There are 21 monuments remaining in the present-day complex of the Lahore Fort. These monuments reflect the architectural characteristics of the historical periods they represent and the brilliance of the artistic excellence and workmanship of these eras. One of these buildings, known as the imperial kitchens, had lain in ruinous condition for a few decades. From 2016 to 2019, the Aga Khan Cultural Service - Pakistan and the Walled City of Lahore Authority took up the conservation of the historic imperial kitchens and its adaptive reuse under a 5 year development scheme for the Lahore Fort, which was approved by the government of Punjab.
The imperial kitchens, located in the south-western quarter of the Lahore Fort, served the needs of the royal palace during the Mughal and the Sikh periods. Its spatial connection to the royal residences was truncated in the mid-nineteenth century when the British built accesses and used this part of the Fort in general to house their sepoy barracks. As a consequence, this area of the Lahore Fort fell into increasing neglect. In the early days of British occupation it was used for storage of the garrison’s liquor, and at one time an upper floor was added above its eastern wing.
The conservation work was completed in the spring of 2019 and has resulted in the restoration of the historic structure including preserving the ruins in-situ. To make the interventions sustainable, and to give this previously neglected “heritage a function in the life of the community” in line with the World Heritage Convention, the rehabilitated historic structure is being used to provide a night-time dining facility as part of the general policy to extend the visitors’ experience of the Fort during night-time.
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.