India’s cultural heritage has a potential to capture the world’s imagination. Its various cities nurture tangible and intangible heritage assets - architectural wonders, textile legacy, craft and art, food and folklore as well as natural delights and many others. The State of Gujarat is considered as one of the most industrialized and richest areas in India, with important economic activities in several strategic sectors. Moreover, the economical and entrepreneurial culture of Gujarati citizens has led this State to be considered as one of the most dynamic States in India.
Ahmedabad is the most important city of Gujarat with an urban population of more of 6 million people. It is considered, according to IMRB report as one of the best Indian cities to live in.
Besides economic predominance, Ahmedabad city boasts enormous heritage resources: 57 protected monuments in the city as per the Central as well as State Government list and a large number of traditional wooden pol houses, of which about 10,000 survive now.
The old city of Ahmedabad, established in 1411 on the left bank of the river Sabarmati, was laid out keeping in mind the floodplain as well as the river's course changes. In fact, the reason of this new capital city was to address the water supply problem that the earlier capital city and citadel of Bhadra faced. It is, therefore, no surprise that the old city has excellent rain harvesting system and water storage system underneath the common square of each neighbourhood as well as individual houses.
The neighbourhoods, called pols, give the urban fabric a distinct character which not only enforces social unity but also allows for architectural quality and structural stability. The individual houses - the notable ones called havelis, feature excellent and intricate wooden carvings, and an efficient micro-climatic space planning using courtyards, window systems and building materials. All around the old city, a four to five metres tall and up to two metres wide fort wall was constructed. Gates were located in each of the cardinal directions that symbolically connected the city with other major urban and landscape features in the region. Functionally, the fourteen city gates, made of bricks and veneered by stone, linked the commercial hub of the central city and its markets to the agricultural hinterland. The remains of these city gates along with the key public and private buildings including mosques, temples, havelis inside the old city, the famous bird-feeders (called chabutaro), the pols, and various traditions and festivals associated with them constitute the list of heritage associated with Ahmedabad.
This rich legacy has led Ahmedabad to be one of the first Indian cities to be enter into the UNESCO tentative list of "World Heritage Cities." With the status, the Amdavadis have acquired for themselves a great sense of responsibility towards its wealth. Conserving, restoring and sustaining its heritage have become paramount.
Combining its economic strength with its wealth of cultural heritage, Ahmedabad has an enormous potential to offer. We are convinced that great opportunities may arise if we strengthen the capacities of its cultural actors for the development of a dynamic cultural and architectural sector contributing to preserve and take profit of heritage and cultural assets.
Thus, the aim of the Cultural Heritage & Management Venture Lab is to reinforce capacities of cultural agents and facilitate an environment for creativity, innovation, professionalization and entrepreneurship in cultural heritage and management in order to allow the people of Gujarat and Ahmedabad to fully benefit from the potential of cultural heritage as an economic value.
This approach can only be conducted with the setting up of new innovative strategies, bringing together public and private stakeholders national, regional and local levels, public administration bodies, research centres & universities and local companies to joint collaborative efforts, knowledge, wisdom and experience to move forward in the preservation of heritage and the use of cultural assets as an economical value.