Masood Khan

Understanding the Urban Heritage: The Cultural Wire-Scape of Historic Lahore

South Asia’s rich architectural heritage continues to defy several forces that militate against its continued existence: the tumultuous history of the region, climate not very conducive to durable architecture and the less than adequate capacities of state institutions established during colonial rule to protect heritage. Yet the historic urban fabric that provides the ubiquitous monumental heritage its living context is fast withering away against an unending tide of societal neglect. In this context, agencies that arrive with the conviction that this urban heritage must play a role in economic and social development struggle with several obstacles—cultural disjuncture, institutional failures, the long term impact of historical trauma, the nexus of social and political forces affecting urban micro-economics, dated and simplistic notions of heritage and its preservation—in working to secure traditional historic places against the externalities of an under- or unregulated environment. In Lahore where even keeping up with the need to have people housed and provided with descent urban amenities is an uphill struggle, efforts to make the urban heritage play a role in social development must address the built environment on numerous fronts, some of them using methods quite new on the local scene. While these efforts must address issues of the place of the historic urban core in its larger territorial setting, deal with institutional inadequacies, and provide technical knowhow for the preservation of the monumental architecture, getting to grips with the surviving residential neighborhoods and advancing the idea of participatory urban conservation has yielded some results that await replication on a larger scale.

Masood Khan

Heritage Consultant

Masood Khan runs a consulting practice based in Massachusetts and has worked on historic buildings, settlements and cities for over 25 years. He studied history theory and criticism of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earlier graduated in architecture at the National College of Arts, Lahore. He works as a senior urban planner and architect with the Historic Cities Programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and has led the project for the Lahore Walled City for the Trust for six years. He has also prepared planning and conservation frameworks for Masyaf in Syria and Khorog in Tajikistan. These projects contained significant community participation and development components. His adaptive re-use and settlement conservation work in the northern mountains of Pakistan has won several UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage awards, including the highest award for the Shigar Fort Residence project.

Masood Khan was visiting faculty until 1994 at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT and Harvard, and earlier in his career taught at the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan.