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.
The village of Kot Karamat is about 50 kms from metropolitan Lahore. The farmhouse and ancillary buildings are part of an agricultural compound and were intended to serve as prototypes. The objective of the project was: To encourage the residents to collaborate in the development of their village; To construct prototypical workers' houses in order to demonstrate the advantages of permanent dwellings; and To explore the potential of local materials within the restraints of costs, climate, and available skills.
The compound consists of a farmhouse for the owner and his family, a row of eight storage sheds, and workers' houses. One of the sheds has been converted to the foreman's residence and a worker's house was modified to a three-room school. The owner of the farmhouse intended to build only a farmhouse and ancillary buildings. Later, the scope of the project was increased to try to improve the conditions of the village. A master plan was developed providing permanent dwelling units, utilities and social services such as street drains, community toilets, a mosque, and a school. The workers' houses were intended as prototypes demonstrating to the villagers the advantages of permanent dwellings. Due to scepticism on the part of the local inhabitants, and problems with financing, the Master Plan was not realised. However, the local council took an interest in the project, and paid half the cost of the school. A number of prototypical houses for the villagers were constructed. The main goal became the development of a system which would be very low in cost and sufficiently flexible to permit a variety of uses. Since the cheapest available and permanent building material was brick, it was decided to exploit the potential of brick to the maximum.