Heritage Structures - Preservation versus Practicality

Heritage Structures - Preservation versus Practicality

“To know nothing of what happened before you is to forever remain a child.” – Cicero. “Heritage Structures” means a structure possessing architectural, aesthetic, historic or cultural values which is declared as heritage by a Competent Authority in whose jurisdiction such building is situated. A point worth discussing would be whether heritage structures have precedence over modern needs? The comparison between preservation of heritage structure with practicality, many times has been a question for the developing nations. Is it really necessary to ‘maintain’ these structures which could have been used otherwise for some practical purposes like construction of schools or some important aspects related to developing?

Preservation -

1. These structures exist not merely as a historic structure built years ago but also as a landmark for the nation.

2. Historic buildings are reminiscence of past of a nation's cultural, ethical and social evolution with time. If we don’t preserve the heritage structures, we're not replacing the past but destroying its existence in the nation for today and ever.

3. Tourism, said to be the world’s largest industry thrives on this reminiscence of past. Preservation can work wonders as this reminiscence play an important role in attracting the tourists and fetching a huge amount of revenue to the government. E.g. Taj Mahal.

4. By many deep researches on historic buildings, we can easily explore people’s philosophy and psychology in that period of time. The good practices followed in earlier times are known to us through studying these buildings. For e.g. in the monsoon period Buddhist monks lived in caves. How the small caves hosted such a large number of monks comfortably is a phenomenon to study as it would enrich urban planning.

5. The existing French architecture in Pondicherry and the Portuguese architecture in Goa are evidence of the different cultures persisting in different places ruled under different kingdoms and its impact on people living there even today.

6. Heritage Structures help define culture; and culture binds people together and solidifies unity. Thus historic buildings are not only symbols of a culture, but to some extent, therein lies nation’s unity. Thus tearing down the historic buildings, which amounts to breaking down one’s nation’s unique culture actually is not as simple as tearing down an old building.

7. It is an important part of transmission of culture over generations.


1. “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” - Mahatma Gandhi. Thus one can preserve one’s culture even if one has to compromise on heritage structures.

2. Urban areas are under enormous pressure to industrialize, maximize their economic potential, accommodate the migration, etc. So importance must be given to serve contemporary needs as present and future planning is important for survival.

3. Wherever a utilitarian need for new buildings arises, this need should take precedence over our interest in preserving historical buildings as a record of our past. There is a serious space crunch seen all over the world.

4. Apart from space issues, other aspect is the high investment in maintaining the structures. That money can be redirected for the socio-economic developments especially in the developing nations.

5. The frailty of these structures is seriously exposed during earthquakes and floods. The huge structures can damage adjacent modern buildings due to its fragility. There is also lack of fire resistance.

6. In some areas these are located near or above mineral resources, thus making mining difficult. However not mining will reduce the pace of development.

7. As land is becoming valuable, practically speaking, an attractive price for the structure will tempt owners to demolish the structure.

The current housing policies aimed at rebuilding the Mumbai city threaten the distinct visual character of the city, by aiming to replace it with a skyline of homogenous high-rises. Thus while determining whether to raze an older building; one should of course consider the community’s views and also gravity of the utilitarian needs. For example, if an additional hospital is needed to adequately serve the health-care needs, this interest might take precedence over the historic value of an old structure that stands in the way. On the other hand, if the need is mainly for more office space, appending to an older building might serve just as well. Of course, an expensive renovation might not be worthwhile if no amount of renovation would meet the need. An older building uniquely representing a bygone era or aesthetic and architectural value of the building or which served as the home of a significant historical figure or as the location of an important historical event, should gain precedence over the practical needs of the community.

In sum, whether to raze an older building in order to construct a new one should never be determined indiscriminately. Planners should make such decisions on a case-by-case basis, weighting the community’s practical needs against the building’s historic and aesthetic value.
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  • RE: Heritage Structures - Preservation versus Practicality -Deepa Kaushik (09/09/15)
  • Heritage structures in a nation have its special significance and value. Its importance is very similar to studying 'history' as a subject. If we are not going to gain anything from the past, then why at the first place do we have subject 'history' which makes everyone aware of the primitive existence, culture, lifestyle etc.?

    Historical structures not only makes us close to the ancient civilization and the culture, but also guides us about some old forgotten good virtues which had been a part of our rich culture. It paves way to the present and coming generations to absorb some good old values and incorporate the same to their lifestyle keeping us linked to the past. These values hardly come up and get expressed only through texts. The children learn and imbibe things better and they feel more connected when they visualize the things that they read in their texts.

    Another big significance is definitely the tourist attraction. These heritage structures attract tourists from different parts of the world and definitely add to the revenue for the Government. Also, we can have a small hope for foreigninvestments in our country when the tourists make up for visiting these monumental structres. Foreign investment and new business ventures are again an additrive factor to our developing economy. New business ventures might also give space for employment opportunities to our unemployed youth, channelising their energy in a positive direction which could have otherwise been dis-oriented towards illegal offense.

    It is a good idea to rebuild a city and accomodate the masses. But, rebuilding a city could be successful if the Government can ensure equal distribution of property irrespective of their present wealth and financial status. If Government can pay the population for their property and then attempt to pull down the buildings and construct similar structures, ensuring the exact amount of per-unit space, per-head count; would be a resolution to the shelterless people. But this requires a huge investment which is not possible in the present situation. But, even that does not call forpulling down the heritage structures which could be advantageous in every way in thelong run.

    Hence, we should ideally try our best to preserve these heritage structures.