should be created, and a body formed to overlook the execution of these policies and guidelines. These policies should provide incentives to private owners to look after their heritage resources and positively exploit them. Public-private partnerships can be implemented in special cases to conserve the overall heritage fabric of the city. The city council should learn from relevant policies and guidelines that cities in other parts of the world have implemented, to help form their own suitable action plans for the conservation of the city’s heritage.

Through this article, I urge the reader to pay conscious thought to the heritage preservation in your city. Let us find ways to breathe new life into the heritage jewels every city contains and look at them as assets rather than liabilities. This small change in thought could lead to the protection of heritage resources that can be passed onto our future generations.


All images copyright of their authors.


One thought on “Is heritage a liability?

  1. I wish you were the owner of Devaraja Market!!

    Posted by Dr Y N I Anand | October 25, 2016, 11:01 am

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