As one approaches the sprawling streetscape of the modern era, the stains of heritage architecture still remain in the urban fabric. The resulting skyline is a juxtaposition of buildings belonging to different historical eras influencing various architectural styles. Even after relishing the sophistication of technology and development, people are still captivated by the historical rudiments. It is crucial to understand the reason behind the striking attention to the heritage building. One such reason is the impeccable achievement of creating a statement. The familiar cause would be the sense of place created by the people associated with the space in the bygone eras.

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Streets of Chennai_©

A heritage building can have architectural, aesthetic, historical, documentary, archaeological, economic, social, and even political and spiritual or symbolic values, but the fundamental value is always emotional. 

Heritage is a broad spectrum including natural, built, and cultural factors. Architectural conservation deals with the built cultural heritage. Conservation of architectural heritage embraces the untiring process by which the material, historical, and design integrity is prolonged through carefully planned interventions. 

Why do we need to conserve the heritage building?

Architecture is a holistic resonance of culture, knowledge, skills, craftsmanship, identity, history, value, legacy, and lifestyle. It is a living example of the forgotten past. Initially, it was the grief of the wealthy class, concerned about the drastic change in the urban context. But later it became a social responsibility. It is essential to conserve the historic sites for future generations to cherish. 

All historical buildings are vested with many courageous stories carved in grandeur. It marks the identity of that particularly social, geographical landmark. The presence of a historic precinct can be a supplement to the tourism of the locality. This also promotes the interdisciplinary growth of tourism, economy, and development. 

The practice of tradition and occupation is still unceasing in some of the historical sites. Conservation does not only deal with the built environment but also uplifts the lives of people and practices associated with it. The paramount need is to hold on to the values of the past to bolster the future with better design.

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Restoration work at ellora caves_©

Architectural conservation in a nutshell

The collective effort of professionals from distinct fields to present the marvel without any distortion in the message conveyed makes conservation a mammoth task. The contribution can be measured artistically, intellectually, or practically depending upon the professionals involved. A team for a conservation project comprises contrasting professionals from biologists to structural and electrical engineers, architects to economists, and so on. Achieving unity in aesthetics by a disparate group of professionals would perplex anyone. 

The solution comes in the form of ethics. These are the guidelines for the conservation team to follow throughout the project. It is mandatory to record the condition of the building before any intervention. The treatment of the building may include the use of many materials and techniques which are supposed to be documented. The historical evidence on the site should remain untouched. The interventions done on-site should be of minimum necessary and reversible. Since the urge of conservation is to preserve cultural integrity, it should be executed with unwavering reverence to aesthetic, historical, and physical aspects of the history.

Lal Bagh Palace, Indore – Architectural Conservation

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The Crown Hall_©

The rambling halls and rooms of Lal Bagh Palace in Indore, Madhya Pradesh offer a breathtaking view of the Italian Renaissance Revival style interior. Freezing the time of onlookers, it sways the world with its beauty and elegance. Glorified by the Holkar family, one of the most powerful Maratha rulers of India, the palace was constructed in 1926. Decades after the royals left the Palace, it was converted into a museum. After standing still by the test of time, the Palace fell into disrepair with leaking roofs and paint surface peeled off. The structure was crumbling and demanded utmost care. The conservation and restoration of the Palace was meticulously done by architect Abha Narain Lambah and her team, with support from the Madhya Pradesh Department of Archaeology and the World Monuments Fund. 

The aim is to strip off the ravages of time and nature and restore the Palace to its former charisma. The Crown Hall is the main attribute of the palace flaunting the perfect European style interiors. The visual treat is the out-turn of the painstaking work of the team to restore the chandeliers, decorative plasterwork, atmospheric ceiling mural, and gilding. The interior restoration covered seven rooms embracing the crown hall, study room, Indian and western dining halls, and entrance foyer.

“There was a dignity in the interiors, felt in the frayed edges, the damage and the decay. The impetus was to keep this dignity, but also bring a little life into the Palace,” said Lambah, the restoration architect.

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Study Room_©

The Highness’s study room has flamboyant detail in the furniture and woodwork standing as a testament of workmanship. The brass lining details on the bookcase are restored to their ordinal richness. The entire intervention has brought back the life of the structure serving a humongous contribution to the function of the space. 

Heritage structures are a treasure trove of our history. It provides a strong foundation for future development. Architectural conservation is an inevitable part of the realm of modern architecture. Conservation not only deals with preserving the physical entity but also protects our legacy and glorifies the roots. Restoration and Adaptive reuse of heritage structures is an environmentally sustainable approach. Relishing the modern urban fabric feels more complete with gleaming prints of heritage structures.


  • Feilden, Bernard M. Conservation of Historic Buildings. 3 ed., Architectural Press, 2003.

Sandhya is a dynamic and passionate architect who is also interested in art, music, and movies. As a designer, she endeavors to transform spaces into enduring experience and the same goes with writing. She believes architecture is a perception of life that has the potential to shape one’s mind and thinking. Through the process of writing, she wants to express her impression of architecture in the form of words.