In 1981, the Lahore Fort precinct and its 21 surviving monuments were inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Surrounded by an inner fortification wall encircling approximately 19.5 hectares of royal structures and formal gardens, the Fort was largely built and developed in its current configuration between 1556 and 1707 by four Mughal emperors – Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb – after which it was extensively modified during the Sikh and British periods.
The Lahore Fort Picture Wall is one of the principal features of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is about 460 meters (1,510 feet) long, with an average height of 16 meters (50 feet) and forms the northern and western façade of the Lahore Fort. Together with the Shah Burj Gate (Hathi Pol), the Picture Wall forms the original entrance to the Fort. Built approximately 400 years ago; it is among some of the most exquisite features of the Lahore Fort and is one of the largest murals in the world. Parts of the wall are extensively embellished in cut brickwork, cut glazed tile mosaic work, filigree work and painted lime plaster. The wall consists of an array of exquisitely decorated recessed panels, and the eaves and brackets of pavilions and other roof top structures are carved in sandstone and marble-work inlaid with semi-precious stones.
Starting in September 2015, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and its country affiliate, the Aga Khan Cultural Service-Pakistan, under a number of partnership agreements with the Walled City of Lahore Authority, has been engaged in the conservation of the Lahore Fort. Detailed studies on the Lahore Fort and an extensive documentation of the Picture Wall were generously supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, and involved using a 3-D laser scanner and Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) devices, as well as high-resolution ortho-rectified photography coupled together.
After the completion of detailed documentation, a technical review of the challenges pertaining to the conservation of various decorative elements led to the selection of a 10 meter wide and 15 meter high section of the western façade of the wall for prototype conservation, which was to inform the Picture Wall’s conservation principles and methodologies. This commenced in late November 2016 and culminated in an International Workshop held at the Lahore Fort in January 2018.
Pakistan Project Brief. Lahore: Aga Khan Cultural Service - Pakistan, 2019.
As it enters its third decade of dedication to cultural development work in Pakistan, the mission of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has taken on renewed and heightened importance against the backdrop of the challenges that the country is facing, thereby emphasizing the importance of arts and culture in promoting understanding and collaboration among peoples inside and outside Pakistan, and thus, contribute to peace and security.
AKTC became active in Northern Pakistan in 1989, in response to concerns that the unique culture of the area was under threat due to developments that followed the completion of the Karakoram Highway in 1978. Increased accessibility to hitherto remote valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan, which were part of the old Central Asian Silk Route but which had remained inaccessible to vehicular traffic, coupled with the impact of tourism, introduced a rapid transformation of local customs and economic patterns, which called for new strategic development visions and adapted procedures capable of steering ongoing rapid change.
The Project Brief also details AKTC's involvement in the Walled City of Lahore including restoration work on Mughal heritage such as the Lahore Fort Picture Wall and Imperial Kitchens, the Shahi Hammam and Wazir Khan Mosque.