Ratish Nanda, who will be at The Hindu Lit For Life in Delhi, talks about the Urban Renewal Initiative

Ratish Nanda’s interest in conservation goes back nearly 25 years, to the first year of architecture school. For an urban history assignment, requiring the study of a historic settlement in Delhi, Nanda chose Kotla Mubarakpur. There he discovered centuries-old buildings which he had no idea existed. It brought home the importance of heritage, which Nanda has since worked towards conserving.

As the project director of Aga Khan Trust For Culture, he has been instrumental in the Urban Renewal Initiative — in partnership with CPWD and ASI — which seeks to restore the glory of Nizamuddin.

“What we are doing here is basically aimed at making conservation relevant today. It’s not conservation for the sake of conservation, but leads to improved quality of life for the local communities,” says Nanda. “Wherever we work, our essential intention is to leverage culture as an economic asset. What we are doing is looking at a large urban area to start with. We are not only monument oriented.”

The project has made interventions in the Nizamuddin Basti by building public toilets, instituting several vocational training courses and initiating the Jashn-e-Khusrau festival. “Because of our international experience, we know our first step is to build trust. So we spend several years just building trust. My brief is if you can’t help people, don’t hurt anybody…When you work in the public domain, you have to keep the public’s interest in mind.”

In addition to its interventions at the Humayun’s tomb complex and in Nizamuddin Basti, AKTC is also in the process of transforming Sunder Nursery into a 170-acre public park. “These are not three sites, it’s one site. Now they are segregated, but these are artificial boundaries that have been created. We are working within them, but the idea is to integrate them into one whole…” he says.

The nursery, which houses several historic monuments, was established in 1913 as a nursery for tree and plant species for the new Imperial Capital. As is often the case, it fell into neglect and disrepair. The revitalisation project seeks to enhance its nursery function and its heritage character, while transforming it into an ecological retreat.

“Parks are places where people of all shapes sizes descriptions and backgrounds intermingle. So parks as open spaces need to be meaningful open spaces,” Nanda observes. “If you walk through the space, there is space for everything which is being created. There is an amphitheatre. And there is a playground space.”

The initiative could not have been a walk in the park, since there are often competing priorities at play in a public-private partnership. But it’s the only way forward, opines Ratish. “You can’t have a whole nation’s heritage which is not restored because of lack of this or lack of that. A lot of private people need to come forward and work with the government.”

Living History: A Walk Through Humayun’s Tomb

In collaboration with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Ratish Nanda, who spearheaded the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb, recaptures the glories of the Mughal era on a field trip to this magnificent monument.

Number of participants: 50 (While registration for the walk is free, participants will have to pay the entry fee for the monument (Rs.10 for Indians and Rs.250 for foreigners)

REGISTRATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED.

When: February 8 at 10.00 to 11.30 a.m.

Note: The walk will start at 10.00 a.m. sharp. So please ensure you are the venue with your ticket before then.

Ratish Nanda is also taking part in a panel discussion on the Capital city with Rana Dasgupta, Gautam Bhatia and Malvika Singh.

The Hindu Lit for 2014 will take place at the Siri Fort Auditorium 2 in Delhi on February 8, 2014.

To reserve your complimentary invite SMS: LFL<space>Name, Age to 53030. Collect your passes on February 8 at the Siri Fort Auditorium.

Visit the new website: www.thehindulfl.com

Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheHinduLitForLife

Follow us on Twitter @hindulitforlife

YouTube: http://thne.ws/playlist-litforlife