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December 8, 2017

Culture – a springboard for social development


December 8, 2017

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) focuses on the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalisation of communities in the developing world. It comprises the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, the Aga Khan Music Initiative, the on-line resource and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.
Founded in 1988, AKTC is an integral part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a family of institutions created by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, with distinct yet complementary mandates to improve the welfare and prospects of people in countries in the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa.
AKTC seeks to leverage the unique transformative power of culture to improve socio-economic conditions of communities that have a rich cultural heritage, but inadequate resources. AKTC’s model is based on utilising cultural assets as catalysts for economic development, restoring pride and improving the quality of life. The Aga Khan has placed significant importance on preserving culture and its impact on the socio-economic development of societies and nations. “… The [Aga Khan Trust for Culture's] support to historic communities demonstrates how conservation and revitalisation of the cultural heritage - in many cases the only asset at the disposal of the community - can provide a springboard for social development. We have also seen how such projects can have a positive impact well beyond conservation, promoting good governance, the growth of civil society, a rise in incomes and economic opportunities, greater respect for human rights and better stewardship of the environment.” he said.
AKTC’s experience of ‘culture in development’ has received meaningful support and facilitation through dynamic public-private partnerships, especially in Gilgit-Baltistan and Lahore.
Gilgit-Baltistan: 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. The conservation of the 700 years old Baltit Fort, and the historic settlements of Karimabad in the Hunza Valley, were the first major interventions of Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP), completed in 1996 through AKTC’s country affiliate, the Aga Khan Cultural Service-Pakistan (AKCSP).
The forts in Baltit and Altit in Hunza have been converted into local history museums and cultural centres while the Shigar Fort and Khaplu Palace Residence in Baltistan have been restored to serve as hotels, generating employment for the local communities. In Altit, the Leif Larsen Music Centre was established to facilitate local musicians and document the musical traditions of Hunza and neighbouring valleys.
The impact of the conservation of landmark monuments has since fostered an awareness of traditional construction techniques. In 2009, AKCSP helped design and construct the Shigar Abruzzi School, the first purpose-built structure using traditional materials of timber and stone. A similar community-built project was the new Jamia Masjid Shigar, also built in a traditional style.
Lahore: AKTC made technical contributions to a World Bank funded area development “pilot”, the Shahi Guzargah Project in the Walled City of Lahore, in 2006. This led to the signing of a public-private partnership framework agreement with the Government of Punjab in 2007.
The first phase of the Shahi Guzargah Project, completed in 2014, comprised design and infrastructure improvement, and the documentation of major Mughal period monuments. Additionally, an integrated project, partly supported by the German Foreign Ministry, was initiated for the conservation of 12 historic homes in Gali Surjan Singh. These efforts established design standards for both infrastructure and architecture that the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) is now replicating in the rest of the project area.
In June 2015, the conservation of the 17th century Shahi Hammam - a public bathhouse in Delhi Gate, was completed. The 1,000 square meter complex was rehabilitated and included conservation and display of the original waterworks, drainage and heating networks. Managed by WCLA, now serves as a museum.
The comprehensive documentation of the Wazir Khan Mosque was the basis for the conservation of the 85-meter long north façade of the Mosque in 2016. In addition, rehabilitation of the Chowk Wazir Khan was completed in August this year with co-funding from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
Conservation of Shahburj, the most prestigious part of the Lahore Fort was initiated in July 2017 with grants from the Norwegian Government and the Government of Punjab. AKTC is also providing assistance to the Government of Punjab in the preparation of a Master Conservation and Re-Development Plan for the Walled City of Lahore.
Accolades: AKTC has received the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation every year from 2002 to 2014, and again in 2016. In addition, AKTC has won other prestigious awards including ‘Time Magazine Asia: Best of Asia Award, British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award and the Responsible Tourism Award’. These international awards are recognition of the quality of conservation work done by AKTC, and are indicative of the splendid heritage of Pakistan.

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