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PRESERVING THE URBAN CHARACTER:

Appropriate Building Control Strategies for Culturally Important Urban Areas


Abstract of the paper to be presented at 2nd Seminar on Urban and Regional Planning Learning from Experiences
at NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi August 2005

Rizwan Azeem
Director Architecture & Planning
Housing & Physical Planning (PHATA), Government of the Punjab, Lahore

After centuries of remaining a predominantly rural society, Pakistan is


rapidly changing into a country with more and more people living in urban
settlements. Its urban population has increased from 6 million in 1951
(about 20% of the total) to an estimated 46 million (32% of the total) in
2005. This growth in the urban population and change in the character of
several large villages and towns has remained focus of attention by
economists and development planners. Apart from the issues related to
social and physical degradation in and around these expanding urban
areas, urban development and management authorities have frequently
expressed their concern over the increase in densities, short supply of land
and deterioration of physical infrastructure.

The rapid increase in population, consequent urban sprawl and


additional low quality building stock in our towns are the issues dealt at
many levels. The population increase during the past five decades has been
absorbed primarily by major urban areas where historic enclosures,
established markets or industrial facilities were located. Many of these
urban areas present significant examples of architectural and urban design
heritage of the country. Preservation of the urban character of areas of
cultural and historic significance, therefore, is in direct conflict with
unchecked commercialization, expansion of transportation network, and
irregularities due to the absence or non-observance of zoning regulations
and building control. The process of uncontrolled development has
threatened the small and large towns alike and has resulted in major
environmental and social degradation, damage to our built heritage and
dilapidation of spatial visual quality of urban areas.

The paper will focus on the framework to use dedicated building


controls and appropriate planning procedures to provide a working tool for
the professionals involved in the urban development and management for
the preservation of the special urban character of historic areas in cities
and old towns.