Hooghly was a waterway of truly global significance, attracting merchants, missionaries,
statesmen, soldiers, and labourers from Asia, Europe and elsewhere and was a centre of global
history. From the sixteenth century successive external powers – Portuguese, Mughals, Dutch,
British, French and Danish were drawn to the banks of the river and housed their trading posts
and settlements. The Hooghly came to be integrated into networks of different cultures and
regions and at least until the turn of the twentieth century was renowned across the world.This unique cultural landscape, a melting pot of several cultures, can still be traced back in the erstwhile trading posts and settlements still retains a large part of their heritage buildings and places and still can be traced back, viz – The Serampore (Danish), Chandernagore (French), Chinsurah (Dutch), Bandel (Portuguese). Nowhere else in the world is a more concentrated zone of built heritage witnessing about the commercial and cultural interaction between East and West from the time of early European trading colonialism in Asia.
With the changing course of the river, decline in port activities and jute industry and change in political dynamics, the riverfront was neglected. The redundant warehouses and Jute Mills, Waterworks, the vernacular structures, temples and ghats are in dire state, while the grand river facing houses have been incrementally altered and often replaced with concrete blocks beyond recognition. However these settlements have a spectacular architectural heritage, which is recognised globally as of world importance. Its heritage is a priceless economic, social, cultural and environmental asset, which can drive forward the regeneration, attracting inward investment, jobs, skills and benefits for all its citizens. The panel discussion will include experts from India, Germany, Netherlands and United Kingdom presenting case studies as to how reuse and heritage-led planning is a tried and tested solution which has worked successfully to revive other great waterfront cities around the world, aiming to move towards preparing a creative reuse led plan for the future development of the Hooghly Heritage Landscape.
Manish Chakraborti is an architect, urban planner, and is one of the leading conservation architect whose works has been widely published in the national and international journals and media. He has authored various books on architecture and conservation, guided students’ thesis, a guest columnist, a visiting faculty to schools of architecture in India and currently is the Head of School of Architecture and Planning at Sister Nivedita University in Calcutta. He has worked on
the Nomination Dossier of Santiniketan for World Heritage Site inscription, which is under consideration by UNESCO. Recipient of the Unesco Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Distinction 2016 for the Conservation of St Olav Church, he has been conferred with Society Interiors Honours Award and Sutanuti Honours Award for two decades of architectural conservation advice and practice in Calcutta and India.