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 open-air theatre was designed for large cultural activities. It has a seating capacity of 4'500, backstage facilities, two smaller theatres/auditoriums (350-400 people), retail spaces, restrooms, VIP lounge, and rehearsal areas. The basic mass of the building is cylindrical. The commercial activities on the ground level provide financing for the building. The exterior of the building is made of red brick interspersed with courses of decorative patterns made of ceramic tiles or bevelled bricks. Small pairs of windows that bring light to the upper level passages make another horizontal pattern on the wall. On the parapet level, semi-circular arched openings run along the top of the wall. The building therefore, has a horizontal composition.
The arena of the theatre is primarily hexagonal in shape. The transfer from the circular envelope to the hexagonal stage engendered two types of circulation patterns: one that runs radially from the centre to the periphery and the other runs parallel to the sides of the hexagon. The overlap of the sides of the hexagon resulted in the location of some seating sections slightly off from the centre. This helps to lighten up the effect of the centrality of the composition, by accentuating slightly oblong lines of sight. The basic design premise starts from the functional requirements of sight lines and acoustics. As the arena was to accommodate an audience of 4,500, seating all around the stage provides close range visibility for the maximum number of viewers. The arena concept of this building is a direct reference to what the architect perceived as old Greek and Roman theatres. The main building has a reinforced concrete column-and-beam structure with handmade brick infill and red-brick cladding with traditional red surkhi mortar. Brick courses are interspersed with decorative ceramic tile courses. The flooring is made from terrazzo.