Niels GUTSCHOW [ Arts and Culture Prize 2011 ]

Arts and Culture Prize 2011 [22nd]
Architectural Historian [ Professor, Cluster of Excellence of Heidelberg University ]
Germany / Architecture
Born November 27, 1941(aged 69)

Prof. Niels Gutschow, with his deep insight into historical architecture and urbanism, focused mainly on South Asia, has been a leader in urban and architectural conservation and restoration, while raising the status of the field, through his interdisciplinary research, including not only architectural history but also other related academic subjects, up to a higher, philosophical, plane. His achievement in creating a new path for interdisciplinary restoration, founded upon empirically-based understanding of traditional space, is admirable.

* The details of title, age, career and award citation are at the time of announcement of the Prize.
Award Citation

As an architectural historian and conservator, Prof. Niels Gutschow has made a remarkable contribution to the conservation, restoration and revival of historical buildings. In particular, he has developed conservation programmes for ancient and religious buildings in Nepal, India and Pakistan, involving not only conventional stylistic criteria but also detailed analysis and understanding of their religious rites, original construction methods and designs. On the basis of this he has established an interdisciplinary conservation theory and system. From there he has expanded his scope to include neglected religious sacred sites and buildings which are on the verge of collapse, thus greatly stimulating progress in conservation theories and techniques, and so influencing conservation practice across Asian and in Japan.

Prof. Gutschow was born in Hamburg in 1941. He spent time in Japan during 1962-63 as an apprentice carpenter, learning conservation techniques in situ at Inuyama Castle and Fudo-do in Koya-san Kongobuji, and so establishing the foundation on which he later built his expertise. In 1970, he graduated from the Architecture Department, Darmstadt University of Technology. He became a member of the first bilateral German-Nepalese conservation project team in 1971, and pioneered the preservation of urban beauty and the development of museum cities. In 1973, he received a Ph.D. in architecture from Darmstadt University of Technology: his research was on Japanese castle towns. He has been involved from the outset in the project to conserve ancient cities in the Kathmandu Valley, and has also continued the comparative study of architecture and cities.

His work in Nepal became a driving force for first German and then other Western specialists to begin empirical on-site examinations of Nepalese historical urban monuments, which encouraged them to communicate more widely with Asian colleagues, and led to research into, and the conservation of, these unique Asian timber-and-brick buildings. The Hindu/Buddhist monuments of three cities of Kathmandu Valley on which Prof. Gutschow had worked on - Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Patan - were collectively designated as the first Asian UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

He has developed a conservation methodology through profound insight and knowledge gained from his own lifelong experience, and this methodology has evolved to cover an extensive interdisciplinary scope, focusing not only on architectural history but also reaching to the adjacent fields of religious studies and anthropology. His achievement is embodied in an important book, Benares (2006) in which he discusses, from architectural and anthropological points of view, the interaction between religious rituals and urban space in the sacred city of Indian Hinduism and Buddhism, Varanasi (Benares). Currently he is a professor of the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context" at Heidelberg University, and pursues in an interdisciplinary framework, both theoretical investigations and case studies of interaction between architecture and urbanism.

Starting from learning Japanese carpentry skill firsthand, Prof. Niels Gutschow has developed a deep insight into historical architecture and urbanism in South Asia, and has raised the academic research pursuits of preserving and restoring buildings and cities to the higher level of philosophical activity. He has successfully led the way towards discovering a comprehensive value of architectural heritage. For such a remarkable contribution, he is worthy of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.

At the reconstruction site of Inuyama Castle, Japan, 1963.
At the reconstruction site of Inuyama Castle, Japan, 1963.
On a trek along the Kali Gandaki River in the Himalaya, 1985.
On a trek along the Kali Gandaki River in the Himalaya, 1985.
Talking to Govinda Tandon at a Battisputali temple in Deopatan(Nepal), 2008 (pictured left).
Talking to Govinda Tandon at a Battisputali temple in Deopatan(Nepal), 2008 (pictured left).

Introduction of Public Lecture by Niels GUTSCHOW

Conservation – The Hidden Path for an Architect to be Creative
September 17, 2011 (13:30-15:30)
Event Hall (B2F), ACROS Fukuoka
Prof. FUJIHARA Keiyo (Graduate School of Design, Kyushu University)
Prof. INABA Nobuko (Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, Tsukuba University)
Prof. HATANO Jun (Faculty of Engineering, Dept. of Architecture, Nippon Institute of Technology)

Public Lecture by Prof. Gutschow was held in ACROS FUKUOKA in 17 September, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his lecture, talks with panelists.

Books & CDs

Benares: The Sacred Landscape of Varanasi
Benares: The Sacred Landscape of Varanasi
[ Book ]
Release Date / March 28, 2006
Publisher / Axel Menges

Related News

Dec. 22, 2011
Press Conference in Nepal for Niels GUTSCHOW
Sep. 25, 2011
Benares: The Sacred Landscape of Varanasi
Jun. 04, 2011
Announcement of the Laureates 2011 vol.4