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2009 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award Winners

sangindalai unesco09

Ali Gohar House

Hanok Regeneration in Bukchon

M24Midget Submarine Wreck

Huai Hai Lu796



YMCAStudents Branch resize

Former Royal Air Force Officers resize

Cicheng Historic Town

Relic s panorama after restoring

YWCALady Willingdon Hostel resize

Maosi Ecological Demonstration resize

Press Release: English


Sangiin Dalai Monastery in South Gobi Aimaq, Republic of Mongolia has been honoured with the Award of Excellence in the 2009 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.  

A total of 48 entries, from 14 countries in the region, were submitted for consideration. The conservation project entries include hotels, offices, cultural institutions, educational institutions, religious sites, public institutions, residential buildings and urban districts.

The three Awards of Distinction went to the M24 Midget Submarine Wreck in Sydney, Australia; the Ali Gohar House in Hunza, Pakistan and Hanok Regeneration in Bukchon in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

The four Awards of Merit include the Huai Hai Lu 796 in Shanghai, China; the YMCA Students Branch in Mumbai, India; the Waterworks Building in Auckland, New Zealand and the Samchuk Community and Old Market District in Suphanburi, Thailand.

Four Honourable Mentions were also announced. They are the Academy of Visual Arts (Former Royal Air Force Officers’ Mess) at Hong Kong Baptist University in Hong Kong SAR, China; the Heritage Buildings in Cicheng Historic Town in Zhejiang Province, China; the YWCA Lady Willingdon Hostel in Mumbai, India and the Tang Family Chapel in Hoi An, Viet Nam.

The 2009 Heritage Awards Jury Commendation for Innovation was awarded to the Maosi Ecological Demonstration Primary School (China). The Jury Commendation recognizes newly-built structures which demonstrate outstanding standards for contemporary architectural design which are well integrated into historic contexts. The 2009 Jury Commendation submissions include four projects (an educational institution, a mausoleum, an urban district and a residential development) from three countries in the region. 

Further information about the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation and this year’s winning entries can be found at:

Award of Excellence

Sangiin Dalai Monastery

South Gobi Aimaq, Republic of Mongolia

The heroic restoration of the eighteenth-century Buddhist monastery has revived an important Mongolian cultural centre in the south Gobi Desert and rekindled a tradition of vernacular craftsmanship. Converted in the 1930s into an army camp and later abandoned, the monastery complex has been brought back to life by local people who, through this project, have re-acquired long lost skills in architecture and the manufacture of traditional construction materials. A small factory to produce bricks and tiles has been established on site, providing jobs as well as materials needed for future restoration work here and at other derelict monasteries in the vicinity. Mentoring by Chinese master builders employed on the project has renewed historic cultural linkages, while the guidance of international experts has helped ensure that a rigorous methodology for documentation and conservation was followed. With the supervision of Buddhist monastic leaders, the project was undertaken with the support of the Mongolian authorities along with local and international charitable organizations. The newly-consecrated monastery stands as a compelling testament to the dedication and determination of the residents of Nomgon Soum in revitalizing their traditional cultural heritage.

Award of Distinction

Ali Gohar House   

Hunza, Pakistan

The restoration of Ali Gohar House has saved the former house of the village lord and retained its significance in the community by transforming it into a centre showcasing the living heritage of the historic settlement of Ganish. As a multi-purpose space housing a tourist information centre, a house museum, a centre for artists and artisans, and a community meeting hall, the social vitality and economic sustainability of the house is ensured. The conservation works were undertaken as part of a larger village-wide upgrade of the historic buildings and infrastructure, thus integrating this historically important showpiece building into the larger urban landscape. Through a combination of international conservation protocols and local building technologies, the building has been thoroughly documented and stabilized, and modern facilities inserted with sensitivity. The use of indigenous materials and the careful reuse of original building parts provide a noteworthy example of the continued effectiveness of traditional technologies, countering the growing fashion for imported construction materials and ofteninappropriate alien construction techniques. Spearheaded by the Ganish Khun Heritage Care and Social Welfare Society and undertaken with the active involvement of the villagers, the project has had a catalytic impact on the growing movement favouring community-led conservation of local heritage in northern Pakistan.

Hanok Regeneration in Bukchon

Seoul, Republic of Korea

The Hanok Regeneration project initiated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in cooperation with neighborhood stakeholders has brought about a striking change in people’s attitudes to the city’s traditional residential quarters.  With successful collaboration among the municipality, community members, academics and civil society, the large-scale project has raised awareness about the heritage value of the hanok and proven that they are viable as modern housing.  The formerly dilapidated Bukchon area has been revitalized through designation as an urban conservation district and comprehensive measures providing financial and technical support to homeowners in restoring the buildings.  Incompatible modern accretions have been removed and each house has been sensitively restored to its historic form.  By involving the community through all stages of the process, the project has secured local long-term commitment to safeguarding the hanok, thereby preserving an important traditional Korean architectural legacy  and inspiring  other cities around the country.

M24 Midget Submarine Wreck

Sydney, Australia

The M24 Midget Submarine Wreck site in Sydney Harbour presents an exemplary model for in situ conservation of underwater cultural heritage in the Asia-Pacific region. Following its discovery in 2006, a full disturbance survey, archival research and extensive dialogue with veterans and other stakeholders have provided the framework for fully understanding and protecting the multiple layers of meaning associated with the Second World War-era site. The physical remains of the largely-intact submarine have been protected by a sophisticated, non-invasive management system appropriate to the underwater environment, including the installation of a pioneering site surveillance system using a real-time camera feed. The historical and spiritual values associated with the site have been sensitively commemorated, notably through a formal ceremony to honour the war dead and the repatriation of votive sand from the wreck. Among the public at large, an active awareness campaign has ensured that the site and its associations with a significant chapter in history will be widely remembered. The project is to be commended for setting a new global benchmark in the application of heritage law and conservation practice to protect shipwreck sites and demonstrating best practice in the application of UNESCO’s guidelines for the protection of underwater cultural heritage.

Awards of Merit

Huai Hai Lu 796

Shanghai, China

The restoration of the twin neoclassical villas at Huai Hai Lu 796 has created a heritage oasis along one of Shanghai’s main commercial thoroughfares.  A rigorous process of building survey provided the necessary understanding for making the conservation decisions.  The high-quality 1920s architecture has been restored through a respectful approach, with excellent technical execution by local craftsmen and international conservation specialists.  Poor previous repair work has been removed and the original building fabric has been consolidated.  The conversion of the property into luxury boutiques provides a viable commercial reuse that will allow the building to be well-utilized and maintained in the future.

Samchuk Community and Old Market District

Suphanburi, Thailand

Once in serious socio-economic decline, the Samchuk Community and Old Market District has been successfully revitalized through the far-sighted vision and cooperation of the local residents.  The conservation work has been undertaken in a holistic way, including not only the heritage architecture, but also the living heritage of this historic commercial hub, thus contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of the site’s value as a cultural heritage resource for the community.   The community has been the main driving force for the project at all levels, from setting policy to establishing urban design guidelines.  The full restoration of three major historic buildings into living museums and neighborhood centres provides a focal point for the urban district of wooden shophouses.  The project will have a major impact in raising awareness about grassroots heritage conservation and is an important model for empowering other historic communities in Thailand.

Waterworks Building

Auckland, New Zealand

The meticulous restoration of the Waterworks Building is a celebration of Victorian engineering technology and the history of early Auckland.  With support from dedicated volunteers, the beam engine has been returned to its fully functional state, and today is the centerpiece of the Museum of Transport and Technology.  The engine house itself and the associated engineer’s cottage have been appropriately conserved to retain its historic patina.  Historic construction materials and techniques and reversible modern interventions allow the building fabric to be conserved authentically.  The restoration has successfully revitalized an important part of the city’s past, enlivened the museum and captured the memory of the community.

YMCA Students Branch

Mumbai, India

The restoration of the YMCA Students Branch in Mumbai has revived the heritage character of the noteworthy 1910 Neoclassical landmark.  The project has used an appropriately modest approach to preserve the building, which has maintained the spirit of place of this well-loved community institution.  Inappropriate repairs undertaken to accommodate a previous bank tenant were removed, allowing the heritage features to be revealed.  The interiors were also refurbished and adapted to accommodate the YMCA’s growing uses.  The façade was carefully cleaned, thereby uplifting the entire historic streetscape.  Undertaken with support from the US Ambassador’s Cultural Preservation Fund, the project has given the YMCA building a new lease on life.

Honourable Mention

Former Royal Air Force Officers’ Mess

Hong Kong SAR, China

The adaptation of the former Royal Air Force Officers’ Mess has transformed an abandoned colonial heritage landmark into the vibrant Academy of Visual Arts of Hong Kong Baptist University.  The restoration work has fully retained the building fabric and architectural character, displaying sensitivity to the original spatial configuration, various layers from the past and the hybrid tropical building typology which is common to the region.  The reuse of the complex as studios and galleries has been well-chosen, making optimal use of the spacious interior spaces and enlivening them with student activities.  The project sets a noteworthy model for recycling obsolete public buildings and demonstrates the viability of reusing historic military structures in a modern institutional context.

Heritage Buildings, Cicheng Historic Town

Zhejiang Province, China

Amid the rapid development of Ningbo, the conservation of key heritage buildings in Cicheng serves as a successful pilot for future restoration work in the historic urban core and in other towns around China.  The project has valorized ancient buildings as a source of continuity.  The conserved structures show a respect for original architectural details, technology and spatial layout.  As part of the holistic approach to conservation, local crafts traditions and construction skills have been revived.  The continuing use of public buildings demonstrates their ongoing significance to the local community, while the commercial adaptation of other buildings proves as their functional viability within a modern context.

Tang Family Chapel

Hoi An, Vietnam

The restoration of the Tang Family Chapel demonstrates the commendable commitment of private individuals to cooperate with local authorities in the conservation of a World Heritage property. As one of the key landmarks in Hoi An, the family chapel has been competently repaired by specialists and craftsmen who are knowledgeable about traditional construction techniques. The project has employed a minimum intervention approach that emphasizes respect for the historic building materials and finishes. The newly-refurbished chapel now stands out as a living landmark in the heritage town, serving clan members, the local population and visitors alike.

YWCA Lady Willingdon Hostel

Mumbai, India

The restoration of the YWCA Lady Willingdon Hostel has recovered the Neoclassical dignity of an important Victorian-era building in the heritage Fort precinct of Mumbai. The project has carefully reversed the deleterious effects of inappropriate past repairs and established protocols for proper conservation of the historic building fabric. Significant architectural details such as stained glass have been reinstated, thereby enhancing the architectural value of the hostel. Traditional construction materials and techniques have been revived and employed in the work. The judicious upgrade of building services allows this gracious edifice to continue to carry out its public mandate well into the future.

2009 UNESCO Jury Commendation of Innovation Winners

Maosi Ecological Demonstration Primary School

Gansu Province, China

The design of the Maosi Ecological Demonstration Primary School offers an attractive modern and locally-suitable alternative to the existing cave schools. It maintains continuity with long-standing local building traditions, in particular, by adapting the environmentally-sustainable aspects of vernacular earthen architecture. The careful selection of materials and techniques, combining mud brick with modern technology such as double glazing, has allowed the school to minimize its energy consumption. The school complex blends smoothly and fits comfortably into the surrounding landscape. The configuration of the buildings creates a liveable space at a human scale that is sensitive to this particular context of the Loess Plateau. Built in cooperation with the local villagers themselves, the project sends a strong message about the relevance of applying traditional wisdom to build in an ecological and socially sustainable manner.