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.
Rambu house (Seh Dokan house) is one of the finest homes in the Asheqan Arefan quarter of Kabul’s old city and one of a few remaining homes that retain timber patai screens (a façade system of sliding timber windows and fixed screens) on all four internal elevations. Arranged on two storeys, with a small secondary courtyard to the east, it shows the evolution of decorative styles from different periods, with the south-facing range perhaps being the oldest. The house has space to accommodate nine households, with three staircases providing access to the upper rooms on three sides of the courtyard house while the fourth side contains shared facilities such as bath and kitchen.
The building was in a poor state of repair and presented severe structural problems when first surveyed by AKTC team in 2003. An agreement was signed with the owners in 2006, when restoration began. Restoration works entailed the re-building of the western wing, which was tilting, the introduction of toilet facilities on both floors and the rebuilding of rooms on the rooftop. Cleaning and repairing of the finely plastered rooms was conducted in parallel to the restoration of the woodwork of the façade. Some unusual carved timber doors, which might date from an earlier house on the same site, were discovered during the course of the works, and restored. Paving of the courtyard was completed in mid-2007 when the property was handed back to its owners.