Breathing new life into the legacy of past civilisations calls for a creativity, imagination, tolerance, understanding, and wisdom well beyond the ordinary. The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP), established in 1992, implements conservation, urban revitalization and area development projects in historically significant sites of the Islamic world undertaking the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures and public spaces in ways that spur social, economic and cultural development. Its projects seek to mobilize local potential and resources in order to ensure their eventual self-sustainability through operational income, human resource development and institutional management capabilities. Through this integrated approach, the Programme seeks to demonstrate that strengthening cultural identity can go hand in hand with socio-economic progress.
Going beyond mere restoration of monuments, the Programme engages in activities related to adaptive re-use, contextual urban planning and the improvement of housing, infrastructure and public spaces. It carries out related socio-economic development initiatives directed at upgrading local living conditions and improving quality of life.
Investments in single project locations or regions are coordinated with other Aga Khan Development Network programmes so that they reinforce each other as they grow together into a critical mass for positive change. In all project locations, community participation and training of local professionals are essential components.
Prominently located in axis with the principal entrance of Sunder Nursery stands the tomb now referred to as Sunder Burj. With exquisitely ornamented plasterwork on the ceilings, unique in Delhi, this early 16th century building is amongst the earliest buildings built during the Mughal reign and stands within the World Heritage Site Buffer Zone. In design, the building resembles Lakkarwala Burj and has a similar band of Quranic inscriptions encircling the inner walls at lintel level.
Beyond doubt, the most significant aspect of Sundarwala Burj is the ornamental ceiling of star patterns, comparable to a wall painting and reminiscent of the Persian wooden ceilings which were, most certainly, the inspiration for this early Mughal period building. The stucco work comprises of stars arranged in concentric circles with the cluster pentagons, generating from the crown of squinch arches arising from the four corners. The soffit of the squinch arches itself is decorated with stucco work forming a small dome supported by a network of arches.
Sunder Burj suffered severe decay to the decorative plasterwork due to water seepage from the terrace. 20th century and later repair works using modern materials such as cement had adversely affected the original architectural integrity and caused further deterioration.
Conservation works undertaken with the AFCP (Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation) Grant, were preceded by a year-long programme of scientific investigation, material and architectural documentation by the ASI-AKTC team. The architectural study was coupled with a focused archival research programme, Structural analysis by a UK based consultant, High definition survey using 3D laser scanning equipment, detailed condition mapping and GPRS (Ground Penetrating Radar Survey) of the site– all aimed at making this a model conservation project in the Indian context.