Delhi-based conservation architect Aishwarya Tipnis has been conferred France's top cultural award for her "outstanding commitment" to preservation of French heritage in India.
The 37-year-old architect, who has now become an evangelist of restoration and adaptive reuse of old, crumbling buildings, was bestowed the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler at a function last night in Kolkata.
This prestigious award honours people who have distinguished themselves in the field of art.
Ebrahim Alkazi, the grand old man of Indian theatre, was conferred the distinction in 2012.
Tipnis has worked extensively on identification of shared built heritage of the French in India and has brought a change in approach to urban heritage conservation due to her pioneering work in Chandannagar in West Bengal.
"This award reinforces that even small initiatives can go a long way in bringing about change. I studied architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) in Delhi and when all my peers were busy designing new swanky buildings, I chose to adopt an approach towards conservation and reuse of historic structures," she said.
Tipnis holds a Masters degree in European Urban Conservation with distinction from the University of Dundee, Scotland, and was also involved in bringing attention to the shared Dutch heritage in Chinsurah, West Bengal, through adopting a digital humanities approach to heritage conservation in India.
The French Embassy here, in a communique issued earlier, had said, "I (ambassador) have the great pleasure of informing you that you have been appointed Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight in the National Order Arts and Letters) by the Ministry of Culture."
"I warmly congratulate you for your distinction, which comes especially in recognition of your outstanding commitment to the preservation of French heritage in India," it read.
The SPA alumnus has devoted herself to the conservation of heritage in the country and has worked on several landmark projects, which have won laurels for India.
In 2016, her work in the Mahidpur Fort in Madhya Pradesh won an Award of Merit while a restoration project at the Doon School in Dehradun, earned an honourable mention in the UNESCO Award for Heritage Conservation in the Asia-Pacific region.
This year, she has also been associated with the ongoing 'Bonjour India 2017-18' as the curator for the multi- faceted 'Know Your Indo-French Heritage' in Chandannagar, a former French colony in West Bengal.
She is also part of the UNESCO expert team on the preparation of a 'Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan' for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a world heritage, as well as the consultant to the Doon School on the restoration of their historic buildings.
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