Priyanka Panjwani is a conservation architect and design professional from India, with ten years of experience in architecture and regeneration projects. She is an alumna of Sir J.J. College of Architecture in Mumbai and has studied conservation of historic buildingsfrom University of Bath, UK. Priyanka has been professionally involved as a heritage consultant and a visiting academic with esteemed institutions, she actively volunteers with organisations committed to heritage - currently as Co-ordinator of ICOMOS India’s National Scientific Committee on Risk Preparedness. Priyanka also holds a postgraduate diploma in Indian Aesthetics from Jnanapravaha in Mumbai. Her research has been published in INTACH’s ‘State of Built Heritage of India: Case of the Unprotected’ (SoBHI), ICOMOS Conference proceedings ‘Earthen and vernacular heritage and climate change’, The International Committee on Conservation of Industrial Heritage (TICCIH) Bulletin, among others. Priyanka Panjwani was part of an international panel on ‘Cultural Heritage, Resilience and Built Environment’ at the 2021 Resilience Hub of COP26, with Climate Heritage Network.
‘Island nations, cities, and communities, who themselves are victims of humanity’s lack of foresight, are the ones who will be impacted the most by extreme weather events.’ – climate resilient world, 2022. Mumbai is a coastal city in Western India with historic buildings that form an integral part of its culture and built infrastructure. My project aims to evaluate the capacity for resilience of these structures, in the face of climate change disasters. This project brings an opportunity to grasp the status of listed heritage in the city and update the existing information systems to advise actions at the ward and city level. Capacity for resilience requires assessment of several factors including city topography and exposure to hazards, condition and maintenance of the structure, inherent coping patterns and linkages of heritage structures with other infrastructure systems. The goal of my project is to create an accessible tool like a mobile application that allows for community input, conscientious decision making and priority action. This perspective will augment disaster management plans for precincts as well as individual properties and will be beneficial to government officials and first responders to be able to adequately and adeptly care for historic properties, for climate action.
As a curious architect, I have explored heritage in different parts of the city through study tours, group walks and sketching workshops. Living and working in Mumbai has led me to engage with the notified heritage lists in different ways- to study the evolution the built structures, to understand the variety and complexities in built forms and also to review the impacts on heritage due to new infrastructure proposals. During the pandemic lock-down, I took charge as the Co-ordinator of ICOMOS India’s NSC Risk Preparedness, and dedicated time to comprehend global disaster management policies, SDGs and the role of culture in climate action. I analysed a historic coastal village within the peninsular city of Mumbai and found strengths and vulnerabilities in my research. Participating in COP26 made me realize the urgency to adapt, retrofit and stop demolition; it reinforced yet again that ‘conservation is sustainable’. Observing the IPCC-ICOMOS-UNESCO joint meetings closely in 2021 helped me absorb knowledge from global scientific experts. These interactions provoked an ambitious idea to create an accessible and systematic understanding of aspects that affect the resilience of heritage buildings in the city, to be able to plan and respond efficiently in times of calamities.
MOTIVATION FOR AND COMMITMENT TO CREATING A BETTER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE PLANET
My biggest motivation comes from my family, who have in different ways shown me the value of frugality for self and generosity for others. I have developed a passion for the built environment through my architecture studies, and travel has opened my eyes to a plethora of heritage structures which hold in them a lot of knowledge and learning for life. There is a great beauty in the rich heritage of Mumbai, which I am inspired by every day. Practicing conservation of shared heritage for the preservation of culture and identity strengthens my commitment each day towards the sustainability of our planet.