Skardu, Pakistan, 7 October 2010 - The Gulabpur Khanqah in Shigar valley, Skardu, Baltistan, was recently awarded the 2010 Asia-Pacific Award of Distinction in Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. For nine consecutive times, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has won a UNESCO Asia Pacific Cultural Heritage Award for its conservation efforts in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province. Among earlier awards, AKTC received commendations for its restoration of Baltit Fort in Hunza and Shigar Fort in Baltistan.
A total of 33 entries, from 14 countries in the region, were submitted for consideration. The conservation project entries included museums, hotels, cultural institutions, educational institutions, religious sites, industrial sites, public institutions, residential buildings, urban districts and islands.
AKTC’s restoration efforts are predicated on community participation. From 2008 to 2009 the conservation and rehabilitation of the Gulabpur Khanqah was carried out by the Gulabpur community, which contributed around 40 percent of total costs in cash and kind, with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture providing technical advice. Financial assistance was provided by the German Embassy in Islamabad.
The conservation project of Gulabpur Khanqah -- a mosque with meditation chambers -- has saved a unique historic monument which has long served as a centre of social, cultural and religious activities for the surrounding communities. The project demonstrates the inclusion of yet another building type in the grassroots conservation movement already active in Shigar province.
“A great sense of commitment was demonstrated by the Gulabpur community, which makes the project an exemplar of community-led architectural restoration undertaken with a view toward sustaining living cultural traditions,” said Salman Beg, the Chief Executive Officer of the Aga Khan Cultural Service in Pakistan upon receiving the award.
The 331 year old Gulabpur Khanqah in Gulabpur village is sited on the western bank of the Shigar River about 10 kilometres upstream from where the Shigar and Indus rivers meet. The monument is accessible through the link road of Arandu valley, which is the main tourist attraction due to the proximity of Chago Lungma Glacier and the Golden Peak. The Khanqah displays typical architectural features of Baltistan, such as the double roof with the classical Tibetan tower. The building is characterised by cribbage walls, as well as impressive wooden pillars and a painted wooden ceiling inside the prayer hall.
In the Northern Areas of Pakistan (now Gilgit-Baltistan), AKTC activities are focused on the high valleys of Hunza and Baltistan, in the Karakoram range. This whole area, which was once a part of the old Central Asian Silk Route, was inaccessible to vehicular traffic until the construction of the Karakoram Highway in 1978. Increased accessibility, coupled with the impact of tourism, has induced a rapid transformation of local customs and economic patterns, which calls for new strategic development visions and adapted procedures capable of steering ongoing rapid change. AKTC’s experience in these areas has clearly indicated that meaningful restoration works need to be associated with the ongoing rehabilitation of traditional settlements as well as the promotion of building techniques.
For more information, please contact:
Aga Khan Development Network
Telephone: + 92 21 35861242
Fax: +92 21 35861272
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The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) focuses on the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalisation of communities in the Muslim world. It includes the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, the Music Initiative in Central Asia, the on-line resource ArchNet and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The purpose of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is the improvement of built environments in societies where Muslims have a significant presence.
The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP), which oversees individual revitalisation projects, promotes the conservation and re-use of buildings and public spaces in historic cities in the Muslim World. HCP undertakes the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures and public spaces in ways that can spur social, economic and cultural development. Individual project briefs go beyond mere technical restoration to address the questions of the social and environmental context, adaptive re-use, institutional sustainability and training. In several countries, local Aga Khan Cultural Service Companies have been formed to implement projects under the supervision of the HCP headquarters in Geneva.
The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation have been established to recognize the achievement of individuals and organizations within the private sector, and the public-private initiatives, in successfully restoring structures of heritage value in the region. This project advances UNESCO’s global strategic objective of “promoting the drafting and implementation of standard setting instruments in the field of culture”.
UNESCO's mandate is to promote the stewardship of the world's cultural resources, including the built heritage which constitutes our collective cultural memory, and the foundation upon which communities can construct their future. In Asia and the Pacific, UNESCO supports conservation activists at all levels, and particularly seeks to encourage the role of the private sector in preserving the region's cultural heritage.