Based in South Africa, Planning Partners is a multi-disciplinary firm with a wide range of experience and depth of expertise with regard to urban and regional planning, urban design and landscape architecture. The firm has clients worldwide and is committed to a holistic approach in which these disciplines are integrated in order to deliver quality environments. The firm’s planning and design experience spans a period of more than 25 years and ranges from regional plans and large residential and golf estates to marinas, resorts and commercial precincts.
The town of Khorog is the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region in Tajikistan and it is situated in the heart of the Pamir Mountains near the border with Afghanistan. Khorog is a remote settlement and out of necessity must cultivate self-sufficiency. Its dedicated recreational areas are few but vital to the lives of the inhabitants as spaces to socialize and places to play.
The Park site, comprising a run-down open space on the riverfront, is roughly in the city centre of Khorog and is nested on an alluvial plain only a few hundred metres wide, caught between the steep and barren mountain range of the Pamirs and a bend in the Gunt River. The site was gifted to His Highness the Aga Khan on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of his Imamat, and since 2005 has been the focus of a rehabilitation project designed to offer visitors a high-standard public park with amenities.
Between June and August 2004 the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) initiated an exercise of extensive consultation with the population of Khorog, with the aim of assessing what would be core functions and essential features of an upgraded park. The resulting six-hectare Khorog Park is a place to reflect, relax and enjoy nature in the company of friends and family. At its commencement, the project presented an opportunity to provide an enhanced park facility for the entire city; a lively green place and civic space for all of its citizens; recreational facilities for families and children; and the means to integrate the urban green space into the city network.
Construction of the Park commenced in spring 2005. Work on the Park by AKTC included the enhancement of the already well-wooded area; a programme of levelling works, topsoil enhancement, fertilizing and irrigation; the sowing of lawns; planting of appropriate plants and flowers, which were raised in an on-site nursery; and the restoration of stone channels used for irrigation in the summer. The first phase of Park construction was completed in 2007 and involved approximately ninety local workers. Work on the Park’s main features – the pond, the restaurant, tea-house and open-air theatre – was completed in 2009.
The design inspiration for the Park came as a direct response to the dramatic climate and landscape of the region and the common need for a public garden for both refuge and recreation. The design intent was to preserve the best of what existed and then work creatively with the ordinary – stone, water, flowers and shade trees – in an extraordinary way.