Professor Mohammad Shaheer was a Delhi based landscape architect with a practice that started in 1976. He passed away in 2015. Dr. Shaheer was educated at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi (Architecture 1970, Urban Design 1972) and the University of Sheffield (Landscape Architecture, Ford Foundation Fellow 1972-74). He worked for two years in Northern Ireland before returning to India, where he spent the next 26 years teaching landscape architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. His practice concentrated primarily on large-scale public projects and conservation work and he was one of the most respected landscape architects in the country.
During the latter half of his academic career he was head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture. Amongst his projects, his work at Sanskriti Kendra, Delhi, is well known; also interesting are the projects for the restoration of the gardens of Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi (2001) and the restoration of the Baghe-Babur in Kabul (2006). One of Dr. Shaheer's final projects was the garden at Sunder Nursery in Delhi. He was a member in the committee of Delhi Urban Arts Commission. He was also the initiator and co-editor of a popular textbook Landscape Architecture in India: A Reader, published in 2013.
Humayun's tomb is known as the first example of the monumental scale that would characterize subsequent Mughal imperial architecture. Commissioned, it is believed, by Humayun's senior widow, Haji Begam, or by her son Akbar, the tomb is the first to mark the grave of a Mughal emperor; Humayun's father Babur, who founded the dynasty, had requested out of piety that he be buried in a garden. Humayun's Tomb is now one of the best-preserved Mughal monuments in Delhi.
The objective of the project was to revitalise the gardens, pathways, fountains and water channels of the chahar-bagh, or four-part paradise garden surrounding Humayun's tomb in Delhi, according to the original plans of the builders. Site works encompassed a variety of disciplines, including archaeology, conservation science and hydraulic engineering.
The US$ 650,000 restoration project has featured the removal of 3000 truckloads of earth (12,000 cubic meters), the planting of 12 hectares of lawn, the re-setting and alignment of over 3,000 km of path edging, the preparation by some 60 stonecutters of 2,000 meters of hand-dressed red sandstone slabs (to edge the channels), the creation of 128 ground water recharge pits, the creation of a site exhibition, and the planning and installation of a new water circulation system for the walkway channels. To ensure that water flows naturally through the channels and pools on the 12-hectare (30 acre) site without the aid of hydraulic systems, the water channels had to be re-laid to an exacting grade of one centimetre every 40 metres (1:4000 scale). Over 2500 trees and plants, including mango, lemon, neem, hibiscus and jasmine cuttings, were planted in the gardens. Long-dormant fountains have come to life.
The rehabilitation project undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture included the following main elements:
Reinstating the walkways and conserving the edging stones;
Repair, extension and reactivation of the irrigation system;
Establishing water sources for the water channels and irrigation system, including a pump station for a water recycling system;
Conserving, repairing and rebuilding, where necessary, the water channel system;
Re-levelling the planted zones and revitalising them with species and arrangements that conform to the customs and patterns of Mughal sources; and,
Supporting research that informs the conservation and restoration process, contributes to the development of educational materials for use in schools of architecture, conservation, and heritage management, as well as visitors to the Tomb.
Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Programme