Urban Heritage focus: Rizky Fardhyan

The Urban Heritage focus interview series introduces four urban professionals and participants of the Urban Heritage Strategies course, which takes place yearly at IHS. The current edition is tailored to four World Heritage Cities, designated by UNESCO: Willemstad (Curaçao), Paramaribo (Suriname), Salvador da Bahia (Brazil) and Sawahlunto (Indonesia). The countries in which the cities are located have a partnership on heritage conservation with the Netherlands. In this series, we invited one representative of each World Heritage City to answer a few questions.

Rizky Fardhyan is an 'Urban Heritage Strategies' course participant and a member of the Sawahlunto heritage site working group. He lives in Indonesia, Banten Province, Tangerang Selatan City and works for the UNESCO field office in Jakarta. The office serves as the Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Sciences, and Cluster Office for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Timor-Leste.

What does your work look like?

I am assigned under the culture unit of the UNESCO field office in Jakarta and in my day-to-day work I handle several UNESCO Conventions related to culture, such as the 1972 Convention on World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

However, I mostly handle World Heritage matters in Indonesia, like monitoring the state of conservation, conducting capacity building activities (i.e. Heritage Impact Assessment, introduction to World Heritage Convention, nomination process, World Heritage management, community engagement in World Heritage site, etc.), and acting as a liaison for the five World Cultural Heritage sites/government institutions, and concerned communities (academics, religious groups, heritage communities, etc.). 

Nowadays my professional interest is in understanding and implementing heritage impact assessment of the development and proposed activities to the heritage assets, sites, or urban settings. Generally, I am interested in heritage management that can strike a balance between conservation and sustainable modern uses, and that is able to enhance people's quality of life while also benefitting the environment.

What determined you to attend this course?

I have two reasons why I joined this course. Firstly, I noticed that managing urban heritage requires a different skillset and complex knowledge. Although we are surrounded by experts with different specialisations, for instance, architecture, conservation, history, archaeology, sociology, economy and others, directing and formulating their idea to get the best planning and execution requires them to be equipped with complex thinking abilities regarding urban heritage management. Without those abilities, the effort to connect the dots of their complex ideas in order to attain the desired city development could never be achieved. In the long run, the city will lose its important asset of urban heritage for future development. I believed this course provided the path in that direction. A path to build the skill required to manage urban heritage. 

Secondly, through the vast background of experts and participants from different countries, the benefit is beyond networking. It provided a platform to get inspired and to seek fruitful discussions to solve problems faced in day-to-day site management.

Tell us more about your case study, the city you focused on and what you learned from it.

The group which I represented was Sawahlunto. The city was recently inscribed as World Cultural Heritage in 2019. Sawahlunto was a former Dutch coal mining area and settlement transformed into Mining Town. The mining activity continued until the late 1990s. When the mining ceased, the local government had to think about the most viable way to keep the local economy surviving and thriving. The well-preserved Dutch remains and the uniqueness of the city’s intangible cultural heritage were identified as new focus areas for the city’s future development solutions, and the government decided to radically change the city vision, into “Sawahlunto to become Cultural Tourism Mining Town in 2020”.

This recent vision of city transformation from a mining-based economy into cultural tourism needs tremendous efforts in terms of program planning, action plans, financial support, and suitable human resources. The issue became that this transformation was not carried through the comprehensive perspective of urban heritage strategy, but it rather went on a path of seeing the heritage remains as assets that needed to be conserved and utilized for education and tourism purposes, while neglecting the very substantial nature of the city (which is to support various interests/needs of inhabitants who have different ways to utilize the heritage). This problem has also been causing multifaceted conflicts with various stakeholders when implementing the city’s vision. For instance, infrastructure development caused a conflict between providing roads and facilities for residents and maintaining the integrity of the urban landscape.

A lesson learned, as I already mentioned above, having a proper urban heritage strategy for devising integrated future development is fundamental. Otherwise, the planning would be like an ill-fitted jigsaw.

Old town from the hill

Coal Storage at Teluk Bayur Bay (Former name Emmahaven)

Tinggi Bridge

Soup kitchen

Ombilin Administration Building

The photos featured above are courtesy of the Office of Cultural, Historical Remains, and Museum of Sawahlunto.

How is your case study city different from the city you live in if you look at urban heritage management?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any urban heritage remains in the city where I live. You couldn’t even find any old buildings. But this doesn’t mean the current generation can’t identify potential local heritage in their neighbourhood or create their own ‘heritage’ to be passed to the next generation. Implementation of Heritage Urban Landscape could be a potential solution. 

How does what you learned in this course relate to your own work or to your professional interests?

This course will be fundamental for me when planning a future capacity building activity because it teaches necessary basic skills needed by the site manager and related institutions. It will also help me provide better and more comprehensive solutions when I or my office have dialogue or provide technical assistance to a certain institution. Furthermore, this will be my core knowledge someday, should I get the opportunity to become a professional heritage advisor in the future.

What takeaways from this course would you use as inspiration further?

The site managers often (based on my observation in Indonesia) manage the site just from the perspective of their academic background, rarely seeing the broad interest of stakeholders, while maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the site. The Urban Heritage Strategies approach offers critical thinking about what the city’s needs are in systematic ways and provides a win-win solution to make the city liveable and full of opportunities.

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