Urbanization is rapidly increasing in the cities due to the rural-urban migration. By 2050, the population of India will see an unprecedented growth rate. The enormous pressure in the city’s core is due to the need for more infrastructure. As the city grows outward, the urban poor continue to live in the city’s historic core. The urban poor are the people who have migrated from the villages. Proximity to the place of work forces them to settle down even in poor living conditions. Affordability and availability of more varied jobs keep the migrant population glued to the city core. This urban sprawl leads to the densification of the city core. The environmental, social, and economic imbalance leads to unsustainable growth of the historic core. The core carries the tangible and intangible heritage and the collective memories of the varied local communities and their residents. The historic core is also the nucleus of the major economic activity of the city. The urban planning should integrate the tangible and the intangible heritage of the city.

Historic Urban Landscape Approach

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The Historic Pink City, Jaipur_©,width-650,height-488,imgsize-1445127,,resizemode-75/jaipur_gettyimages.jpg

The heritage of the city is reinforced through the conservation of its monuments. But protecting the monuments and its immediate precincts alone will not suffice. UNESCO in 2005 declared the HUL approach. Here a heritage area is selected called the Historic Urban Landscape. The approach focuses on holistic conservation by improving the lives of its residents. Enhancing the socio-cultural and economic conditions of the people instills in them a  feeling of belonging. This bottom-up approach leads to the sustainable development of the society.

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The Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Approach_©

The Tools, Approach, and Outcomes of the HUL Approach

The best International practices of the HUL approach include Ballarat in Australia and Shanghai in China. Rawalpindi in Pakistan, Cuenca in Ecuador, and Istanbul in Turkey also saw major changes post the HUL approach. Indian examples include Jaipur, Nawalgarh, Ajmer-Pushkar, Hyderabad, and Varanasi. This approach has evolved over the years with a broader perspective on development. It helps in the perfect balance between conservation, preservation, and contemporary design. Amidst developmental pressures, revitalization of the inner city core is the only viable option. This is possible only through heritage conservation for sustainable development.

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The key features of the HUL Approach_©
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The Inclusive Revitalization methods versus the Traditional Urban Renewal Methods_©

The process uses four mechanisms. They are civic engagement, knowledge and planning, and regulatory and financial tools. Firstly, the identification of the future needs and aspirations of the communities takes place. Studying the traditions and the value systems of the communities through the history of the place further helps in the discerning process. The civic engagement tools also help to identify various stakeholders. The livability index is improved by creating a database of the area in question. The knowledge and the planning tools help in speeding up the process. The tangible and the intangible heritage of the place is uplifted through rules and regulations. This is put in place through regulatory mechanisms. The financial tools create plans to generate income for the overall scheme of action for the particular area in question.

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The HUL Toolkit_©

The backbone of a city’s future development depends on the availability of its natural, cultural, and community resources. The HUL approach first identifies and protects the resources for future generations. This takes place through a participatory planning process. The community and the stakeholders come together for discussions. Comprehensive layers of extensive and intensive surveys aid in the process. Measuring the environmental and developmental risks and the socio-economic pressures helps in recognizing the heritage-sensitive areas. Identification of heritage-sensitive areas and integrating their values into the city development planning fosters a balanced growth of the city. Appropriate frameworks ensure that the policies and the action go hand in hand with the local level management. Public-private and civic partnerships aid in the process. 

Identifying the different layers for a comprehensive survey_©

Through this process, the residents feel a strengthened sense of place and ownership. The city attracts tourism due to improved planning and design. This process creates higher revenues for the Government. This leads to higher property valuation of the area. Thus small, medium, and large-scale real estate sector businesses support employment opportunities for the young population. Moreover, sustainability development goals are also attained through this process. Apart from the direct outcomes, the process also heightens the city’s livability index. The elevated economic development magnifies the city’s image on the global platform.

The Regulatory Bodies

In India, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs(MoHUA) along with the National Institute of Urban Affairs(NIUA) has been omnipresent in the urban revitalization of the cities. The Inclusive Heritage-based City Development Program(IHCDP) substituted for the HUL Approach. 

The NIUA, in the first phase, was a knowledge partner for the IHCDP. Extensive documentation and valuation aided in the improvement of the living standards of the people. In the second phase of the IHCDP, NIUA uplifted the city’s identity through its revitalization measures. The NIUA is the National Program Management Unit in the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana initiative. It is also a think tank for the HRIDAY Scheme. 


An integrated approach is ideal for balancing conservation and contemporary development in historic cities. Any development that takes place should be in alignment with safeguarding the tangible and the intangible heritage of the historic city. The development should follow, respect, and follow the rules, regulations, and policies set up by the responsible authorities for the particular area. The heritage core ought to be conserved and preserved by us. Yet, the activities that spill over can be managed through thoughtful planning strategies. As Marcus Garvey quoted ‘A people without the knowledge of their history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots’. The city is the tree and the city core is its roots. The roots preserve the history, origin, and culture of the place and its people.


  1. National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi (2022). Compendium of Best Practices in Urban Heritage Management with a focus on the Historic Urban Landscape approach. [online]. Available at: [Accessed date: 19 Aug 2023].

Ar. Sandhya Parameswaran is a creative individual seeking opportunities to evolve continuously through learning and unlearning, traveling, reading, and writing. Currently working as Associate Professor with the Saveetha College of Architecture and Design (SCAD), Chennai; she is looking forward to sharing her unique and untold stories far and wide.