Lahore is the second largest city in Pakistan after Karachi. It is the cultural capital of Pakistan. It is an ancient urban centre. It was one of the major cities of the Mughals in the 17th century. Its location as an important crossroads in the northern Punjab brought riches as well as invading armies. As a result the city cultivated a rich architectural heritage that reflects the political fortunes of its conquerors. The modern city of Lahore, however, is organised along a pattern set mostly by the British during their approximately one hundred years of colonial rule over the Indian sub-continent.
Today Lahore has almost seven million inhabitants plus innumerable migrant workers from the surrounding small villages. Its precarious location between the Ravi River to the West and North and the Indian border to the east forced the city to grow mostly southward.
The Walled City of Lahore covers an area of 256 ha with a population of 200,000. The city walls were destroyed shortly after the British annexed the Punjab in 1849 and were replaced with gardens, some of which exist today. The Circular Road links the old city to the urban network. Access to the Walled City is still gained through the 13 ancient gates, or their emplacements. The convoluted and picturesque streets of the inner city remain almost intact but the rapid demolition and frequently illegal rebuilding, which is taking place throughout the city, is causing the historic fabric to be eroded and replaced by inferior constructions. Historic buildings are no exception and some have been encroached upon. The few old houses one can still see in the city are usually two or three storeys tall, with brick façades, flat roofs and richly carved wooden balconies and overhanging windows.
Pakistan Project Brief. Lahore: Aga Khan Cultural Service - Pakistan, 2019.
As it enters its third decade of dedication to cultural development work in Pakistan, the mission of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has taken on renewed and heightened importance against the backdrop of the challenges that the country is facing, thereby emphasizing the importance of arts and culture in promoting understanding and collaboration among peoples inside and outside Pakistan, and thus, contribute to peace and security.
AKTC became active in Northern Pakistan in 1989, in response to concerns that the unique culture of the area was under threat due to developments that followed the completion of the Karakoram Highway in 1978. Increased accessibility to hitherto remote valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan, which were part of the old Central Asian Silk Route but which had remained inaccessible to vehicular traffic, coupled with the impact of tourism, introduced a rapid transformation of local customs and economic patterns, which called for new strategic development visions and adapted procedures capable of steering ongoing rapid change.
The Project Brief also details AKTC's involvement in the Walled City of Lahore including restoration work on Mughal heritage such as the Lahore Fort Picture Wall and Imperial Kitchens, the Shahi Hammam and Wazir Khan Mosque.