Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Incentives for Preserving and ‘Recreating’ Heritage Architecture In New Buildings

Posted in Current Affairs, History, Pune by Amit Paranjape on May 16, 2012

It is really sad to see the crazy expansion of concrete, steel and glass in Pune, with completely haphazard architecture standards. It is the same state in all major cities in India. In many cases, there is an attempt to emulate foreign architecture concepts that don’t blend in here very well. This extends to those ridiculous sounding names in English (and French, Italian, Spanish)!

I think it is the responsibility of local civic authorities (as is done in many cities, in the developed world), to enforce some kind of consistency standards in architecture of buildings, landscapes and ideally, even the names!

Just as there are green building requirements and certification standards, civic authorities need to enforce such standards for basic architecture. There have been many discussions on this topic, but doubt if any Indian city has done any progress in this area. I am going to take this requirement one step further. Not only should basic architecture standards be enforced, but heritage architecture should be provided with incentives (I am not asking for enforcement here… but some positive reinforcement).

For example, if a building (or more specifically, a private bungalow) tries to use the old Pune ‘Wada’ type architecture, or the early 20th century ‘Stone’ construction, they should be offered some benefits. We have to encourage new development that respects, preserves and recreates our heritage.

Similar small token incentives should be given to using local and Indian names. Instead of the often horrible (supposedly ‘aspirational’) sounding western names that we see everywhere today, we should encourage the use of local/regional names. Pune was the city of gardens (‘Baugs’) during the Peshwe Era. We had great gardens such as Hirabaug, Sarasbaug, Tulshibaug, and many others. Today, it would be great to see some apartment complexes named as ‘XYZ-Baug’.

In addition to local authorities (like PMC) providing incentives; NGOs and other organizations who are working in the area of heritage preservation (e.g. Janwani in Pune) should also institute prizes and awards for buildings that go out of their way to preserve and replicate the heritage.

Would like to hear the readers thoughts on this topic. Has something like this been done effectively in any Indian city? Note, I agree that ‘incentives’ are a small step, amongst many others to preserve our rich (but poorly maintained and fast dwindling) heritage.


19 Responses

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  1. Nitin Gokhale said, on May 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Very apt. All cities should look at this seriously. To have names like Casablanca, Belvedere for aprtment building in Pune is downright ridiculous.

  2. Amit Paranjape said, on May 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Nitin – Thanks for the comment. Yes, these names sound ridiculous here in Pune… but even worse are those utterly meaningless ones, which are created by combination of English Words / Proper Nouns … and some times using French/Italian/Spanish/others words!
    I had remarked on twitter few weeks back – not sure if some of these folks who ‘create’ these names have high school level language proficiencies!

  3. Manish said, on May 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I can proudly say, all buildings in my society are names after plants/flowers and that too in marathi 🙂

  4. Ashish Deshpande said, on May 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Tricky ground Amit, I think you are looking at some desirable outcomes but rather than create more rules and schemes for private parties, I would prefer first that at least those structures that are to be built/maintained with taxpayer money are architecturally and culturally positive influences in the city.

  5. Advait Chothave said, on May 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Nice views. Some educational institutes are trying the same for eg.MIT’s Alandi campus, but these are rare examples. Fully agree with your views & would be happy if some of them come true. Plz see some rules of Jodhpur & Jaipur municipalties where they have made Blue & Pink colors compulsory for buildings’ exteriors in the oldcity areas.

  6. Pavan Srinath said, on May 17, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Much needed! I’d stress on incentives and try to stay away from regulations, though. A city’s heritage is a topic where hearts and minds need to won, and that would be ill-served by directives on names and architectural styles. Savings on property tax could be a good way to get a little more heritage in our buildings.

    The other thing that would a city would need to do is to start seeding simple, workable ideas to architects and construction crews on adding some Indianness of Pune-ness to a building. As I see it, the question that needs to be asked is, “How do we make the inclusion of heritage in modern buildings very easy?” and not “How do we stop people from giving European names to apartments?”

  7. Sharvey Dhongde said, on May 17, 2012 at 10:53 am

    You can join INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Pune. Doesn’t seem you have heard about that.

  8. Amit Paranjape said, on May 17, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Sharvey,

    Yes, I have definitely heard of INTACH and have attended some of the programs that featured Janwani and INTACH. Can you share some information here about INTACH for the benefit of other readers? What does it mean to ‘join’ INTACH?


  9. Amit Paranjape said, on May 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Advait, Thanks for your comments.

  10. Amit Paranjape said, on May 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Ashish, Thanks for the comment.

  11. Amit Paranjape said, on May 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks for the comment Manish. I am sure, these days societies like yours are in a minority 🙂

  12. Amit Paranjape said, on May 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks Pavan for your comments.

  13. Vcat (@vcat13) said, on May 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I agree, and I think the name of the place I live in borders on ‘aspirational’. 🙂 But at least it’s not ‘Fortaleza’ ,’La Vida Loca’, or ‘Mont Vert Altesse’!

  14. Prajakta Panshikar said, on May 21, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Dear Amit,
    I do see and share the sentiment for Pune’s heritage conservation in your write-up. Rather than getting into the details of what ought to be done, for which one has to be very well aware of the complexity of matter, I would share with you the kind of work that is already happening in this area, of which you and others could become part of.

    Janwani had recently invited Mr.Debashish Nayak, person instrumental in establishing the first ever Heritage Cell of India in Ahmedabad. He is an advisory to heritage cells/committees of more than 30 municipalities across the world. The lecture was on 19th May and he gave a fabulous insight into the process that happened in Gujarat. As you know Gujarat has been very active in heritage conservation and tourism promotion. Surprisingly and coincidentally the work and objectives of Virasat Pune follow the same thought process. I am very happy to share with you that the two hour lecture was attended by Hon.PMC Commissioner Mr.Mahesh Pathak who sat through the entire session. We discussed importance of collaborative efforts, importance of rules and regulations, a need for policy, the nature of incentives to be given to the property owners, the particiation of builders lobby and community groups and most importantly awareness building among general public. This lecture was followed by an elaborate Heritage Walk on the 20th morning. We had also organized a small powada performance on Pune’s past and glory at vishrambaug wada. 🙂

    I would rather talk about the ‘awareness building’ part. Amit, through your entire piece what was vivid to me is lack of awareness and information about heritage value and restoration process. Its important to educate people by what is meant by conservation or even heritage for that matter. There are multiple stakeholders involved whose interests and concerns are genuine. Rules/regulations/incentives will be less effective if people’s interests are not realised and protected.

    Virasat Pune has been working consistently and sincerely to bring multiple stakeholders on a common platform for a dialogue. We believe that the issues you have raised need a bottom-up approach. Heritage ought to become people’s issue as thats what it always is. People have to feel pride for what they have inheritage as legacy. For this they should know what legacy constitutes and why it is important. Virasat Pune works on relating people to their heritage and ensuring that heritage is part of the development plan of the local self government. We could talk about this in person as the subject is interesting but vast 🙂

    Just for your information, Janwani under Virasat Pune will soon be starting with the first formal activity of Signature Heritage Walk and Tanga Ride of Pune. This activity is not just a walk but includes cultural events and Pune Kasba (a space for urban artisans to showcase and sell their items). We are hoping to launch it for the public in couple of months. For this we are seeking PMC support and feel positive about it.

    Keep writing on heritage!

  15. Amit Paranjape said, on May 21, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Thanks Prajakta for the detailed comments. I am well aware of the great work that Janwani and Virasat Pune are doing in this area. Hope more people become aware of this. I will also post an update via twitter re: your detailed comment.

    I wanted to attend the May 19th event, but had a schedule conflict. Do keep us updated about future programs.


  16. Harish Rao said, on July 8, 2012 at 12:15 am

    I was wondering about the same when I had gone abroad. There is an uniformity in the architecture that holds the city together. I live in Ahmedabad, a city where the authorities are pitching for heritage status (for the old city). A heritage walk is held daily through the streets of the old city. The city, though beautiful in parts, is largely in absolute shambles. It has got as much to do with the people residing there as with the civic authorities. Urban planning and development here lacks in basic safety standard issues. The electrical, water and sewage systems are all close to falling apart.

    What people don’t realize is that planning and regulation significantly improves the overall systems. People are more concerned with an extra balcony or an extra room regardless of what effect it would have on the existing infrastructure. The civic authorities are more than willing to comply because it gives them ample rent seeking opportunity.

    I think this holds true for all cities. Until both the civic authorities as well as the public get serious about maintaining certain standards, compliance will only be by accident rather than design.

  17. Sachin said, on October 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Agree 500% on ridiculous sounding names. I feel this is a recent phenomenon though, i do not remember having seen so many such weird names about 10 years ago or so, then the names used to be something like “rutugandha” “niwara” “XXX Sadan” . Maybe it is happening since the “eye tea” boom. “EyeTeet Basa aani kachechya buildingi bandha” seems to be the norm these days. Read an article sometime back by a western architect that using glass throughout the building in India is usually not a good idea since we are a country of “heat and dust”. Could the heavy usage of glass be because it is much cheaper i wonder?
    Thanks for bringing up this topic. Like someone suggested the first place to start could be public places with “Puneri” architecture and names.

  18. Prajakta Panshikar said, on November 16, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Dear Amit,

    In continuation to my comment on your blog, I would like to share the news of the conference on Heritage Economics to be held in Pune on the 10th and 11th of December. It is hosted by UNESCO and the French Embassy. PMC has put Pune on the map of Indian Heritage Cities Network and thus the conference to be held in the city. I think many of the policy issues will be addressed here. We are hoping to be ready with a policy brief too. The conference will help us set a tone for a policy for Pune. Will keep you posted.

  19. Amit Paranjape said, on November 16, 2012 at 11:12 am


    Thanks for the update.


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