Heritage sites have a hazy future in Bangalore

Why preserve these heritage sites?

Indian cities have hit a point of urban amnesia, Naresh Narasimhan, a Bangalore architect and urban designer, said at a 2014 Tedx event.

“The memory of Bangalore in Bangalore today, in most people’s heads, is only about 20 years, 30 years,” he said at the event, adding jokingly, “They think it started roughly the same time as the IT boom.”

Narasimhan began a Facebook group called “Bangalore–photos from a bygone age” when he had about 300 photos of old Bangalore he had collected over 20 years and could not find any more. The group has grown to almost 17,000 members and 700 digital photo albums in one year.

It is important to protect these sites for aesthetic and cultural heritage and for collective memory, Kiran Natarajan, a self-described Bangalore vintage-photo aficionado and heritage fan, and co-administrator of the Facebook group who works in product strategy at Oracle, an IT company, said in an email.

The challenges in doing so are commercial pressure on individual private owners of heritage homes and a lack of policy, organization and funding for publicly owned heritage properties, he said.

Architect Mansoor Ali is another co-administrator of the Facebook group who called himself “a forgotten INTACH member, native Bangalorean and concerned citizen.”

“Our heritage is not ours,” he wrote in a thread on Facebook site. “It has been gifted to us by our ancestors and its [it’s] our duty to protect it for the next generation to whom it actually belongs.”

In April 2015, The Hindu, an English language print and online daily, reported that Bangalore has more than 800 heritage structures. Art Architecture Design Environment Consultants compiled the list for C.G. Betsurmath, the commissioner of the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage.

The list includes temples, markets, restaurants and other buildings such as the State Central Library building in Cubbon Park.

The State Central Library is housed in the Seshadru Iyer Memorial Building Cubbon Park. It was renovated in 2007

The State Central Library is housed in the Seshadru Iyer Memorial Building Cubbon Park. It was renovated in 2007. (Photo: Kelly Zegers)

But what qualifies a structure as a heritage site?

Varanashi said in the same newspaper article that heritage goes beyond structural age and that planners must consider history, design, social relevance and materials that speak of an era.

The Karnataka planning act includes two definitions added by amendment in 2005, one for “Heritage Building” and another for “Heritage Precinct.”

“‘Heritage Building’ means a building possessing architectural, aesthetic, historic or cultural values that is declared a heritage building by the Planning Authority or any other competent authority within whose jurisdiction such building is situated,” the act states.

A “Heritage Precinct” refers to an area comprising one or more heritage buildings and precincts.

Next: Hesitations on heritage

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