Amar Singh College, Srinagar has been awarded the prestigious Award of Merit in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
The award was announced last week by a jury, comprising nine international conservation experts.
As per the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Jammu and Kashmir chapter, the restoration of the Amar Singh College brought back one of the most prominent institutional buildings in Kashmir to its former glory.
The award, the jury said, is recognition to a high level of technical proficiency that led to reversing major deterioration, resulting from years of inappropriate additions, poor maintenance, and catastrophic events such as the once in a century flooding in 2014. The award also serves as a noteworthy model for safeguarding a unique 20th-century architectural asset in the Victorian neighborhood of the old city of Srinagar, the jury added.
The ward is significant in the sense as it signifies that such structures of importance in terms of heritage can be restored.
The original conservation plan for Amar Singh College was prepared a year before the 2014 floods and the “new approach and budget” allowed the restoration only as the building was robust. Apart from making the building excessively dirty and wet, the floods did no major damage to it. Put in another way, the structure stood the devastating floods. It has been said that living in harmony with heritage enhances the quality of life, and it is the duty of every citizen as per the Constitution of India.
There are many buildings of the era which were affected but not destroyed by floods. Also, there are buildings of importance in terms of heritage which were spared by floods but damaged over the years due to neglect.
All these buildings need to be restored and properly retrofitted. Much of the damage could be still prevented. There is a need to constitute a committee comprising conservation experts to study the condition of the building based on scientific analysis. There is a need for a comprehensive plan to highlight the heritage value of the buildings and plan accordingly.
Hope has been generated by the partnership of INTACH, J&K Chapter and UNESCO in the restoration of the heritage building like Amar Singh. It should set a good precedent and must show the way for the restoration of the other buildings.