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Oval Maidan precinct in running for World Heritage Site tag

The proposed precinct extends from the Bombay Gothic buildings lining one side of the ground to the other side that stretches till Marine Drive.

Written by Aditi Vatsa | Mumbai | Published: October 3, 2013 1:18 am

A project to nominate the Oval Maidan precinct as a ‘World Heritage Site’ moved closer to fruition this week,with the Ministry of Culture forwarding the dossier to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris for a completion check.

This has been sent along with the Delhi government’s dossier for nominating both Shahjahanabad and Lutyens’ Delhi as a combined ‘World Heritage Site’. Meanwhile,Gujarat’s dossier to nominate Ahmedabad city as a ‘World Heritage Site’ has been dropped.

Following the check,the government will have to select one dossier by February 1,2014,as its final nomination for consideration in UNESCO’s 2014 list of World Heritage Sites. With elections in both states nearing,the decision is expected to be a political one.

Conservation architect Shikha Jain,member secretary of the Ministry of Culture-appointed advisory committee on world heritage,said,“We looked at the three dossiers. While all deserve to be a world heritage site,it is too preliminary to say which will be the selected. Though Ahmedabad’s dossier has the best documentation,we could not recommend it as it has some incomplete sections. If Ahmedabad can work on these points and come up with a complete dossier by the deadline,it will be considered for final selection.”

The Oval Maidan precinct comprises buildings belonging to two centuries and architectural styles — the Victorian Neo Gothic architecture of the 19th century,and the 20th century’s Art Deco. According to the dossier,the proposed precinct extends from the Bombay Gothic buildings lining one side of the ground to the other side that stretches till Marine Drive,in between which lies the largest conglomeration of Art Deco buildings in the world after Miami.

In August,the Maharashtra government received the dossier from residents associations of the proposed precinct in collaboration with the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI). Conservation architect Abha Lambah prepared the document,a two-year effort that was partly funded by the MMRDA’s Heritage Conservation Society (MMR-HCS). The dossier was then put to the Central government with a personal letter of recommendation from Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Titled ‘Imperial Cities of Delhi’,the Delhi dossier,prepared by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) on behalf of the Delhi government,focuses on two areas of Delhi — Shahjahanabad (areas of Old Delhi earmarked by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his capital between 1638-1648) and New Delhi (the British capital designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1912-1931).

According to Lambah,the dossier is batting for the World Heritage tag based on two of the six criteria allowed for consideration — ‘cultural interchange’ and ‘outstanding architectural urban development’.

“In terms of cultural interchange,both the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco architectural styles came here (Mumbai) first before filtering into the rest of the country. We absorbed these,developing an indigenous style leading to Bombay Gothic and Indo Deco architecture. Also,unlike the case with other states,the initiative here has moved from the residents to the government rather than a top-down approach. Mumbai is a pioneer in urban heritage management with its own heritage regulations and heritage committee. Other cities have lost so much of their non-monumental heritage in comparison to us,” Lambah said.

alison.saldanha@expressindia.com

aditi.vatsa@expressindia.com

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