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.
Recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1998.
The Alhamra Arts Council in the 1970s retained architect Nayyar Ali Dada to design a 1,000 seat multi-purpose auditorium that was built and completed in 1979. The council was later placed under the auspices of a government agency, the Lahore Arts Council, which oversaw the three subsequent phases of the project: four octagonal structures for administrative offices and art exhibition galleries that opened in 1984; a 450-seat theatre attached to the auditorium completed in 1985; and a 250-seat lecture and recital hall finished in 1992. Throughout this 15-year process, architect Dada used various combinations of polygonal shapes that meet the acoustic requirements of the performing arts. These forms are also ingeniously placed on the site to semi-enclose courtyards and green spaces. Another basic idea to which he adhered was the use of handmade red brick with traditional local mortar as veneer for the cast-in-place concrete walls. Red brick is the main building material at the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque, the two most important historic buildings in the city. It was also the material most widely used by the British, and recalls the red sandstone architecture of Mughal Lahore. The jury found the complex to be "a rare example of flexible spaces that has enabled several additions to be made over time, each of which has in turn enhanced, rather than detracted from, its overall architectural value. This is a very popular and successful public building, projecting its complexities in a simple and powerful manner."