India wins four UNESCO heritage awards; Flora Fountain, others bring three cheers for Mumbai

1 1NEW DELHI: Mumbai’s iconic 155-year-old Flora Fountain and two other heritage landmarks in the country’s financial capital are among the four sites that have been chosen from India for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation announced on Monday.

The fountain, a veritable symbol of Mumbai was opened to the public early this year after painstaking restoration.

The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation awards were announced at a ceremony held in Penang, Malaysia, marking 20 years since its institution.

The four winners from India, include one from Ahmedabad — Award of Distinction for Vikram Sarabhai Library, Indian Institute of Management (IIM); and three from Mumbai — Award of Merit for Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue and Our Lady of Glory Church; while Honourable Mention for Flora Fountain.

“The careful restoration of the fountain completes the series of conservation interventions to revive the city’s many Victorian-era fountains, a collection of ornate civic monuments unique in India,” Bangkok-based UNESCO Asia-Pacific tweeted after announcing the winners.

For Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, it said, the restoration was “undertaken with generous private sponsorship” that “celebrates the cultural plurality of Mumbai”.

While announcing the Award of Distinction for Vikram Sarabhai Library at IIM-A, whose building was designed by noted architect Louis Kahn, the UNESCO said, “the restoration of the monumental heralds an important step forward in the preservation of 20th century architecture in India (sic)”.

The renewal of the historic Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts in Hong Kong received the Award of Excellence, the highest award among all categories.

“Sixteen projects from five countries – Australia, Bhutan, China, India and New Zealand – have been recognized by the international Jury of conservation experts in this year’s Awards. The jury met in August to review 57 entries from 14 countries across the Asia-Pacific region,” UNESCO Asia-Pacific said in a statement.

Mumbai-based architect Vikas Dilawari, who was the main consultant for the Flora Fountain restoration project, was ecstatic and called it a “great moment for India” as it bagged four of the 16 awards.

“We hope this achievement and recognition by UNESCO will mean that both governments and people will give heritage conservation a chance. In a rapidly urbanising India, we keep sacrificing our heritage in the name of development.

“But, these awards will fill every Indian with a great sense of pride and we hope they will make them more sensitive towards heritage and its protection,” he told PTI over phone from Penang after attending the award function.

This year marked 20 years of the UNESCO Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation, which was conceived in Penang, Malaysia, during UNESCO’s landmark ‘Economics of Heritage’ regional conference in 1999.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary, UNESCO co-organised the Asia-Pacific Heritage 20/20 Forum and 2019 Awards Ceremony with Think City in Penang.

The jury, while praising Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, said, “The transformation of the former Central Police Station into a world-class centre for heritage and arts has created a vibrant new civic space in the heart of the city’s central business district”.

“The project tackled a complex site with multiple layers of history dating back to the mid-19th century, enhancing its legibility and opening it up to the public. The technical quality of the restoration work is standard-setting on an international level, ensuring the authenticity and integrity of the historic fabric,” the UNESCO statement said. PTI


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