UNESCO announces winners of 2023 Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation

21 December 2023, International

With people, heritage and creativity at its core, the resilient urban revitalization of the Rambagh Gate and Ramparts in Punjab, India, has garnered the highest honour, ‘Award of Excellence’, in this year’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The project was lauded by this year’s Awards jury for ensuring the continuity of the site’s existing uses, while enhancing inclusivity and access for the broader community.

Through a deliberation process carried out in November 2023, the jury selected a total of 12 projects on the basis of their understanding of place, their technical achievements, and their sustainability and impact, as specified in the Awards Criteria.

Three projects, namely the Fanling Golf Course in Hong Kong SAR, China; Dongguan Garden Residences in Yangzhou, China; and Karnikara Mandapam at Kunnamangalam Bhagawati Temple, Kerala, India, garnered an Award of Distinction. Five projects were recognized with an Award of Merit, including Yan Nan Yuan, at Peking University, Beijing, China; Pan Family Residence, in Suzhou, China; Church of Epiphany, in Haryana, India; David Sassoon Library and Reading Room, in Mumbai, India; and Bikaner House, in New Delhi, India.

The Award for New Design in Heritage Contexts went to Erlitou Site Museum of the Xia Capital, in Luoyang, China. 

The Karnikara Mandapam at Kunnamangalam Bhagawati Temple, in Kerala, India; Pipal Haveli, in Punjab, India; and Sikami Chhen, in Kathmandu, Nepal, were awarded with the Special Recognition for Sustainable Development for their transformative heritage practices which contribute to larger principles of sustainable development. 

This year, the jury reviewed 48 project entries from 8 countries across the Asia-Pacific region. Entries were notably diverse in scope and typology. The jury noted that, taken together, all entries collectively represent significant ongoing progress in heritage conservation awareness and practice in the region.

The Awards jury in 2023 was composed of seven international conservation experts directed by a chair. The geographical representation of the jury members spanned the Asia-Pacific region, just as jurors’ expertise—archaeology, intangible cultural heritage, landscape design, museology, built heritage conservation—reflected a wide range of perspectives. 

Every year, since 2000, the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation programme has been recognizing the efforts of private individuals and organizations in restoring, conserving, and transforming structures and buildings of heritage value in the region. By acknowledging private efforts to restore and adapt historic properties, the Awards programme encourages others to undertake conservation projects within their own communities, whether independently or through public-private partnerships (PPPs).

UNESCO introduced the new category, ‘Special Recognition for Sustainable Development’, in 2020, together with an updated set of Awards Criteria to acknowledge the role and contribution of cultural heritage to sustainable development within the broader framework of the UN 2030 Agenda. 

The awarded projects serve as a testament to how cultural heritage can be successfully preserved whilst at the same time mobilized to be integrated into various local development strategies. 

The Award winners were selected according to their demonstration of success among various conservation criteria, such as their articulation of the spirit of place, their technical achievement, their appropriate use or adaptation, their engagement with the local community, and their contribution towards enhancing the sustainability of the surrounding environment and beyond.