The Bangkok Post

25 September 2002

Thai temple among Unesco winners

Khon Kaen project praised for high standard of grassroots conservation work

Ahhichatragarh Fort in Nagaur, Rajasthan, India, has been honoured with an Award for Excellence from Unesco, one of the Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Awards handed out this year.

The Australian Hall in Sydney, and the Yarikutz, Rupikutz, Kuyokutz and Mamorukutz mosque complex at the Ganish Historic Settlement in central Hunza, Pakistan, received Awards of Distinction.

Five Awards of Merit, including one for Wat Sratong in Khon Kaen, and five Honourable Mention Awards were also announced.

The Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Awards recognise the contribution individuals, organisations or companies have made to the conservation and restoration of a structure or a series of structures which is/are more than 50 years old. Houses, buildings used for commercial, cultural, religious, industrial or institutional purposes, gardens and bridges are all eligible for consideration. Public-private partnership projects such as the conservation of historic towns, urban districts and rural settlements where the essential elements are more than 50 years old are also eligible.

This year's awards programme drew 46 projects from 15 countries and administrative areas in the Asia-Pacific region. The selection process was conducted by a panel of international conservation experts in architecture, urban planning, landscape design and heritage conservation, who met over three days to select the winners.

Ahhichatragarh Fort in Nagaur was praised for its minimalist conservation approach, resulting in varying levels of intervention which responded to the range of damage suffered. The ambitious large-scale restoration of the abandoned 12th-century fort and palace complex has created a living research laboratory which provides valuable field education for conservation professionals and students. The physical preservation of the complex returns the largest area of open ground in the region to the public as a venue for festivals, cultural performances and religious events, thereby allowing for the continuity of the fort's rich history.

The Australian Hall in Sydney, winner of an Award of Distinction, was praised for its unique approach in restoring a colonial building of historic significance. The other winner of an Award of Distinction was the Yarikutz, Rupikutz, Kuyokutz and Mamorukutz mosques at the Ganish Historic Settlement in central Hunza, Pakistan. The repair work done on the complex of mosques was praised as an outstanding example of a community-led initiative facilitated by outside support. The restoration of the four, 300-year-old wooden buildings has not only successfully revitalised the village chataq, the traditional public heart of the Ganish historic settlement, but also rebuilt community spirit in an authentic rural village which has undergone major socio-economic change and natural disasters over the years. The restrained conservation approach has stabilised the buildings, while retaining the rich historic patina and accentuating the intricate structural details.

The winners of the Awards of Merit are as follows:

- Cheng Hoon Teng Main Temple, Malacca, Malaysia: ``Demonstrates high standards of technical execution and sets a worthy precedent for other conservation work in Malaysia and the region. The project successfully illustrates the faithful use of original materials and the integrity of artisan techniques, and has revived the historic building for the community as a centre of worship.''

- Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, Singapore: ``Represents a laudable effort in urban conservation. The success of the project as a lively urban hub underscores the valuable potential from both a commercial and heritage point of view in revitalising, rather than abandoning, historic buildings.

- Polsheer House, Jolfa, Isfahan, Iran: ``Illustrates an exemplary conservation approach by adhering to all aspects of the conservation process, thereby maintaining the essence of the existing building fabric and exquisitely executing the restoration of the jewel-like interiors. The project sets a technical benchmark for conservation and gives momentum to private-sector conservation in Iran.''

- Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Sydney, Australia: ``Provides a new focal point for downtown Sydney while raising the standards for conservation in the region. The excellent documentation of the historic structures has been translated with great clarity in the conservation process, resulting in the rigorous restoration of the historic building fabric, the removal of unsympathetic additions, and the careful distinction between the new and the old.''

- Wat Sratong, Khon Kaen, Thailand: ``Demonstrates the high standard of conservation work which can be achieved through a grassroots approach. The cooperative approach taken by the project sets a model for local conservation initiatives which is worthy of emulation, particularly in the context of administrative decentralisation occurring throughout the region.''

The Honourable Mentions include:

- Broken Hill Heritage & Cultural Tourism Programme, Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia: ``Establishes a conceptual framework that can be adopted by other communities in Australia and the region. The initiative of the local government in setting up associated programmes to conserve and manage the city's built heritage is not only noteworthy, but also demonstrates how municipalities can play an effective role in the conservation process.''

- Centre for Khmer Studies, Siem Reap, Cambodia: ``Sets an encouraging example for the preservation of non-monumental heritage in Cambodia and makes a persuasive case for the involvement of private-sector institutions in conservation activities.''

- Jaisalmer Streetscape Revitalisation Project, Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan, India: ``Represents a holistic approach to conserving the living public realm. With its basic gesture of harmoniously integrating infrastructural amenities, it has the potential to create the momentum to drive larger conservation projects, serving as a case study for other communities to learn from.''

- Kow Plains Homestead, Cowangie, Victoria, Australia: ``Clearly demonstrates solid understanding of conservation guidelines set forth by the ICOMOS Burra Charter. The community's initiation and ownership of the project deserves praise for their collective efforts towards conservation.''

- No. 125 Huajue Alley, Huajue Alley, Xian, China: ``Presents a noteworthy example for cooperation between an outside technical adviser and local residents, while setting a technical benchmark for the conservation of domestic architecture in China.''