Conservation Attributes for the History City of Varanasi- Identifying Planning and Design Attributes to enhance the urban environment.

Open Access
Veeraraghavelu, Nanditha
Graduate Program:
Master of Architecture
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 29, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Jawaid Haider, Thesis Advisor
  • Heritage monuments Preservation
  • Conservation
  • Urban Environment
This thesis focuses on planning and design attributes for conservation and urban renewal of Varanasi in India. This city has existed for many centuries and has a rich, deep-rooted religious significance. In the midst of transformation Varanasi is facing major environmental threats due to rapid urbanization, exponential population growth, and incompetent urban planning regulations. The Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) has not been able to efficiently address issues of architectural heritage deterioration, traffic congestion, insufficient infrastructure, and natural resource depletion. A field study conducted as part of this research revealed that the Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is ill-equipped and able to preserve only a few of the existing monuments, while many have been consistently neglected leading to deterioration and demolition of historic structures. Traffic congestion on main streets due to heavy motor vehicular use on narrow streets causes immense discomfort for the people who reside within the historic site. The religious rituals performed by pilgrims along the riverfront of sacred Ganges and disposal of untreated wastes in the river have resulted in health hazards for many users who directly consume the river water. The immediate concerns that need to be addressed for the urban renewal of Varanasi are the conservation of historic fabric, transportation management, and environmental planning. The cultural practices and religious belief system of the inhabitants play a major role in the city’s growth. In order to conserve this historic city and its urban environment, an adaptable strategy is essential not only for architectural preservation of Varanasi, but also for promoting sustainable practices so that future generations can witness the original city and its sacred architecture for many more centuries to come. This thesis recognizes the importance of cultural, religious, political, economical and ecological aspects for the sustainable development of a historic city and proposes viable design and planning strategies to enhance the quality of the overall environment in Varanasi. To this end, relevant design attributes are identified to develop a holistic approach to solving the excruciating problems the city is facing. These attributes embody critical issues identified through research and include the following: Accessibility, Continuity, Diversity, Identity, Integration, Conservation, and Safety. The thesis proposes strategies based on the above-mentioned planning and design attributes in order to renew the heritage site and ensure that it is experientially enhanced, functionally efficient, and environmentally sustainable.