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.
In June 1986, the new civilian government handed over the early 19th century Choona Mandi Complex, formerly occupied by the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) of the Punjab Police, to the Education Department, to establish a girls' college. This complex contains the largest extant haveli, or palatial house, to have survived in the Walled City of Lahore. With the serious shortage of educational facilities in the old city, the college moved in immediately and classes were held in the dilapidated buildings, and sometimes even in tents, while demolition started to make way for new construction. This same year, Pakistan Environmental Planning and Architectural Consultants (PEPAC), was commissioned by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), to prepare a Conservation Plan for the Walled City, and the Choona Mandi Haveli was included as part of the historic heritage to be preserved. PEPAC took advantage of this opportunity to advance proposals for the conservation and re-use of this important building with the objective of establishing a model for other similar projects, which were hopefully to follow. In 1987 the Chief Minister called for the appropriate restoration of the complex.
In the same year, the conservation plan of the Walled City had just been commissioned to PEPAC, and the Choona Mandi project, which was initiated by the chief minister, offered a suitable opportunity to set an example for other restoration projects. Thus, PEPAC put forward proposals, and in an interim report, described the current dismal state of the current repair and reconstruction works, which were 'hastening the already advanced decay of the two havelis.
There are three havelis in this complex: a large fortress-like compound on the South, a smaller one in the North - now in ruins- and an isolated three-storey British-period house on the Southeast. The main haveli, a series of one- to three-storey structures surrounding the main courtyard, covering an area of 9'619 m2. The total floor area is around 6'500 m2 and houses the Nawaz Sharif Girls' College, including administration offices, 30 classrooms, 5 laboratories, a library, a multi-purpose room for 350 persons, the principal's residence, and services. The second haveli, formerly considered for an extension to the college. Its almost completely derelict state has resulted in altering its function to a sport and recreational centre for women, on a site of around 6'800 m2. The small two-storey haveli, designated to house a club for women, equipped with a canteen, and a library, with a total floor area of 1'200 m2.