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Religious Buildings at the Lahore Model Town

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Left: Gurudwara (Sikh temple) B Block, Centre: Mandir (Hindu temple) D Block, Right: Mosque A Block. All photographs © Shama Anbrine.

The model town was not just an urban morphological experiment, but a unique social experiment as well. In a time when all the major sections of Indian population were thinking of freedom and possible independent states based on religious majorities in different areas, a small segment of people from all these sections were willing to live together in an ideal co-operative garden town. Therefore, during planning of the Model town, eight identical sites were reserved for religious buildings with one in each residential block. However only three of these were actually built: Sikh and Hindu temples and a Mosque.

The temples were abandoned in 1947 due to mass exodus of Sikhs and Hindus (who formed the majority of the population) after independence of Pakistan. The Sikh temple is now being used as a residence while the Hindu temple is now part of a girl’s primary school. The interior of the Sikh temple has been radically altered by the residents, and many portions of Hindu temple have been demolished or are in ruins. The Mosque, on the other hand, is quite well maintained and well preserved in its original condition, the only alteration being the introduction of modern electrical equipment.

The Co-operative Model Town Society: History, Planning, Architecture and Social Character of a Middle-Class Utopian Suburban Residential Development in Colonial Lahore

The aim of Shama Anbrine’s research is to investigate and analyze the building of the Co-operative Model Town Society in Lahore. Popularly known as Model Town, it was conceived by Diwan Khem Chand, a British-qualified local Barrister in 1919 and has strong inspirations from Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City, Modernist and the Co-operative Movements. It elaborates upon an ‘Ideal Self-contained Garden Town’;  ‘a town with all the conveniences of modern times’ where ‘middle class men, whose incomes were fixed and who by their better training, education and social position desired to live a better life’ were to be provided with ‘cheaper, cleaner and more comfortable houses’ where they would be able to lead ‘better, healthier, happier and longer lives’.

The idea was propagated through personal networking rather than formal advertisements and quite contrary to Chand’s expectations, it was strongly welcomed by the educated classes and was approved and appreciated by the Government. As a unique collaborative project between the British rulers and the local Indians, with a plan finalized through a design competition, a variety of house plans available to suit individual and monetary needs of a family, options of choosing neighbours and grouping of small and large plots in such a way that rich and poor relatives could live near each other make it stand out from its contemporary local urban developments which are usually seen as distinct ‘British’ and ‘Native’ towns.

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‘A’ Class House in ‘G’ Block, Model Town, Lahore.

By investigating and analysing Model Town, the objective is to investigate how ‘hybrid’ forms in planning and architecture resulted due to amalgamation of foreign ideas and the influences of local cultures, religions, traditions and economies; a style which became a hallmark of post-colonial urban development in the region.