NUS and UNESCO establish Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have announced the establishment of the UNESCO Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia. Professor Ho Puay Peng, Head of Department of Architecture at the NUS School of Design and Environment, was appointed as the Chairholder on 12 May 2020.

This is the second UNESCO Chair appointment in Singapore and NUS. Prof Ho joins the ranks of over 800 international scholars in the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme, which was established since 1992, to promote international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “We are delighted that NUS can once again contribute as chair of a UNESCO programme. This appointment puts our School of Design and Environment at the forefront, where we can contribute our expertise and knowledge, particularly in Asian architectural heritage conservation, and work together with the international community to spearhead research and education to preserve our rich and diverse cultural heritage, ever more important in today’s fast-changing world.”

Professor Ho Puay Peng – Passing shared heritage to future generations

“I am deeply honoured by UNESCO and grateful to NUS for the recognition and support. Singapore has done well in conserving our heritage and promoting their values amidst its rapid urbanisation. With effective strategies to preserve significant historical architecture and districts and adapting them for contemporary uses, we are well-placed to advance knowledge and practices in architecture heritage conservation. With the appointment of the UNESCO Chair, I wish to deepen research and broaden education, so as to impact practitioners and the wider community locally and regionally, in order that our shared tangible and intangible heritage can be holistically passed to future generations,” said Prof Ho.

An esteemed historian and authority in architectural conservation, Prof Ho’s research, teaching and professional practice go beyond the areas of art and architecture history in East Asia. His expertise is widely sought-after – he is conservation consultant, architect and adviser to some 100 conservation projects in Singapore and Hong Kong. Some of his award-winning projects include Kadoorie Farm Green Hub, PMQ Art and Design Quarters and University of Chicago’s Hong Kong campus. Prof Ho serves as jury member for many international architecture design and conservation awards, and editorial committees of international journals and book series. He has also served on many public and private boards and committee. He is currently a member of Heritage and Identity Partnership in Singapore, a Patron of International Dunhuang Project, British Library, and Senior Advisory Board member of Global Heritage Fund. Please refer to the Annex for a brief biography on Prof Ho.

Professor Lam Khee Poh, Dean of the NUS School of Design and Environment, said, “We are honoured that Prof Ho Puay Peng has received this stellar international recognition. Our School consistently emphasises the importance of ‘design’ as a unifying ethos for the various allied disciplines to collaborate and advance an integrated approach to architectural conservation, urban solutions and sustainability in the built as well as natural environment. Beyond conservation and sustainability, our strategic commitment also extends to promote the health and well-being of inhabitants in buildings – a focus on people-centric design.”

Mrs Rosa Daniel, Secretary-General of the Singapore National Commission for UNESCO, said, “The UNESCO Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia is a significant development that will deepen expertise and promote best practices in the field of architectural conservation. I am confident that under the experienced leadership of Prof Ho Puay Peng, Singapore can play a useful role in enhancing understanding and support among UNESCO Member States towards safeguarding our wonderful and diverse Asian heritage for future generations.”

Advancing architectural heritage conservation and management

The UNESCO Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia is established for a period of four years. As UNESCO Chair, Prof Ho will look into promoting an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation on architectural heritage conservation and management. His role will also include facilitating collaboration between high-level, internationally-recognised researchers and teaching staff from NUS and other Singapore institutions, as well as elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific and in other regions of the world.

The objectives of the UNESCO Chair will encompass the following:

Offer training courses to improve cultural heritage conservation understanding and skills in the region;
Provide a platform for the exchange of architectural conservation knowledge and interdisciplinary collaborative research through workshops and symposiums in an Asian context;
Establish an architectural conservation research centre to advance knowledge in cultural heritage conservation and management, build the capacities of professionals and society at large, help raise awareness of cultural heritage and its sustainable management, and inform policy developments in this field; and
Cooperate closely with UNESCO and other UNESCO Chairs on relevant programmes and activities.
Dr Feng Jing, Chief of Unit, Asia and the Pacific Unit, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, said, “The establishment of the UNESCO Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia at NUS would be a great asset to further strengthening the UNESCO Chairs network in the Asia and the Pacific region in the field of heritage conservation and urban planning.”