Dr. Gamini Wijesuriya from Sri Lanka has been awarded the ICCROM Award in 2021, in recognition of his contribution to the development of the International Centre for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and for having achieved special merit in the field of conservation, protection and restoration of cultural heritage. This prestigious global award was presented to Dr. Wijesuriya by the Director-General Dr. Webber Ndoro at a ceremony held at Residenza Lavernale in Rome, Italy on 26 October 2021.
ICCROM is based in Rome, Italy, and was created by UNESCO in 1956 for the promotion, conservation, protection and restoration of cultural heritage worldwide. It has a membership of 137 countries – Sri Lanka was one of the first 7 countries to join in 1958. ICCROM provides advice to UNESCO on matters related to World Heritage and heritage protection in general and is recognised as the global leader in providing training and technical advice on the conservation, protection and restoration of cultural heritage. Nearly 100 Sri Lankan heritage professionals, ranging from most senior to the young have received training at ICCROM. ICCROM has also provided Sri Lanka with technical assistance on heritage matters, including for the rescue of the Sigiriya paintings that were damaged in 1967.
The ICCROM Award was first granted in 1979 and, since then, 50 individuals worldwide have received it. These include highly respected and recognised heritage professionals who have made substantial contributions to the field of cultural heritage in the 20th century: the author of the theory of restoration conservation Cesare Brandi (Italy); another well-known Italian philosopher of Conservation Piero Gazzola (Italy); the founder President of ICOMOS Raymond Lemaire (Belgium); founder Director of ICCROM Dr. Harold J. Plenderleith (UK); Dr. Paul Philippot (Belgium), Sir Bernard Feilden (UK), Dr. Cevat Erder (Turkey) and Dr. Webber Ndoro (Zimbabwe), all former directors of ICCROM and other known conservators like Prof. Herb Stovel (Canada); and Dr. Jukka Jokilehto (Finland). Since 1969, five individuals from Asia Pacific region have received the award and Wijesuriya is the first recipient from Sri Lanka.
Gamini Wijesuriya is a senior architect and archaeologist and a world-renowned heritage management professional who has gained a reputation as an international specialist on World Heritage. He has received international acclaim for the innovative programmes that he has developed around living heritage/ people-centred approaches to the conservation of nature and culture. These approaches have gained standing worldwide, recognised for the benefits they bring to society and heritage.
Dr. Wijesuriya studied architecture at the University of Moratuwa. After a brief service in the Urban Development Authority and the Central Cultural Fund, he succeeded Dr. Roland Silva in 1983 as the head of the conservation division in the Department of Archaeology (Assistant Commissioner/ Deputy Commissioner/ Director Architectural Conservation) and held the position for 18 years. During that time, he oversaw all heritage conservation projects across the country and led several major projects, including restorations of the old Dutch Hospital, Mirisaweti stupa, and the Temple of the Tooth Relic after it was bombed by the LTTE in 1998.
He was involved in creating several important heritage related entities namely, ICOMOS Sri Lanka, Galle Heritage Foundation and the Sri Lanka Council of Archaeologists under the leadership of late Dr. Roland Silva.
This was followed by a brief service as a principal regional scientist for the Department of Conservation in New Zealand, before his appointment as an international civil servant at ICCROM, notably being the first person from Asia to join its permanent staff. He was a key team member at ICCROM, providing direct advice to UNESCO on matters of World Heritage for over 14 years. His major contributions included: the Resource Manual on Managing Cultural World Heritage; the World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy; and over 150 missions covering nearly 50 countries. UNESCO includes Dr. Wijesuriya in its list of 60 pioneers of World Heritage.
He has given over 100 speeches/keynote speeches at international conferences and has published extensively on philosophy and practice of heritage conservation in international peer-reviewed journals and books – the latest being the Ancient Ceylon volume 26, titled ‘Conservation and Management of Heritage-Alternative Theoretical Reflections’.
He currently holds the roles of: Special Advisor to the Director General of ICCROM, Rome, Italy; Special Advisor to the Director, World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (WHITRAP), Shanghai, China; Facilitator, UNESCO Capacity Building Programme of the Intangible Heritage Convention.
He holds BSc and MSc degrees from University of Moratuwa; an MA History/Historic Preservation, Carnegie- Mellon University, USA; an MA in Archaeology/ Heritage Management, University of York, United Kingdom; and D Lit. (PhD), from Leiden University, the Netherlands.
Dr. Wijesuriya is a fellow of the Sri Lanka Council of Archaeologists and Sri Lanka Institute of Architects. He also serves as the president of ICOMOS Sri Lanka.
Selected projects where Dr. Wijesuriya has provided expertise for World Heritage conservation:
- Palmyrah/Bamian discussions 2017, 2018
- World Heritage site of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal 2017/2019
- World Heritage site of Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China 2017
- World Heritage site of Portala Palace (ancient Place of Dalai Lama) in Tibet, China, 2015
- World Heritage site of VatPhu, Lao PDR, 2014
- World Heritage site of Subak cultural landscapes, Bali, Indonesia, 2013
- World Heritage site of Piu Cities & Bagan Myanmar 2012/2015
- World Heritage Site of Island of Goree, Senegal 2013
- World Heritage Site of Bodh Gaya, India, 2012
- Summer Khand World Heritage Site 2008
- World Heritage site of Kremlin, Russia, 2007
- World Heritage site of Butrint National Park, Albania, 2005
- World Heritage site of Lumbini, Birthplace of the Buddha, Nepal, 2002, 2003
- Bethhelem 2004
- World Heritage site of ancient Vijayanagar Complex, India, 2002
- World Heritage site of Taxila, Pakistan, 2002
- World Heritage Site of Konarak Sun Temple, India, 2001
- World Heritage site of Paharpur, Bangladesh, 2001
- World Heritage Site of Champane-Pavagar, India 2001
- World Herita
About ICCROM: https://www.iccrom.org/about/overview/what-iccrom
ICCROM Award: https://www.iccrom.org/about/overview/iccrom-award