by Zulfiqar Ali Khan
HUNZA, Oct 1: An ancient house in Hunza has received the Unesco’s Heritage Award for 2009. Ali Gohar House, a 400-year-old architectural masterpiece, formerly used by envoy of Mir of Hunza to Kashgar, Sinkiang, was selected by a panel of international conservation experts in architecture, urban planning, heritage conservation and landscape design from among the 52 entries from 14 Asia-Pacific countries, including Australia, China, India, Korea, Vietnam, New Zealand and Thailand. The historic house has been restored by the Aga Khan Cultural Service.
The award distribution ceremony is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2010 at Ganish, Hunza, and will be attended by the representatives of Unesco, ministries of Culture and Tourism, community and foreign embassies.
Being involved in the rehabilitation of Ganish old settlements since 1998, the Aga Khan Cultural Service, Pakistan on the request of the Ganish Khun Heritage Care and Social Welfare Society (GKHC & SWS), initiated the physical conservation of the house in 2004. ‘Reusability’ being the core component for restoration, Ali Gohar House was intended to be used as a community centre, providing working space to the Ganish society, encouraging women to congregate and work, and to be a centre for arts, crafts and documentation of Ganish culture in consultation with the community. The House has now been leased by the owner to the community, setting a strong example of community based management system.
During the restoration, AKCS-P ensured minimising the appearance and unseen presence of all modern elements. The insertions needed for the adaptive reuse were designed in such a way that it permits, if necessary, their removal or alteration in future without damaging the adjacent original fabric. Minor modern materials such as the addition of basic electric and plumbing services were part of the new material incorporated in the historic building’s fabric. All such insertion were undertaken to retain authenticity and integrity of the original house. During the whole process, three missing historic wooden stairs were replaced by new ones to meet modern safety standards, whereas the rest of the house remains in its original form.