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Spotlight: Salman Muhammad


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Salman MuhammadSalman Muhammad (on right) working on the digital documentation of the Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore.
Click to enlarge photograph
Salman Muhammad (ISP 04-06) has an MA degree in Conservation of Monuments and Sites from the Catholic University Leuven in Belgium and is currently working for the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan on the Lahore Walled City conservation project.

I was born and grew up in Gilgit, in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, and attended the local schools.  My father was a Civil Engineer with the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS) and due to the nature of his work, he used to stay in the project areas. During summer and winter school holidays, we used to join him, and I would travel with my father to remote villages in Gilgit, Hunza and Chitral.  Some of the projects my father worked on were the Singal Medical Center, the Karimabad Girls Academy, the Booni Hostel for girls and the Chitral hostel for boys, and from him I learned about the role of the architect in building design and was inspired by these projects to pursue Architecture as my career.

The AKF-sponsored course “Conservation of Monuments and Sites” has been invaluable for my career in a field which has a huge potential but has been sadly neglected in Pakistan. The hands-on experience in conservation during my internships and my graduate thesis project on conservation and adaptive re-use of the thousand year old Altit Fort in Hunza helped to develop in me a passion for our built heritage. Unfortunately students in architecture schools in Pakistan have no exposure to building conservation. My work experience with Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) working on the conservation of small scale monuments in Hunza and the four-hundred year old Shigar Fort provided me with opportunities to explore the field.

In the Master’s course we learned about new trends and technologies in our field and exposure visits and interaction with the international fellows and experts during the course added great value. When I returned to the Northern Areas after my course, I was able to apply my new skills during the conservation of the two-hundred year old Khaplu Palace. For example, I was able to introduce for the first time in Pakistan an up-to-date and precise technique for documenting monuments with the Electro Distance Measurement (EDM) device and real time software.  
  
Salman MuhammadSalman Muhammad (on right) working on the digital documentation of the Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore.
Click to enlarge photograph
Currently I am working with AKCSP on the Lahore Walled City project. This project is an initiative for the urban regeneration, renewal and conservation of the historic monuments in the Walled City of Lahore. This project has many components, like the conservation of monuments, historic house restoration, urban fabric rehabilitation and historic bazaar improvements, which are being tested on the historic Royal Trail from Delhi Gate to Lahore Fort. These activities will stimulate and improve the socio-economic condition of the residents of the area.  I am leading the conservation and architectural survey of 17th century Wazir Khan Mosque.

Unlike conventional construction, conservation is a slow and time consuming process. There is no standard recipe for conservation projects. Each project has its own procedure based on studies and research. It requires a multi-disciplinary approach and knowledge, time, dedication and patience. To me monuments are like bridges between the past and the present, and at the same time they show us the way to the future by reinterpreting the old.

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