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.
Between 1490 and 1494 (895-900 AH) Amir Alisher Nawai, who was then custodian of the Gazurgah site, created a garden adjoining the shrine of Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, which became one of several formal gardens established by members of the Timurid court north of the city of Herat. Nawai had two pavilions built, of which only the Namakdan-e Olya at the east end of what was known as Bagh-e Naw, survives.
The Namakdan pavilion, named after its resemblance to a traditional salt cellar, is a twelve-sided structure with a dome spanning over a central double-height octagonal space. Around this space on the first floor runs a gallery that gives access to a series of eleven iwan, niche-like rooms, that overlook the surrounding garden. During the 1950s, significant alterations were made to the pavilion which, while saving the building from collapse, radically changed its character.
In 2005, AKTC initiated restoration works on the Namakdan pavilion. After undertaking detailed surveys to assess the structural condition, earth from the roof and internal plaster were removed, so as to expose the original Timurid structural system. Work then continued on repairing the fragile brick central dome, after which a system of steel ring-beams and ties was introduced around and through the supporting brick masonry, which had seriously deformed in places. These ties were inserted into spaces left by the original timber reinforcement, which had been consumed by termites. Subsequently, the brick masonry footings were strengthened, using lime mortar as had been employed in the original structure. With these repairs completed, work began on removing the modern intermediate floor that divided the double-height space of the pavilion. During the course of this work, a pool was rediscovered, along with traces of a waterfall and channel, all of which were subsequently reconstructed, and new stone paving was laid that now surrounds the building. During the works, traces of karbandi ribbed plaster decoration were found, along with Timurid tilework on two of the elevations. This has been stabilized and, where possible, restored according to established conservation practice. he conservation of the Namakdan pavilion has enabled an important Timurid monument to be safeguarded for future generations.