From 2 to 4 March 2015, ETIC members Ian Magedera and Iain Jackson were invited to take part in a workshop on Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation, co-organized in Delhi by the Research Councils UK India Office (RCUK-India), the AHRC and the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR).
The event brought together 30 UK and Indian academics and curators from the British Library, cultural practitioners and civil servants in order to develop research priorities that are to help shape collaboration between the two countries in this domain. The active management seminar format of short position papers, taken up by breakout groups who then reported back, allowed this relatively large number of participants to both work with and get to know each other’s research over two intense days based at the Maiden’s heritage hotel in Delhi’s Civil Lines district.
The paired topics in the initial position papers were: 1. Urbanization and History, 2. Public Space and Urban Planning, 3. Digitization of Heritage and urban processes, 4. Architectural History and the Conservation of Built Heritage and 5. Urbanization and Intangible Heritage. Integrated, well-structured collaboration between city officials, resident-citizens and academic disciplines (architecture, urban planning, cultural history, archaeology and anthropology), emerged as the key element required to produce future-resistant, coherent projects which might have a chance both of preserving and enhancing the use of heritage spaces and buildings in India now and in the immediate future. The size and difficulty of this task, given the power of commercial actors and that around 70% of urban change in India is informal, was continually in the forefront of participants’ minds. There is, however, a good chance of success if projects include grass roots participation and marry academic research with a digital knowledge exchange dimension and flexible strategies such as adaptive re-use.