By Jenna L. Dublin, Master of Community Planning (2014), MHP, Master of Historic Preservation (2014), University of Maryland, College Park School of Architecture, Planning, Preservation
Last week I embarked on a remarkable adventure, traveling from Washington D.C. to New Delhi, India to work with the heritage conservation and planning organization, Cultural Resources Conservation Initiatives (CRCI) as a 2016 US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program Intern. The program began with a five-day orientation by US/ICOMOS in Washington D.C., where my cohort and I traversed the city for discussions at the National Park Service, American Planning Association, the US Capitol, and Washington National Cathedral. As an urban planner and historic preservationist, I boarded the plane for New Delhi primed with fresh policy insights on the upcoming United Nations New Urban Agenda and Habitat III Conference, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which mainstream cultural heritage as a key asset for inclusive, safe, and resilient cities.
CRCI’s heritage conservation practice in India is nuanced and bold, and deeply responsive to the aspirations of local stakeholders. The opportunity to work under the direction of Gurmeet Rai, CRCI Director and Vice President of ICOMOS-India is immense. This summer, I’ll contribute to CRCI’s heritage planning and infrastructure upgrading initiative in the historic city and religious center of Amritsar, Punjab. India’s Ministry of Urban Development launched the innovative Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) plan for comprehensive urban development in twelve designated heritage cities across the country, with Amritsar selected for its primacy as a political, commercial, and cultural center, and home to the Harimandir Sahib, the most revered of Sikh shrines.
For the next week I will be in Amritsar, studying the city’s beautiful and fragile commercial buildings and market structures to develop guidelines that balance conservation goals with urgently needed municipal upgrades to storefronts, housing, transportation, and utility provisions for improved quality of life. I am eager to put the theoretical frameworks for heritage and sustainability in action. Rehabilitating historically significant climate control methods, water collection features, and cooperative economic spaces are a few examples.
Since arriving in India for the first time, I’m starting to settle into my new surroundings primarily by way of CRCI staff’s generosity, talent, and humor. I have so much to learn and I look forward to sharing my findings from our work in Amritsar!