–Experts share methodologies used by them in conservation of heritage site
–Students from different universities attend session; appreciate WCLA’s initiative
LAHORE: A session of “Meet the Experts” was organised by the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) at the Shahi Hammam on Wednesday.
Experts, who were a part of the Hammam’s conservation process, shared their techniques and methodologies with the participants of the session, which included dozens of students from different universities such as the University of Engineering Technology, National College of Arts, University of Lahore, COMSATS and University of South Asia.
Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan (AKCS-P) senior architect Rashid Makhdum informed the attendees about the intricacies of conservation and Shahi Hammam along with the techniques used by them in the site’s conservation. He said that Shahi Hammam was the only building in Pakistan, which represented the Central Asian/Turkish/Irani tradition of public hot baths and was designed to service both the visiting travelers as well as the inhabitants of the city by Hakim Ilmuddin Ansari in the year 1635.
“The conservation of Shahi Hammam was carried out with the funding of Royal Norwegian Embassy. In 2013, the AKCS-P team initiated the process of documenting the monument with electronic distance measurement tools and photo ortho-rectification. Several phases of exploratory activities were carried out to study the causes of decay to the building’s structure and architectural features.”
He said the building’s form along with its historic function was examined by removing all modern elements that concealed the underlying historical features of a functional bathhouse.
“This process revealed changes the building has gone through in the past. Sub-soil investigations were conducted to determine soil conditions and constructions. The artifacts were collected and catalogued. The set of interventions comprised the preservation of extant elements, the exposure and display of original waterworks, drainage and heating networks as well as the original floor level that had been covered over in 1991. The centuries old frescoes inside the Hamam has also been restored with the help of fresco expertise from Sri Lanka” Rashid added.
He told the participants that Shahi Hammam received UNESCO’s Asia Pacific award of merit in 2016 for the best conservation project in Pakistan.
WCLA Deputy Director Nosheen Zaidi, at the occasion, explained the process of removal of encroachments from Shahi Hammam. “There were 52 encroachments around the Hammam which were removed in 2012 while following a resettlement action plan. The encroachers were compensated and relocated to get the place vacated as they were damaging the foundations and original fabric of the monument,” she said.
Emaan Shaikh, who is a conservator at AKCS-P, told the participants about the materials used in the conservation and from where those came from.
Another conservator, Mina Arham, spoke of the laser documentation of the monument and how the maps were generated. “We identified the ground levels of the Hammam and later the excavation was carried out. This is how we exposed the original gate of the Hammam. At some points, the original foundations have been exposed for the tourists so that they can understand the functions of the monument,” Mina added.
Nawal Fatima, a student of University of Engineering and Technology, said that the session was an eye-opener for those entering the field of conservation. “I never knew that this project involved so many steps and complexities. The main attraction of learning was how a monument at such a densely populated area was restored. This session was no doubt informative and helpful and I wish students like us will also be involved in such projects in the future”, Nawal said.
A National College of Arts student, Zeeshan Khan, said he was amazed to see how the fresco of the monument was restored. “This is a marvel I must say and I wish I was a part of this conservation project. Hammam is one of the best-conserved monuments in the country and I must say. I will eagerly be waiting for the next sessions,” Zeeshan said.
WCLA Media and Marketing Deputy Director Tania Qureshi informed Pakistan Today that only some hundred students attended the session due to limited space inside the Hammam. “Another session on the same topic with different students will be held next week,” she added.
WCLA Marketing director told this scribe that WCLA had initiated the academic activity in 2018 and the previous session was held on the conservation of the Royal Kitchen. “We have started these sessions to involve the students in the projects of WCLA and to provide them with a platform to experience practical work.”
He added that inputs from students were also taken during the session so that fresh ideas could be incorporated.