Conservation of Physical Components

Conservation activities in Ganish can best be described in terms of several distinct components which are either distinct physical entities, or specific activities within the overall planning process. Some of the smaller elements such as the individual mosques could also be seen as the gems that stud the fabric. But they are treated here as integral parts of a large physical context. Apart from the development of a services infrastructure in the village, the conservation effort in Ganish concentrated on those physical elements, which are in common ownership or use. So far, interventions at the level of privately owned houses has been undertaken only in cases where it is integrally related to the conservation of community owned/used property. However, this investment in the public domain has spurred private owners to invest in the repair and improvement of houses – a process which was supported by AKCS-P though free technical assistance and occasional small grants for building material.

The clean up, desilting and rehabilitation of the historic water pond was an activity that demanded large labor inputs and the greatest degree of community mobilization. This meant that work on this water body was carried out in intervals between busy agricultural seasons, when a considerable number of the male population of the village was not working in the fields. The work itself involved removal of excess deposits of silt and sand, cleaning up, re-designing and rehabilitation of the water ingress and escape mechanisms and consolidating the containing structure where it as showing signs of becoming weak and endangering the buildings nearby. During the process of the rehabilitation, the old public bathing place was also re-designed and reconstructed. This used to be just a low platform made of loose flagstones built into the bottom of the pond. The bathing activity was done in the open, by ladling the water from the pond, and was sheltered from view by a low stone wall. The redesigned bathhouse is located at the same site, but it is now covered and houses shower stalls, a place for ritual ablution and provision for piped hot water.

One of the first individual structures to be conserved was the village guesthouse, or sawab-ha
(literally “the house of benediction”). This two-storied, two-roomed structure involved considerable reconstruction of missing elements. Carved wooden elements were introduced in place of lost or missing ones, and in doing this the newly established AKCS-P craft workshop was put to good use. The experience gained from this first example of building conservation in Ganish later showed its value in conserving the other buildings, although in later examples the use of new wooden carving is more restrained, authentic and restricted to replacement or repair.

The Jataq is an open space used for the common and shared activities of the community. These activities traditionally range from informal gathering of women to formal public meetings, ceremonies, festivals and other singing and dancing occasions, and other ritual congregations. It is thus at the very heart of the traditional processes of the village. At Ganish, the guest of honor in the public gatherings would very often be the Mir himself, or the other members of local royalty. This traditional use of the Jataq in Ganish had long been abandoned, presumably after the collapse of the old social order of the State of Hunza. Long in disuse following the building of the congregational mosque and imambargah outside the village entrance, the four exquisite wooden mosques had continued to contribute to the evocative architectural qualities of the place, even though they were in a state of near collapse when the work began. The conservation and rehabilitation of the Jataq had several aspects: the surrounding mosques and houses which together shape the square, the preservation of the view south into the valley the laying of the sanitary sewerage and storm-water drainage system the removal of a distributing electricity pole and the relocation of electricity distribution networks, as well as the conservation and rehabilitation of the houses which defined the eastern side of the Jataq.

The Four Mosques in the Jataq are built on a square plan to a common architectural theme. The size of the square ranges from 5.5 meters on the side to 9 meters. Each of the four mosques is built on a platform made of rough boulders, held together with earth and their own weight. Typologically similar to other mosques in the region, it has a portico on two sides and an inner eccentric prayer chamber or sanctuary. The structure of the walls is also typical – a cribbage or cage made of timber beams, filled in with either rubble or adobe block laid in earth mortar. In two of the four mosques, the exposed timber elements and the timber doors and windows are profusely carved in case of the Rupikutz mosque, several timber elements appear to be re-used and probably belonged to another an earlier building. The roof structure is the typical rotated-square within square form of timber bracing common to the region. And the roof finish is a thick earth cover held in place by wooden fascia boards. The first project carried out in the Jataq was the conservation of the Rupikutz Mosque, forming the northern wall of the space. Belonging to the family of that name, the mosque is 21 meters square in plan and 1.2 meters in height from the floor of the Jataq. It is the second largest of the four mosques, and work on its conservation set the pace and pattern for work on the remaining mosques and other structures in the village. The structural consolidation work involved in removing the earth over-burdens on the roof to lighten the loads the wooden structure carried and the underpinning the hollowed out foundations. The AKCS-P team carried out a certain degree of straightening out of the far-distorted structure, but only for the purpose of stabilizing it and without putting at risk the appearance of great age, which the distortions produced. The timber cribbage (or caging) was hollowed out and refilled with fresh adobe blocks. In carrying out this work, some of the techniques and technologies developed during the conservation of Baltit Fort were used. Most earth work (adobe blocks and mortar) was stabilized with the addition of cement and sand. The timber surfaces were treated with the traditional rubbing down with walnut rind, and the application of linseed oil. In general the materials and techniques used were made to conform to the original building materials and construction methods. The same methods were applied to the remaining mosques and other historic structures in the village, which were also conserved in due sequence. The Mamorokutz mosque was conserved last as arrangements had to be made for the removal of the steel electricity pole erected in its portico, and the removal of this pole had to be timed with the commissioning of the underground electricity distribution network.

The himaltar and the shikaris of Ganish once occupied a tightly knit and fortified space. Although no vestiges of a town wall exist, the houses do not open to the outside and together present themselves as the outside wall of a settlement. Only a fragment of what was once such a fortification “in the round” now exists. This is the part of the village that skirts the communal pond; and contains the main entrance gate to the village, the himaltar. All three remaining shikaris and the himaltar are part of the conservation project. There are several houses in the vicinity of the Jataq that form an essential part of the geometrical configuration and its overall environments. The present condition and the future state of these houses pose the ever present problem of how private property and common interests interact, and often collide. The four houses described below have either an important location, are architecturally valuable, or have posed threats to the physical form ad quality of the settlement as a whole, or are a salient element of the settlement form. Of these, three houses are located in or around the Jataq and were made a part of the conservation of this public space.

The Ghulam Raza house in the vicinity of the Jataq forms one entire side of the Jataq and is the first structure that looms into view upon arriving at the Jataq. It had to be paid immediate attention, as the owner was about to begin enlargement and modification. The AKCS-P team, together with the community elders, held negotiations with the owner, which resulted in a rehabilitation of the existing house and the improvement of its façade. This was carried out as part of the larger project, as an incentive to the owner, who agreed not to modify the house. The Ghulam Karim House forms the terminal of the east – west axis across the Jataq. It has been restored and rehabilitated and is being prepared for public use as a “tea house”. The Ibrahim House is a new addition to the village. It was built in a plot of land that formed the southern perimeter of the Jataq. The design provided by AKCS-P was modified in negotiations with the owner, who agreed to its basic framework. The composition of the house makes use of the low terrain and its low profile prevents the view to the mountains to the south from being blocked. The Ali Gauhar house lies outside the Jataq. It is the architecturally most valuable house in Ganish and quite possibly in Central Hunza. It is collocated with the Tamorukutz Shikari, the highest remaining watchtower in the settlement. The wooden carvings on the posts, door frames and window frames are the major features of this house. The envoy of Hunza to Kashgar, the leading notable of Ganish lived in this house. The house is presently unoccupied. There is a great potential for the conservation and adaptive re-use of this house as a guesthouse and visiting center for the settlement. This will be possible if the new owner agrees to give the house on lease to the Ganish Khan community based society for ten years, which will cover the cost of conservations during this period.