On making the most of heritage as an important resource

On making the most of heritage as an important resource

Nairita Chakraborty, with over 16 years of experience in heritage, townscape and design, seems the perfect choice to take on the role of Commissioner at Historic England. She was named to the new post by the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) last week and will take charge from July 1 for a four-year term until June 2026. Historic England is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by DCMS and the Commission is its governing body, which provides expert advice and guidance.

Nairita, as a young UK-based professional who grew up in Delhi, has experience in ensuring sustained use of historic buildings whilst delivering large scale regeneration, housing and infrastructure projects. She has produced significant work on the adaptation and conversion of large and complex listed buildings, as well as town centre, public realm, and conservation area schemes.

She recently set up her own practice, Revive and Tailor, which focuses on integrating existing buildings within regeneration proposals innovatively and resourcefully. Nairita is a member of Historic England’s Advisory Committee alongside Havering and Kensington and Chelsea’s Design Review Panels. She is a full member of the Royal Town Planners Institute and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

Here, she shares her excitement at taking on her latest challenge, her architectural inspirations that connect to India and her future plans.

Q

What are you looking forward to in your new role at Historic England?

A

I am delighted to join my esteemed colleagues at Historic England. We are living in times of extreme challenges as well as opportunities and I am hoping to promote the role of heritage as an important resource, one that enhances our cultural identity as well and contributes to a carbon neutral society. I am really looking forward to working with my colleagues who have inspired and mentored me throughout my career.

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Q

What are some your inspirations and influences?

A

As a practitioner, I have focussed on the adaptation and restoration of historic buildings, bringing them back to use within wider regeneration plans. I find delight in finding innovative and design-based solutions to ensure our heritage assets continue to form an important part of our built environment.

I work collaboratively with architects and engineers to iteratively derive the most effective and deliverable solutions to alter and adapt historic buildings. Some of my projects include: Alexandra Palace, London; Tottenham High Road, London; Holborn Town Hall, London; Hornsey Town Hall, London; Kneller Hall, Twickenham; Historic dockyards of Middlesbrough; and, Vinyl Factory, Hayes.

Q

How do you see your work ahead?

A

My public and private sector experience has given me a unique insight on the planning and conservation practices from both “sides” of the table, giving me the ability to critically but constructively look at both sides of arguments and offer best plausible solutions.

I am hoping to use this experience in supporting the role of Historic England in continually evolving their approach and advocacy for the historic environment.

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Q

How does your India connect influence your work?

A

I was brought up in Delhi and studied at the School of Planning and Architecture, before moving to the UK in 2005. My Father is a retired scientist and my mother is a writer and retired teacher. They have both been extremely supportive, often going against social pressures. My younger brother also lives in Delhi and has always encouraged me by being my best friend.

Although my parents live in Delhi, my extended family are based in Kolkata and I still try to visit them as often as I can. From a very young age, Kolkata's colonial heritage has inspired me and I still have a deep connection with the “city of joy”. Travelling was always an important part of my childhood, that enabled me to see and experience India's heritage from a young age, ultimately motivating me to a career in this field.

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