Written by Ritika Khanna
Mr. Mike Turner is an architect and a key figure in the field of conservation. He is the ex-chairman of UNESCO's Israel World Heritage Committee and was responsible for the addition of many sites from Israel to the World Heritage List. Currently he is the UNESCO Chair in Urban Design and Conservation Studies and a special envoy to the Director of heritage including World Heritage at UNESCO.
Why did you choose the field of heritage?
Mr. Turner says that he didn’t choose the field of heritage. It was an evolving relationship which started with studying architecture. The architecture programme valorized history and gave him the base for his career. Further, the rebuilding programmes after the Second World War and their implication on heritage were an important turning point for him. He says that his own evolution as an individual corresponds to the conservation practice in the world. He fondly calls himself the child of conservation world.
What have been some of the major challenges you have faced as a heritage professional?
Mr. Turner feels that the interaction between urban heritage development, growth and change is one of the major challenges in the field of heritage. Further, politicization and manipulation of heritage by fundamentalist and nationalist agenda is another big challenge. He also emphasizes on the lack of adequate courses on heritage at post-graduation level. He believes that the understanding of heritage matures at the post-graduate level because of its interdisciplinary approach.
What do you think are some of the key points that make a good heritage professional?
Mr. Turner stresses on the importance of ‘identity’ in order to be a good heritage professional. Referring to author Amartya Sen’s book ‘Identity and Violence’, Mr. Turner says that the more identities you have, the less violence there is. He elaborates by saying that identities take place through heritage, and through different people coming to different places at different times. Therefore, a good heritage professional must attempt to understand different layers of identities in order to fully understand various layers of heritage and urban conservation.
What according to you are some of the major issues/concerns in the field of heritage today, and what do you think is the need of the hour to mitigate it?
Mr. Turner emphasizes on ‘social inclusion’ as an important issue in the field of heritage today. He says that due to large number of migrations there has been a transformation in the society, and urban conservation must address this issue. He further says that ‘digital revolution’ has not been fully understood by everyone. Its potential needs to be fully tapped to use it for protecting and safeguarding heritage. Lastly, he mentions ‘sustainability and resilience’ as another concern in the heritage field. He feels that there is a need to find a better balance that heritage can provide for sustainability
Finally, what advice would you give to the budding heritage professionals for a successful career?
Mr. Turner emphasizes on the importance of ‘being yourself’ and to develop lateral thinking for all budding professionals. He says that travelling is very important to gain experiences but not everyone can travel as much as they wish. Therefore, one must read books, look at art, listen to music, taste different variety of food, celebrate events and share their experiences with others. At the end he says that it is essential to be curious in order to be a good professional in any field.