Story of “Pakistan Gallery”(First Gallery of its kind in Pakistan)
The project was conceived in October 2014 and this building was selected for setting up of Pakistan gallery based on its historical and architectural merit. This 125 years old building, which had dilapidated over the years, was painstakingly renovated and restored by a team of highly dedicated and skilled experts back to its original state. Pakistan Gallery is meant to showcase the scenic beauty, cultural diversity and rich history of Pakistan. Indeed, there is no other place in the world to offer such diversity of terrain and culture.
Renovation of 125 years old building was perhaps an easy option but “restoration” was chosen as challenge. This Victorian era building was constructed without using cement and bricks (like others of 19th century). Instead, the walls were made of stone, pitched with lime mortar (mixture of sand & lime), and roof / floor made of pine wood.The conservation phase of the building was carefully guided by a panel of officers who circumvented numerous challenges through round the clock supervision, in order to bring out the true elegance of the original structure. Over the last century, many layers of cement had been plastered on the original stone walls, and several coats of paint had been applied to the wood. A lot of planning and effort went into reversing some of these damaging interventions and alterations to the original edifice.
The team designated to undertake this project included, Lt Col Sajjad Haider (EME), Maj Safiyan Ali (Baloch) and Hav Habib (FF), all novices. Hence, most of the work was undertaken with “common sense”, though few consultants on structural design, lights and interior etc were hired as and when required. Later, Maj Tehseen (Engineers) joined in for some expert opinions.
The small room at the entrance was originally planned to house photo gallery, but owing to the requirement of more space, the bigger room was also added and a sitting room constructed in between (on the old structural design). All the windows were shifted on outer side of bay to create space for frames / souvenirs etc. Two windows and a door were closed in bigger room for beauty and space. False ceiling was added to bigger room and the sitting room. Choice of material (PVC) was based on its matching value with the structure and its light weight. Glass Wool was placed between the CGI sheets and PVC panels to reduce the effects of condensation and add to fire / sound proofing. Walls of sitting room have double glass for temperature control. Niches on the walls of bigger room were recovered / exposed with lot of care, to bring back the original structure. Wood flooring of the hall and sitting room was done on the British pattern. Wooden floor is 4 inches above the cemented base and has been screwed to the wooden mesh beneath it. All wood work has been chemically treated for water proofing. Stone on the walls had lost its original tint due to seasoning and plastering effects, which was restored by chemical treatment. False walls were created in the middle of hall to create space and give contemporary look to the gallery. Lighting arrangement of the complete gallery was a highly technical issue and was resolved after consulting scores of lighting experts. Finally, it has been kept simple for easy maintenance and power consumption. Write up for Pakistan & different province was compiled by Miss Hira Bint-e-Asim. Photographs have been thematically arranged, colours and motifs kept in relevance to respective province. Variety of mediums has been chosen for installation, to add life and strength of expression.
“Pakistan Gallery” was commissioned on 17 Oct 2015, on the eve of “1st Commandants Re-union”. ASL gratefully acknowledges the assistance of; Mr Arshad, Mr Farid Nasim, Miss Maryam Sher and Mrs Huma Ahmed for their structural design, Mr Bashir, Huzaifa, Azeem, Iftkhar and Saeed for their masonry, wood and restoration work. Contribution of Mrs Hina Mahboob for her art and design added matchless value to the gallery. Mian Yousaf Salah ud Din and Mian Iqbal Salah Ud Din (Grandsons of Allama Iqbal) through “Dabistan e Iqbal”, contributed to the data collection for Pakistan Movement. Moreover, various Army HQs, Army Heritage Foundation, Capital Development Authority and Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (through Mr Ali Jan) also added valuable contributions. There is a long scroll of volunteer photographers who contributed to the Gallery, few to name are Mr Gulraiz Ghauri, Mr Yasir Nisar, Mr S.M. Bukhari, Mr Mubeen Ansari, Mr Abbrar Cheema, Mr Fahad Mahmood and Col Dr Imran Rashid
The restoration work took six months, including freezing winters. Needless to say that this project would not have been possible without dedication of our soldiers and civilians,a relentless team under Havildar Habib.