President Amadou Toumani Touré Opens Centre for Earthen Architecture in Mali
On 29 October 2010, President Amadou Toumani Touré officially opened the new Centre for Earthen Architecture in Mopti, Mali. The centre, located in the city’s Komoguel district, includes an exhibition space designed to present Mali’s rich heritage of earthen architecture to the public, a community centre with public toilets and showers, a cafeteria and a park.
This project is the outcome of a public-private partnership between the Ministry of Culture, the municipality of Mopti and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The restoration of the Great Mosque in Komoguel, which opened in 2008, was followed by regeneration work across a substantial area of the Komoguel district, including street paving, with the aim of improving living conditions for local residents.
The partnership between the Ministry of Culture and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) aims to revitalise the tradition of earthen architecture in Mali. Its initial phase saw the restoration of several mosques, including the Komoguel Mosque in Mopti, the Djingereyber Mosque in Timbuktu and the Great Mosque of Djenné. Providing professional training in traditional construction methods has been a key component of these projects, which have proved to be an invaluable source of technical, organisational and relational learning in the wider context of preserving Mali’s earthen buildings. The second phase of the earthen architecture restoration programme will include further major projects involving Mali’s rich heritage and public spaces in various regions of the country.
The centre was opened to the public on 1 November 2010.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is the cultural agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. Through its programmes the AKTC promotes debate on built environments, offers models and solutions to contemporary design challenges, and plays an active part in the physical and social revitalisation of communities in order to improve their quality of life.
For further information please contact:
Réseau Aga Khan de développement [Aga Khan Development Network](Mali)
Immeuble Niangado, sis quartier du fleuve
B.P.E 2998, Bamako-Mali
By CHURCHILL OTIENO in DohaPosted Friday, November 26 2010 at 21:00
The Government is working with the Aga Khan Development Network to restore and improve Nairobi’s City Park at a cost of nearly Sh1billion.
Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi that AKDN would help revitalise the park on a public-private-partnership basis and that a Cabinet
approval was all that was pending.
“Improving facilities at the park will make it safer for Nairobi dwellers and making it environmentally friendly will see to its sustainable use for research and tourism,” he said.
Mr Mudavadi, who is also the Minister for Local Government, spoke on the flanks of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture seminar in Doha, Qatar.
He said City Park would be restored and improved along the lines of similar projects undertaken by AKDN in eight other cities including Cairo and Bamako.
“Kenya would benefit greatly in AKDN’s technical expertise and experience in rebuilding and running similar projects elsewhere in the world. Current plans show that work on City Park will cost no less than US$10 million,” he said.
He said the project will also involve the Nairobi City Council as the host authority and the National Museums of Kenya since City Park is a gazetted site of national heritage.
Mr Mudavadi held several bilateral meetings with officials of the Qatari government, including the Minister for Energy, Dr Mohammed bin Saleh al Sada and the chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority, Mr Jassim bin Jabber al Thani.
Mr Jabber said his government was interested in investing in some of the Kenyan parastatals currently lined up for privatisation.
Dr Saleh expressed his government’s willingness to invest in Kenya’s geothermal power generation if a technical partner was identified.
This is just opposite the Aga Khan Hospital and our Darkhana on Limuru Road. There is also a market beside. I think there will be also some work done at the Market there in due time.
Presently monkeys from the forest behind rundown city park come to the Market, even cross the road and steal some food from time to times from Hirani Estate [that is an Ismaili Estate with about 49 houses] on 3rd Parklands Avenue in Nairobi.
Monkeys are quite an attraction and it is indeed surprising to see so many of them in the area. The Park will be a success for sure!
Limuru road is on the way from city center to the Unep headquarter in Gigiri.
The whole are of Parklands will see its value enhanced with the creation of a proper secure park.
I can see in the future people going there even at night eating miskaki and other food in a secure environment, Forodhani style - that would be a first in our city named Nairobery
(Nicolai Ouroussof | DP-News- The New York times)
ALEPPO— At first glance it seems an unremarkable scene: a quiet plaza shaded by date palms in the shadow of this city’s immense medieval Citadel, newly restored to its looming power. Foreign tourists sit side by side with people whose families have lived here for generations; women, both veiled and unveiled, walk arm in arm past a laborer hauling tools into an old government building being converted into a hotel.
But this quiet plaza is the centerpiece of one of the most far-thinking preservation projects in the Middle East, one that places as much importance on people as it does on the buildings they live in. The project encompasses the rebuilding of crumbling streets and the upgrading of city services, the restoration of hundreds of houses in the historic Old City, plans for a 42-acre park in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and the near-decade-long restoration of the Citadel itself, whose massive walls dominate the skyline of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and a gem of Islamic architecture.
The effort, led by a German nonprofit group and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture working with local government, is the culmination of a major philosophical shift among preservationists in the region. It seeks to reverse a 50-year history during which preservation, by myopically focusing on restoring major architectural artifacts, sometimes destroyed the communities around them. Other restoration efforts have also sparked gentrification, driving the poor from their homes and, at their worst, fostering rage that plays into the hands of militants.
By offering an array of financial and zoning incentives to homeowners and shopkeepers, this approach has already helped stabilize impoverished communities in a part of the world where the most effective social programs for the poor are often still run by extremist organizations like Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The project in Aleppo is quite an exceptional model,” said Daniele Pini, a preservationist who has worked for Unesco, the United Nations cultural arm, throughout the region. In places like Cairo and Jordan, he said, those who would restore historic buildings and those who live in them are often at loggerheads. The Aleppo plan, he said, “allows people to adapt the old houses to the needs of modern life.”
Correcting Past Blunders
The role of postwar urban planning in the rise of fundamentalism is well documented. In the 1950s and ’60s nationalist governments in countries like Egypt, Syria and Iraq typically viewed the congested alleys and cramped interiors of historic centers not as exotic destinations for tourists but as evidence of a backward culture to be erased. Planners carved broad avenues through dense cities, much as Haussmann had before them in Paris. Families that had lived a compartmentalized existence — with men often segregated from women in two- or three-story courtyard houses — were forced into high-rises with little privacy, while the wealthy fled for villas in newly created suburbs.
But while preservationists may have scorned Modernist housing blocks, they were often just as insensitive to the plight of local residents who got in their way. Even as they worked to restore architectural monuments in the Muslim world, they could be disdainful of the dense urban fabric that surrounded these sites. Neighborhoods were sometimes bulldozed to clear space around landmarks so they would be more accessible to tourists.
Agencies like Unesco often steered governments toward a Western-style approach to preservation. Traditionally a family might have built onto a house to accommodate a newly married son, for instance, adding a floor or a shop out front. But those kinds of changes were often prohibited under preservation rules.
“The word ‘athar’ — ‘antiquities’ — became a horrible word because it meant preserving our houses but not our traditions,” said Omar Hallaj, the chief executive of the Syria Trust for Development and a preservationist who has worked in Syria and Yemen.
These tensions grew with the boom in global tourism, as cities around the world sought to give travelers the “authentic” experience they craved, but in a safe, tidy and germ-free environment. The Old City of Damascus, for example, has in the last decade become a major draw both for the international tourist set and for Arabs who began traveling closer to home after Sept. 11. According to informed estimates, the number of foreign visitors to Syria has quadrupled over the last five years.
Even as the city government races to preserve its character, its courtyard houses are being converted into boutique hotels and fashionable restaurants. Many 20th-century structures — including impressive examples of early modern architecture from the time of the French mandate period — remain unprotected. The city has introduced incentives to keep some homeowners, but many preservationists think it’s too late.
Militant Islamic hardliners, meanwhile, have had equal disdain for both the modernizers and for the preservationists, many of them Western, who followed them.
“I remember when we first moved into the city of Zabid in Yemen, the local imam started going to the mosque saying, ‘The Germans are here to transform your towns into cabarets and brothels,’ ” Mr. Hallaj said.
What many militant extremists are fixated on is a utopia of the past: a vision of Islam in the era of the Prophet. Not only Western influence, but also three centuries of Ottoman rule — the period when the fabric of most Arab cities was created — is seen as a form of corruption.
“What is interesting about this whole argument between the modernizers on the one hand and fundamentalists on the other is that it all happens on the level of ideology,” Malise Ruthven, a historian who has written books on Islamic fundamentalism, said in a recent interview. Mohamed Atta, the central planner of the 9/11 attacks, once wrote an urban planning thesis on the Old City of Aleppo in which he said he wanted to tear out centuries’ worth of buildings, Mr. Ruthven said. He dreamed of “an Islamic city that was pure and unchanged — frozen in aspic.”
Benefits for Residents
At first sight the plan for Aleppo’s rehabilitation may not seem a radical departure from preservation as usual. Led by GTZ, a nonprofit organization owned by the German government, it began with a two-year analysis of the city’s historic structures that included hundreds of interviews with residents.
With GTZ’s guidance the government began laying more than 323 miles of sewage and water pipes, removing the webs of dilapidated electrical wiring that stretched across its alleyways and replacing missing cobblestones. To encourage building owners and their tenants to stay, the group set up a pilot program that offered interest-free construction loans. For those who accepted, it helped ensure that any renovations followed preservation guidelines.
“The rationale was that if the state is forcing preservation on people,” Mr. Hallaj said, “then the state has a responsibility to pay for that burden. So if they want a historical hand-carved window instead of an aluminum one, the state pays the difference.” Other incentives were put in place to encourage local businesses to stay — the kind of small neighborhood commercial establishments whose importance was championed by urban thinkers like Jane Jacobs.
What makes the project such an auspicious model for the region, though, is its clear grasp of how architecture can both shape and define relationships among social groups. Long before developers got an inkling of what was going on, GTZ and its government partners divided the Old City into zones, with new hotels and restaurants confined to two areas, one around the Citadel and the other in the Jdayde neighborhood. (GTZ describes Jdayde as an area of crooked streets and tiny shops with a large Christian population that would be more accepting of tourists than some of the more heavily Muslim areas.)
These zones, in turn, are being anchored by increasingly ambitious — and often architecturally magnificent — public spaces. The first, Al-Hatab Square in Jdayde, is a small patch of stone shaded by a few trees. Once partly built over with squalid sheds, the square has become a vibrant mix of Syrian families and foreign tourists, framed by old jewelry shops, fish markets and cafes.
It has been a decade since the Aga Khan Trust for Culture began its meticulous restoration of the Citadel. Its enormous moat was cleared of garbage and lined with low-growing plants. The ruins of houses and shops built by Ottoman soldiers stationed here in the 18th century, and destroyed in the 1828 earthquake were torn down. The mazelike interior walls — a monument to medieval paranoia designed to keep invaders from reaching the court’s inner sanctum — were cleared of rubble.
Just as important is the social vision behind it. The road surrounding the Citadel, which choked it with cars and exhaust fumes, has been replaced by a pedestrian walkway bordered by the newly landscaped moat on one side and scattered historical buildings on the other. Many of these are being beautifully restored, including a palatial 1930 neo-Classical structure that is being transformed into a hotel by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. But if some of them — former government ministries built during the early half of the 20th century — are being turned into luxurious hotels for the wealthy, it is the buildings, not the public, that seem to be confined behind iron gates.
What’s particularly striking is the sense of shared ownership and belonging. The poor seem as comfortable strolling along the Citadel’s paths as the rich, which is all the more striking given that Syria is controlled by the authoritarian government of Bashar al-Assad and the ruling Baath Party. It is a expression of how public space, when thoughtfully designed, can promote a more egalitarian vision of civic life.
This atmosphere filters into the surrounding streets. The cobblestones look freshly scrubbed; the heavy wood shutters that front the old shops have yet to acquire the patina of age. But the clash of historical styles and eras that shaped Aleppo — and that made it one of the world’s great cosmopolitan centers — have not been smoothed over. And for the moment at least, you get the encouraging feeling that it is possible to push back at the forces of displacement. It’s a city being adapted for human beings, not for some abstract vision of a global consumer.
There is more to come. A few months ago the Aga Khan Trust for Culture began building the foundations for the 42-acre park in an impoverished neighborhood just outside one of the gates of the Old City. This hilltop site is now strewn with garbage. A sprawling asphalt parking lot borders it on one side; crumbling modern apartment blocks — the kind that 9/11’s mastermind envisioned demolishing — and decrepit 19th-century houses line the other.
The project, which is being modeled on an earlier one in Cairo, Al-Azhar Park, will feature rambling walkways and gardens with views over the Old City to the refurbished Citadel. The trust plans to train local people in traditional crafts like carpentry and stonecutting so they can take part in the park’s construction.
In a speech he gave in Aleppo two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Aga Khan described his mission as creating an intellectual garden “where there would be no possibility of suffocation from the dying weeds of dogma” and “beauty would be seen in the articulation of difference,” a statement crystallizing what preservationists hope will happen now in Aleppo.
A Search for Continuity
The tricky question — and the one that may have the most longstanding impact for the Middle East — is whether Aleppo can carry its vision of social and historical continuity into the future. The government recently started an architectural competition for a new cultural complex that will include a 1,600-seat opera house, library and exhibition space in an area built during the French mandate.
And the city’s mayor, Maan Chibli, said that he recently asked GTZ to help plan for the redevelopment of the informal ramshackle settlements that have sprouted on Aleppo’s outskirts.
“These settlements date from the 1970s,” Mr. Chibli said. “They are part of a social pattern that leads back to the old villages. Someone arrives, then his brother follows. So the idea, as before, is not to destroy these areas. It is to begin by providing them with infrastructure and services, then work programs.”
But how to make the final link between historic preservation and the creation of a contemporary city remains blurry. Many preservationists working here, including some at GTZ, see the last 70 years as unworthy of their interest. And most contemporary architects, whose clients are almost uniformly drawn from the global elite, are out of touch with the complex political realities of the poor in the region.
These are not merely esoteric issues. They have to do with the real lessons that cities like Aleppo and Damascus can teach. Their power is not just the beauty of historical layers. It is that the coexistence of those layers, often piled one on top of the other, embodies a world in which every generation — including ours — has the right to a voice and individual creativity triumphs over ideological difference. It is the point at which tradition and modernity are no longer in violent conflict.
Historical Qazi Garden To Be Restored In Old Kabul
December 27, 2010 by ismailimail Leave a Comment
In humanitarian news, the United States donates US$533,000 to restore a historic Afghan garden. The US Agency for International Development is collaborating with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Kabul Municipality to complete phase two of the project to replenish Kabul’s historic Baghe Qazi garden.
Nizamuddin area to get a facelift
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 26
The Hazrat Nizamuddin area may soon see a makeover as the streetscaping, electricity and water plans for the area that houses many of the Capital's historical monuments are finally under the planning stage.
The initial proposal floated by the Aga Khan Trust Foundation has been approved and the details are now being worked upon by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. As per the memorandum of understanding (MoU), the urban renewal project of the area is being jointly looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), MCD and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The area was supposed to get a facelift for the Commonwealth Games, but the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was unable to finish the project on time. Now, the task has been taken up again and is likely to be completed by the next year. If all goes according to the plan, the project would ensure better footpaths, greener roads, an enhanced storm water drainage system and cleaner community toilets.
The Hazrat Nizamuddin area is broadly classified into three zones: the Nizamuddin Basti, Sunder Nursery and the Humayun Tomb. The basti has been a challenging area as it required strong cooperation amongst all the MoU partners and after a lot of consideration, the plans have taken off.
"The MCD held consultations with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture before going ahead with the project. The Nizamuddin Basti sees thousands of visitors every day and it is necessary for the place to be restored in a way that would make the visitors and the residents feel comfortable," said Farhad Suri, councillor of the area.
The first phase, which would take five months for completion, would comprise hard landscaping or concrete work on Dargah and Market Street, Ghalib Road, Plaza and Baoli Gate.
According to the redevelopment plan, the MCD will construct toilets, special parking and foothpaths. In the first phase, all the overhead cables in the area will be made underground.
"We have paid Rs 50 lakh to BSES for this work. They are likely to start the work sometime next week. Once this is over, we will start the streetscaping project," said Suri.
"The basti has a dense population and attracts even international visitors and pilgrims every year. In order to improve the quality of life of the residents, it was necessary to carry out a major street revamp by providing interlocking tiles and relaying of storm water drain wherever required," said a senior MCD official.
Added Ratish Nanda, project head, Aga Khan Trust Foundation, "One has to cross the basti to reach the dargah or other important historical monuments. There is a need to beautify all the five approaches to the dargah and for this the MCD has given approval of Rs 9 crore for the project."
Nizamuddin gets a makeover
February 03, 2011 9:00:26 PM
Architect Archana Saad Akhtar has designed digital photo prints and paintings to highlight the restoration work at the heritage sites in Nizamuddin. Ila Sankrityayan reports
Huge wooden frames with an explanatory notes on history, architecture and restoration work undertaken at the heritage sites are greeting the visitors walking past the Humayun Tomb these days. The wooden projections specially designed by architect and designer Archana Saad Akhtar are installed at the tomb under the programme Site Exhibit.
The frames use digital prints to showcase the restoration work and the ongoing projects undertaken by Aga Khan Trust for Culture at the heritage sites in Nizamuddin. The objective of the entire programme is to give the visitors and tourists information about the Mughal architecture and culture. The digital prints of photographs, paintings and bilingual text explain the character, rise and reign of emperor Humayun.
“We need to know about the history of our monuments and we should be aware of the work being done by the Trust to protect these sites. I was always interested in historical interpretation and wanted to do something for preserving the heritage. Besides the restoration work being done at the tomb, the project includes the development work at Hazrat Nizamuddin basti and Sunder Nursery,” informs Akhtar.
The restored cells on the ground floor of the west gateway of the tomb have been used to install this exhibition. 12 panels and an architectural model in the north wing contain text and pictures related to Humayun’s Tomb while eight panels on the south side explain the ongoing Urban Renewal Partnership project. “The exhibition was installed following cultural Secretary’s direction, issued to provide more information to the visitors,” says Akhtar.
The conservation work highlighted in the exhibit includes removal of 20th century cement and replacement with lime plaster, restoring hand crafted sandstone screens and providing new sandstone flooring.
The exhibit also features heritage conservation, socio-economic, urban and environment development.
Exhibit highlights conservation work at Humayun’s Tomb complex, Sunder Nursery monuments and Hazrat Nizamuddin basti. “The mausoleum of Humayun was built in 1565 AD and established the paradigm for Mughal architecture in the context of setting and craftsmanship. Its peripheral buildings were found to be in urgent need of conservation, and preservation works are now being carried out on the main mausoleum and other buildings within the complex such as the monumental gateways and pavilions,” explains Akhtar.
The conservation of Sunder Nursery, that stands on the Grand Trunk Road and is home to several significant monuments dating from the 16th century, is also a part of the exhibit. The next part is the conservation of Nizamuddin basti that falls on the west of Humayun’s Tomb and is a store of landmark structures built during the Mughal and pre-Mughal period.
The exhibit also focusses on three major areas, urban improvement and health and education measures undertaken by Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). “Their goal is to offer a hygienic environment to those residing in the area. AKDN is aiming at lifestyle changes, accessible and improved health care for women and children in the area,” she elaborates and adds, “There are theatre, painting and craft workshops being organised for the awareness of youth in the basti.”
The environmental development initiatives include re-development of Sunder Nursery into an urban park with a significant ecological resource, the landscaping and ecological treatment of the Barahpulah nallah in Nizamuddin basti and the rehabilitation and development of the Nila Gumbad park besides landscaping of urban parks within the basti. “Work in Sunder Nursery and the development of urban parks in Hazrat Nizamuddin basti is already underway,” concludes Akhtar.
Urban renewal through cultural revitalisation transforms Mughal monument into a locus of opportunity for residents
A view of the western facade of Humayun’s tomb after the garden restoration was completed. Conservation work on the mausoleum is ongoing. Photo: Courtesy of AKTC
Aftab Jalia works with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Delhi, and, as Project Architect for the Sunder Nursery, is part of an initiative to revitalise the area surrounding Humayun’s Tomb and Gardens and improve the quality of life of the residents in the neighbouring Nizamuddin district. A graduate of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT, he shares some insight on the progress of the project and its impact on the surrounding community.
» Also see related photo gallery
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, Mawlana Hazar Imam gifted the restoration of the gardens of Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — to the country. The 450-year-old Mughal monument is the resting place of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, and is popularly known as an artistic precursor to the 17th century monument the Taj Mahal. The success of the restoration — which was undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in 2003 — led to a larger “Urban Renewal Initiative” in the neighbouring Nizamuddin District.
A young girl from Nizamuddin Basti cuts sanjhi patterns. Raising awareness among residents about the rich cultural heritage of the neighbourhood they live in is part of the conservation effort. Photo: Courtesy of AKTC
Initiated in 2007, the urban renewal aims to revitalise the cultural and built heritage on the site of the Tomb — the historic Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, (which predates the Tomb by almost two centuries) and the adjacent Sunder Nursery. The project is visionary as it brings together five institutions: Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Central Public Works Department, the Aga Khan Foundation and AKTC in a public-private partnership. It is notable for combining conservation with environmental and socio-economic development, while working with local communities and stakeholders.
One of the initiative’s achievements is the organisation of a handicrafts exhibition by women of Nizamuddin Basti at Delhi’s renowned Dastkar Mela in October. Through a self-help group created by AKTC, the women produced exquisite paper products such as book covers, lanterns, lamp shades, greeting cards and wall hangings. In addition to generating a source of income, the group affords the women a creative outlet for expressing their ideas through this traditional Indian craft.
A dense ensemble of medieval Islamic buildings, the Nizamuddin Basti is the resting place of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, one of India’s most venerated Sufi saints. As part of the urban renewal initiative, young boys from the Basti received months of instruction about the rich cultural heritage of their neighbourhood and now conduct heritage walks. They have also benefited from English language and computer training programmes.
In March 2010, AKTC organised “Jashn-e Khusrau”, a festival of qawwali and other Sufi traditions of music and poetry that drew 10 000 people from across Delhi to the Nizamuddin Basti. Photo: Courtesy of AKTC
The initiative has gone even further: organising a festival of Qawwali and other Sufi music traditions that drew 10 000 people from across Delhi to the Basti; redeveloping a local primary school and enhancing its curriculum; and, improving sanitation and hygiene conditions through the construction of public toilet facilities, which are managed by residents who have been trained through the project.
“It is a remarkable initiative,” said Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India during a visit to the Basti in February. “I had attended the first meeting when the idea of conserving the Tomb was conceived and I am glad to see the work done here. It is commendable and quite in keeping with AKTC’s work across the world.”
On the opposite side of Humayun’s Tomb and Garden complex, conservation work on the 70-acre Sunder Nursery is underway, which will see it transformed into a public park. When completed in 2012, the garden will contain over 300 species of plants and trees dotted with monuments. A nine-acre dedicated micro-habitat zone features plants and trees that can be found in the forests of Delhi and surrounding areas. A planned interpretation centre will invite students and nature lovers to further explore aspects of the park that are unique to the-region. Its proximity to Humayun’s Tomb is expected to make it a thriving hub of ecological and cultural activity for the citizens of Delhi and tourists alike.
Workers plant on the micro-habitat mounds in Sunder Nursery in March 2010. Photo: Courtesy of AKTC
Indeed, the rush of visitors has already begun. In November the President and First Lady of the United States, Barack and Michelle Obama, toured the Mughal monument for 45 minutes and were visibly impressed.
“Through the rise and fall of empires, Indian civilisation has endured and led the world to new heights of achievement,” wrote the President in the visitor's book. “The world owes a profound debt to India and its people.”
The Delhi Urban Platform in collaboration with the Aga Khan Development Network invites you to a discussion on-
Heritage and the City
4 pm, Saturday the 8th of January 2011, the South Gateway to Humayun’s Tomb
Az naksh o nigar dar o divar shikasteh
Asar padidast sanadid ‘ajam ra
From the images and designs of the broken walls and gates
Are seen the traces of the noblemen of ‘Ajam (Persia)
n ‘Urfi (d. 1560)
This sh’er was used by Sayyad Ahmad Khan as the prelude to his magisterial book on the ruins of Delhi, the Asar-us-Sanadid (1847, 1854)
In Delhi we are surrounded by dar o divar shikasteh, the broken walls and gates of ruins and monuments, remainders (and reminders) of the city’s pre-modern past. A set of volumes that painstakingly documents these extant remains calls them the city’s “built heritage” – and a dominant understanding of these ruins sees them as Heritage. But the word itself seems to be little thought about in public discourse.
Heritage cannot be understood without the concept of inheritance. If we think of these buildings as heritage then what exactly is inherited through these buildings? And who is it that inherits? Is inheritance (and hence, Heritage) universal; or is it about individuals, families, communities? These questions become crucial in a city where the traces of the past are often enmeshed in legal, political and commercial struggles. Struggles which are not ends in themselves, but which determine how we relate to the city’s past, inhabit its present, and imagine its future.
To think through the problematics of heritage and the city, we bring together a panel consisting of archaeologists, conservationists, historians, journalists and religious leaders; who will approach the issue of heritage through their own experiences and engagements with the city and its pasts. The discussion will take place near the Southern Gateway of the Humayun’s Tomb Complex.
Ratish Nanda, Consevationist, Aga Khan Development Network
AGK Menon, Urban Planner and Conservation consultant
KK Mohammad, Director, Delhi Circle, Archaeological Survey of India
Sunil Kumar, Professor of History, Delhi University
Farid Nizami, Naib Sajjadah, Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin
Mayank Austen Soofj, Blogger, Writer and Journalist
Venue and Access:
The panel will be held in the South Gateway to Humayun’s Tomb. Access is through the conventional ticketed entry at the main gateway to the complex, and then walking into the Humayun’s Tomb enclosure through the western (standard) gate. Once inside the charbagh of the main tomb, the southern gateway is diagonally to your right, across the lawns.
As this is an ASI protected site, you will have to pay the entry fee to enter the site. While this is a nominal amount for South Asian citizens and Indian residents (10 rupees); it is a much higher charge for foreign visitors (250 rupees/5dollars). We apologize for this, and urge you to make the most of your money by coming in a couple of hours before the event and exploring the vast grounds of the complex and the many different structures present, and soaking in the January sun.
In distant times, it flourished as one of the western extremities of the ancient Silk Road before being ransacked by Mongols and devastated by earthquakes. These days, however, the northern Syrian city of Aleppo is acquiring a renewed appreciation of its monumental past, sprucing up its historic Citadel and medina with the help of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Other aspects of this ancient city's allure — like the heady mix of cultures from Kurdish to Armenian and Circassian — have never changed. Here are five Aleppo essentials.
3-year standoff ends, Nila Gumbad to be part of Humayun Tomb complex
New Delhi : A year and several frantic letters to the Prime Minister and senior Railways officials later, a plot of land surrounding the Nila Gumbad has been handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). With this, the Mughal-era monument abutting the World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb will finally be integrated with the Tomb Complex.
Following a three-year long standoff between the ASI and Railways, the two bodies have finally resolved the issue of land transfer. Sources said that the move came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened and sought a status report on the issue following newspaper reports and letters from ministers and conservationists seeking his intervention.
“A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the ASI and Railways about two weeks ago. Land approximately 42 m on north and south and about 8 m east of Nila Gumbad has been transferred to the ASI for integration with the Humayun’s Tomb and development of the monument,” said a senior Railways official.
The ASI and Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which is working on the Humayun’s Tomb Complex as part of its urban renewal plan in the area, will now be able to integrate the Nila Gumbad with the Complex. The Mughal-era monument is said to be originally linked to the Humayun’s Tomb but was separated in the 1970s when a sewer line and a road cut through the plot. The integration, now, is expected to facilitate easy visitor access to the Nila Gumbad and also in re-develop the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site.
Burnaby mayor excited as Aga Khan park gift progresses
By KIM PEMBERTON, Vancouver Sun January 13, 2011
METRO VANCOUVER -- Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said the city is very excited they were chosen by the Aga Khan Foundation to receive a gift of a nearly 14-acre community park in central Burnaby, when typically Vancouver is chosen for substantial financial gifts of this kind.
Although Prince Aga Khan announced his intention to build a park for the community two years ago, on his 50th jubilee celebration, it is again in the news as nine public consultation meetings for it ended Thursday. (The public still has time to send in their ideas for the park directly to Burnaby Parks Department before the representative for the Aga Khan Foundation receives the information later this month.)
Corrigan said he had the honour of meeting the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili people two years ago who told him "he's never forgotten Burnaby was the first site of a mosque in B.C. and welcomed the Ismaili community."
"He has built parks around the world. The most recent one in Cairo. This is a mandate he's taken on to create these oasises in different parts of the world," said Corrigan. "We're pretty honoured to be the city picked for this special gift. It will be a wonderful addition to Burnaby Lake Regional Park."
Corrigan added usually "Vancouver is always the place where all the focus goes so to have Burnaby chosen is a real feather in our cap."
The park will be on 13.7 acres of land, west of the Ismaili worship centre just east of Highway 1.
Corrigan said he suspects the park will be a passive recreation area that will focus on the environment — the natural birdlife and wildlife in the area. He said because it is near the Kensington Sports complex he believes many parents taking their kids there for sporting events would likely later enjoy a leisurely walk in the park with them.
He didn't know when the park would be completed, saying no timetable or budget has been made for it.
"We're in the first stages and starting to see plans coming together. I understand he (the Aga Khan) takes a direct hands-on approach. He has a love for architecture and landscape architecture.
"This is a very auspicious project and follows on the heels of the Ismaili Museum in Toronto. The Ismaili community believes strongly in Canada which is the model for multiculturalism."
Community 'honoured' to be site of Aga Khan park
By Kim Pemberton, Vancouver Sun January 14, 2011
Burnaby will be home to a large new swath of park land, thanks to the generosity of the Aga Khan Foundation.
Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan says he and his constituents are excited their city was chosen by the foundation to receive a public park in the heart of their community, particularly because Vancouver is often chosen for substantial gifts of this kind.
Prince Karim Aga Khan announced his intention to build a park for the community two years ago -- at his 50th jubilee celebration -- but it became more of a reality Thursday as nine public consultation meetings for the park wrapped up. (The public still has time to send ideas for the park directly to the Burnaby Parks Department before the representative for the Aga Khan Foundation receives the information later this month.)
Corrigan said he had the honour of meeting the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims two years ago. He told Corrigan that "he's never forgotten Burnaby was the first site of a mosque in B.C. and welcomed the Ismaili community."
"We're pretty honoured to be the city picked for this special gift. It will be a wonderful addition to Burnaby Lake Regional Park."
Corrigan added, "Vancouver is always the place where all the focus goes, so to have Burnaby chosen is a real feather in our cap."
The park will be on about 5½ hectares (nearly 14 acres) of land, west of the Ismaili worship centre just east of Highway 1. Corrigan said he suspects the park will be a passive recreation area that will focus on the environment: the natural birdlife and wildlife in the area.
He didn't know when the park would be completed, saying no timetable or budget has been made for it.
A landmark Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) project in New Delhi, India, the Urban Renewal Initiative is making enormous strides in revitalizing and unifying the three historical sites of Humayun’s Tomb, Nizamuddin Basti and Sunder Nursery into one unique heritage precinct. Powered by a non-profit public-private partnership between various agencies, the project is the first of its kind to combine conservation with environmental and socio-economic development while working with local communities and stakeholders. This initiative brings together world-class professional capabilities in all relevant areas and combines a visionary approach with local contexts and complexities. It is establishing an archetype for participatory conservation-led development of historic cities
A walk down the main thoroughfare of Darb al-Ahmar is a fascinating, raucous look at daily life in the Egyptian capital: you get honked aside by trucks and motorcycles, sideswiped by donkey carts and greeted enthusiastically by children. The area is home to the poorest population in the city, but these days many of its once decrepit mosques and palaces, from the Fatamid to the Ottoman eras, are being restored under the auspices of the Aga Khan Development Network's (AKDN) Historic Cities project.
The project has offered not only architectural but also social regeneration. Residents of Darb al-Ahmar are being trained at restoration sites as a way to revive traditional skills and ensure future maintenance of the monuments. "Crafts development is important to the economic sustainability of the people," AKDN preservation manager Dina Bakhoum says. A renovated square at the 14th century Aslam al-Silahdar Mosque allows neighborhood artisans to sell their wares. Local shopkeepers have also started stocking items catering to the burgeoning tourist trade, but the area's residential character is being strictly maintained. (See 50 essential travel tips.)
With a panoramic view of the Saladin Citadel from its gorgeous vernacular-style Citadel View restaurant, the tranquil Al-Azhar Park makes an ideal jumping-off point on this newly rich tourist itinerary. A pristine oasis built on a 500-year-old dump, Al-Azhar is the green heart of the new restoration work. One of its gates opens onto the famous City of the Dead (a vast cemetery whose mausoleums serve as makeshift homes to more than half a million living souls and their flocks of goats and cows) and, midway down the park's Ayyubid wall, a stairway in the Bab al-Mahruqi gate leads into Darb al-Ahmar and Aslam Square. This is the nexus for the principal sites of Old Cairo, with the Sultan Hassan Mosque and the Citadel to the south and Khan al-Khalili to the north.
Darb al-Ahmar's main street, Darb Shouglan, runs south past barbershops, mechanics and cafés lined with shisha smokers to the medieval Blue Mosque, so called for its colored tilework (final restorations are scheduled for completion in 2012). Farther on is the area's biggest concentration of renewed historic buildings: some Ottoman houses, the Khayer Bek Mausoleum and Mosque, the Alin Aq Palace and the Mausoleum of Tarabay al-Sharifi. From there, the intersecting Bab al-Wazir street leads straight to the massive 10th century Bab Zuweila gate, past the Bayt al-Razzaz palace (refurbished by the American Research Center in Egypt), the mosque and madrasah of Umm al-Sultan Sha'ban and the minaret of Zawiyyat al-Hunud — and beyond, to where the redesigned Islamic Art Museum has just opened to rave reviews.
The next phase of the AKDN project is the new Museum of Historic Cairo and commercial complex, which will connect to a promenade alongside Al-Azhar Park. All of this work is being seen as a prototype for similar AKDN projects in Muslim districts around the world, like New Delhi's squalid Nizamuddin Basti quarter (already initiated with the renovation of Humayun's Tomb and gardens, upon which the Taj Mahal is patterned). (See pictures of women in Cairo.)
As Darb al-Ahmar's cacophonous symphony of horns softens toward sundown and the calls to prayer crescendo and intertwine, it reveals a quieter face. "Welcome! Are you lost?" a café denizen calls out. When I smile and shake my head, he beams and answers his own question with "Not yet!" The warmth of the encounter reflects the work being done in Darb al-Ahmar. This is not a soulless tourist zone, but a heritage-rich city center, full of friendliness, vitality and a new pride.
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On a bright winter morning lines of plane trees and immaculately tended rose bushes fall away down terraces where men crash out on carpets and sheepish young couples sit as close together as they dare. The plants are fed by a central water channel, the signature feature of a Mughal garden. Below is the brown smog of Kabul; beyond, snowy mountains.
The tomb of Babur, the first Mughal emperor, blasted and pock-marked during the civil war of the 1990s, has been lovingly restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Some visitors come because it is now Kabul's most tranquil public space; some because Babur is emerging as an unlikely national hero in a country short of leaders worth admiring. People pray at the foot of his low, simple grave. One enthusiast sacrifices a buffalo to him every year and distributes the meat to the gardeners who tend the place.
Born far to the north of modern Afghanistan, Babur went to Kabul only because he had failed in Central Asia. It was Samarkand he dreamt of capturing. Yet when the demands of building an empire drove him south, he yearned to return to Kabul.
BSES to remove dangling cables from Nizamuddin Basti
NEW DELHI: The heritage-rich Nizamuddin Basti area will soon sport a new look. As part of beautification plans for the area, power distribution company BSES Rajdhani will soon be starting the process of shifting all overhead dangling cables underground. Along with this, the conventional power sub-stations in the area will also be replaced with compact, packaged sub-stations.
The Nizamuddin Basti redevelopment plans are part of a MoU signed between the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). "Upto Rs 11 crore will be spent on the improvement of the basti which has been sanctioned by MCD and will be released in instalments. The first part includes shifting of overhead electric cables underground and about Rs 65 lakh has been sanctioned for this. After this, we will also start streetscraping - the first stretch being taken up being the road leading from Mathura Road to the Dargah,'' said councilor Farhad Suri, who is spearheading the campaign to improve quality of life in Nizamuddin Basti.
Nizamuddin Basti is listed as one of the five conservation areas in Delhi under the Master Plan 2021 and is unique because a number of centrally-protected monuments including Nizamuddin baoli, Bara Khamba, Mirza Ghalib's tomb, Atgah Khan's tomb, etc., can be found here. "After shifting of electric cables, we will also take up drainage work here. Construction of parking lots is also on our agenda and we have identified land where we will construct the first parking lot for upto 120 vehicles. A number of tourists visit the Dargah and parking is a hassle for them. Even residents of the basti do not have parking space,'' added Suri. Officials said that upliftment plans for the basti will take upto a year, following which Nizamuddin Basti will have a complete makeover. "Educational programmes for children and employment for women in the basti is already underfoot. While a number of women from the basti are self-employed into jaali making, kids are being trained to become tourist guides. This helps them have a better sense of belonging for the basti,'' said an AKTC official.
Officials from discom BSES Rajdhani said they, along with AKTC, had a site survey of the basti and demarcated areas where feeder boxes and new sub-stations would be installed. "We have completed the ground work and will begin implementation within a day or two. As per the initial ground work, we will put up 14 new feeder boxes and one model sub-station. The basti has three main lanes and a few artery lanes and we plan to complete the underground cable work by March 31,'' said a senior BSES official. Officials added that another advantage of shifting overhead cables underground was that it would stop any instances of power theft from the area. "The entire concept, however, can be implemented only with the support of the basti locals. Initially there was some resistance to the plans, but with time the residents have become very supportive and want to cooperate with betterment plans for the locality,'' said officials.
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