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Rising demand for restoration architects

It’s thanks to carefully planned interventions of restoration architects that the public can appreciate the splendour of Unesco World Heritage Sites - Swati Roy

There’s growing public awareness world over of the cultural importance and value of preserving and restoring heritage buildings and monuments for the benefit of the present and future generations. It’s thanks to carefully planned interventions of conservation/restoration architects of the 21st century, that we can today appreciate the architectural details of Unesco World Heritage Sites such as Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi, the ornamental shrines of the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple complex, Tiruchirapalli, the Mahabodhi Temple complex, Bodh Gaya, the Gohad Fort of Madhya Pradesh among others, centuries after they were built. 

Following the lead of Unesco, the Union government provided a modest Rs.680 crore in its 2017-18 budget for the restoration of 3,667 historical monuments by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Under pressure from historians, NGOs and private philanthropists, it also identified and promotes 22 heritage tourist destinations countrywide.

Today, qualified restoration architects find employment in the ministry of culture of local/state governments, with ASI as also in private architectural and engineering consulting firms, and with private owners of heritage properties (e.g, palace hotels of Rajasthan). 

Study programmes 

To qualify as a professional in this field, a degree in architecture with specialisation in architectural conservation is essential. 

Among the reputed institutes offering the five-year bachelor’s and two-year postgraduate degree in architectural conservation are the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and Bhopal campuses; Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture and Environmental Studies, Mumbai; Centre for Environment Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad; Aayojan School of Architecture, Jaipur and University of Pune. Bachelor of architecture (B.Arch) graduates of private/public engineering colleges are also eligible for admission into postgraduate architectural conservation study programmes. 

Pay and progression

Pay packages of conservation architects employed by private firms or government departments involved in restoration efforts of historic private/public property, vary according to level of expertise, years of experience and evidence of completed projects. Freshers can expect remuneration in the range of Rs.10,000-15,000 per month, rising to Rs.1.5-2 lakh for experienced professionals. Those working for the Archaeological Survey of India earn an estimated 7.5 percent of the total project cost. 

Professional profile 

“India is a melting pot of diverse cultures, religions and people. Given its rich historical past, there’s no dearth of ancient monuments, universities and World Heritage Sites. Therefore there is no shortage of prospects for those interested in this vocation. Unlike a decade ago when private players were proactive in conservation work, currently there is a perfect private-public partnership in this field,” says Kruti Garg, director (conservation) of Abha Narain Lambah (ANL) Associates, Mumbai, a conservation and historic building consultants firm awarded eight Unesco Asia Pacific awards for heritage projects across India.

An architecture alumna of the D.C. Patel School of Architecture of the Institute of Environment Design, Gujarat, and the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, who pressed on to acquire a certificate in masonry conservation of Restore, a New-York based not-for-profit, Garg was deeply impacted by a holiday in a heritage hotel in Rajasthan while studying architecture. After post-graduation she began her career as an intern at Deepak Panchal and Associates, Vadodara, following which she signed up with ANL Associates in 2006. Some of the major projects she’s worked on include restoration of Mumbai’s vintage Crawford Market and Royal Opera House, Red Fort Museum, New Delhi and Safed Mahal, Rajasthan, as well as the 18th century Kingsland Homestead Museum, New York. Garg also curates and designs heritage walks for the public in Mumbai.

“An interest and knowledge of history and architecture, technical know-how, perseverance, and team work capabilities are vital requirements of a career in conservation architecture. For instance, the Royal Opera House, Mumbai restoration project took six long years to complete. Additionally, when working with clients, it’s important to understand their aims and objectives,” says this committed heritage conservation evangelist. 

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