Urbanisation is the movement of a major population from a rural to an urban setting and to adapt to the consequent physical change to urban settings, they procure themselves to the urban fabric. There are numerous variables while a major mass shift to the city not only affects the diverse values of the place but also directly impacts the quality of lifestyle. In between moving to cities, one forgets about the fact that makes a city. The heritage and historical importance a place holds give an identity to the locale which takes the residents back in time, creating a scenario where the whole progress of the area can be observed and felt.

The recent project of the Getty Conservation Institute is a good example of progressive thinking in urban planning. The paper addressed the challenges that countries like India, China, and other Southeast Asian countries face in preserving urban cultural assets under current urbanisation models. Excessive population expansion, economic development, and a lack of institutional or legal frameworks all set the scene for the loss of historic urban fabric in various circumstances.

The tangible and intangible

Historic heritage is a place of significance to people on account of historical, physical (i.e., technological, archaeological, architectural) and cultural values. It is often referred to as cultural and historic heritage or simply historic places. Historic towns often exhibit a rich mixture of social, cultural, architectural and historical heritage. However, streetscapes, urban fabrics, and structures are evolving and changing to meet the needs of stakeholders, while the role of urbanisation in protecting environmental heritage is being overlooked. It is the responsibility of stakeholders to work together to preserve the distinctive character and quality of the historic environment for future generations. Town and city development is not inherently damaging, but uncontrolled growth, the uncontrollable intrusion of technology, poor planning, and a lack of knowledge of heritage values combine to produce a slew of issues that endanger both tangible and intangible heritage.

The importance and need to slow down urbanization in order to protect heritage - Sheet1
Urbanization and Heritage in Old Delhi_©Sahapedia

Modern vs Historic

Throughout the twentieth century, the flood of modernism and large-scale reconstructions compelled many towns to shift by rejecting traditional architecture, building techniques, and materials instead of more modern approaches.

Chirag Delhi_©Sanchit Khanna

Commercial entities relocating to the settlement core pushed for new architectural interventions, expecting ancient historical structures to forego their heritage values. The replacement of historic structures with modern construction destroyed the city’s social and cultural character and removed people’s feeling of place and identity. Urban planning in historical heritage cities should make allowances for the socio-cultural, socio-economic and historical context of the buildings. The character of historic areas is being radically altered by a rising urban population with diverse interests and aspirations, as well as uncontrolled development. This transformation has the potential to erode the uniqueness of the old urban fabric, making all towns appear the same. The discontinued heritage flavour of the urban fabric in historic centres must be revived as a result of the effects of urbanisation.

Cultural heritage is often perceived as a “soft” advantage in global market rivalry, providing towns with a distinct character. The aforementioned approaches place a strong emphasis on the tangible aspects of culture. However, intangible characteristics such as memory and identity are recognised and are largely relevant to societal sustainability. As a result, planning is required to protect and promote the tangible and intangible cultural legacy of urban areas, as heritage has been acknowledged as playing a role in establishing the city’s identity. Although heritage based on constructed structures is primarily viewed as a distinctive asset that helps cities’ competitiveness in the global economy, balanced policies that “match the interests of global capital with the needs of local populations” are being sought.

Development Goals approaching Sustainability

According to a recent United Nations projection (2017), 69% of the world’s population would be concentrated in cities by 2050. Development, growth, and urbanisation are unavoidable to offer jobs for a growing population, but new standards for planning, development and implementation that take cultural and architectural legacy into account must be developed.

During the last 15 years, the preservation and conservation of cultural heritage have been targeted by urban development strategies in different corners of the globe. As sustainability, from the urban 5 perspectives, is moving towards a more human-centred approach (UN-HABITAT, 2013), landscape-based management seems to have the strongest linkages between the fields of urban development and cultural heritage conservation. However, monitoring of urban management and city viability indicates that such principles have yet to be translated into urban practice. Current techniques for assessing urban sustainable development through indicators do not adequately incorporate cultural heritage. Monitoring cultural assets from the perspective of urban development does not include their management. Leaving aside the possibilities of benefiting from or avoiding the effects of broader urban dynamics.

As a result, concerns such as expanding informality, housing shortages, and increased rural-to-urban migration are affecting the urban fabric. India is perhaps one of the most popular cultural tourist destinations, with rich and diverse histories and traditions that allow for the exploitation of chances provided by cultural heritage. The Sustainable Development Objectives (SDGs) were unanimously agreed upon by United Nations (UN) member states in 2015, resulting in a broad collection of 17 goals and 169 targets aiming at reducing poverty, leaving no one behind, and improving health and well-being for all by 2030. Goal 11 is the United Nation’s strongest representation of the critical role cities and urban environments play in the global landscape among the approved SDGs. There are sporadic explicit references to cultural aspects in the 17 goals and these include target 11.4, which focuses on the strengthening of efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage; target 4.7, which emphasizes the promotion of knowledge and skills and the appreciation of cultural diversity; targets 8.9 and 12. b, which focuses on sustainable tourism and local culture aligned with target 14.7, which gives attention to the sustainable use of aquaculture and tourism. The field of culture is specifically affected by each of the targets in some way.

Urbanization was seen as an elite type of lifestyle. While trying to adapt to that, it became a part of living. Culture and heritage are present in the routine one follow for a long time. Both approaches need to go hand in hand and provide a better platform to survive to benefit society and mankind.


Guzmán, P.C., Pereira Roders, A.R., Colenbrander, B.J.F. “Bridging the gap between urban development and cultural heritage protection.” 

Kiruthiga, K. and Thirumaran, K. (2019) “Effects of urbanization on historical heritage buildings in Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu, India,” Frontiers of Architectural Research, 8(1), pp. 94–105. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foar.2018.09.002. 


An architecture student, always looking for something new by being a part of everything creative to express herself in every form. Being heard and able to deliver a great word has always been her bent. An old soul who believes that a conversation about changing for the better can accomplish a lot.