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Project Profile

 

2006 Award of Excellence

Shigar Fort-Palace

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Technical Brief

Cultural Tourism

Housed in the Shigar Fort Palace, the Shigar Fort Residence strikes a balance between being a museum and a heritage guesthouse, offering visitors the unique experience of staying in a Baltistan palace. This dual function was achieved by allocating the different required uses of the heritage complex to separate areas. The museum is located in the reception area and partly reconstructed audience hall, where a permanent exhibit of Baltistan’s wooden and architectural ornamentation is displayed, while most of the 20 guest rooms are located in the original bedrooms of the main fort building. These rooms have retained their original architectural morphology, albeit with upgrades to a level that befits their contemporary function as a high-comfort mountain retreat. The interior design reconciles the spirit and ambience of a historic building with the sympathetic yet demanding reuse function of a guesthouse. Original features such as traditional sleeping niches, wood carvings and screens were conserved and are displayed as an integral component of the décor.

The restored facility was designed so that the maintenance and operational costs would be recovered by the third year of operation, with 26 percent projected occupancy. Since its opening in April 2005, Shigar Fort Residence has received over 3,500 visitors and around 500 overnight guests. The first users of the complex were guests drawn from the diplomatic community in Islamabad. Visitors to the fort museum include officials and functionaries from various national and provincial government departments and schoolchildren from the sub-region, which points to the educational value of the restoration project for current and future generations of Baltistanis.

The project was a catalyst for the improvement of the local economy by generating employment opportunities, both directly and indirectly. During construction, 550 persons from the surrounding villages were employed and today the Residence employs a staff of 22, of whom 20 are from Shigar itself. With training of more residents in future, it is expected that this number will increase. Situated close to a village with a poor and population, the project boosted the business of enterprises in the bazaar area, opened up new local economic opportunities and raised the quality of life in the surrounding villages. Local organic fruit and vegetables have found a market, while businesses relating to the care and training of horses are making a comeback as visitors can now enjoy games of polo. Similarly, local crafts such as woollen shawls and apricot kernel oil have been revived. Local villagers have also found employment as tour guides.

Through supplying clean drinking water to the neighbouring villages and the execution of accompanying projects to upgrade facilities and improve sanitation, health and education standards have improved.

As a successful example of a self-supporting, economically sustainable heritage intervention, the adaptive reuse of the Shigar Fort as a museum and guesthouse has gained attention both within Pakistan and overseas. Since the fort museum and guesthouse commenced operations, many reports have appeared in the English and Urdu language press and in television and radio coverage in the country. These articles and programmes have promoted the idea of heritage as something to nurture and cherish and has advanced the notion of a different kind of tourism destination, one that is culturally rich and historically significant. Thus, as a result of the project, a shift has begun – moving away from the commonly held notion of tourism purely for recreation and away from kitsch resort architecture towards an experience that is authentic and which values the beauty of Pakistan’s unique heritage and traditions. In recognition of the impact the project has had on the country’s tourism industry, the project was awarded the 2006 Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Gold Award for Heritage and Culture.

Adapted from the “Shigar Fort-Palace” UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards entry submission