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!
A view of Amritsar, India where Jenna Dublin is assisting in CRCI’s work to develop a City Plan as part of the Ministry of Urban Development’s Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) program. The main objective of HRIDAY is to preserve the character of the soul of heritage cities and facilitate inclusive heritage linked urban development by exploring various avenues including private sector involvement.
India’s Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI) was founded in 1996 by conservation architect Gurmeet S. Rai (pictured above). Its vision is to preserve and promote India’s cultural heritage with active community participation. CRCI consistently tries to harmonize the imperatives of heritage conservation with the historic and current realities of the site. Among her many efforts, Ms. Rai also serves at the Vice President of ICOMOS India.
From her work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation on federal historic tax credit policy as a Mildred Colodny Scholar to researching proposed historic districts for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, Jenna Dublin’s passion falls at the intersection of historic preservation and urban planning. Now a first year Doctoral student in Columbia University’s Urban Planning program. Jenna wrote in her application that her interest in the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program (IEP) is motivated by her
commitments to the preservation of vulnerable urban architecture and to strengthening heritage preservation as a vehicle for the improved welfare of communities, particularly by integrating the field’s material, experiential, and memory‐based priorities into planning for rapid urbanization and climate change resilience.
Jenna says her intention to position preservation within broader land-use systems and to address interdisciplinary factors such as pro‐poor frameworks for identifying local assets and examining the politics of colonialist and indigenous heritage. It’s aims like these helped lead her to an interest in working abroad and studying comparative international heritage systems.