Alhamra Arts Center ,Lahore | By Nayyar Ali Dada


Al Hamra Art Council

Location Lahore
Plot Size 180080.22 sq ft | 16,730 m²

Architecture Design Firm

Nayyar Ali Dada

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Client Lahore Art Council
Project Cost 2,000,000 Million USD
Completed 1992

The Alhamra Arts Council in Lahore was formed soon after the partition of the Punjab between Pakistan and India. Since then it has become the foremost centre for the performing arts in the country. Until in the 1970s its activities were housed in a large residential villa, which ultimately proved inadequate for the diverse programmes sponsored by the Council and an ambitious master plan was drawn up for a complex of buildings to meet the expanding needs of the organisation.

Originally, the centre was to include a multi-purpose auditorium, theatre, art galleries, music and dance academy, administration block, restaurant and classrooms for art. In fact, the principal building now completed after years of political and financial obstacles that delayed construction is the auditorium, serving such uses as stage drama, puppet shows, musical concerts, film projection and seminars. The small theatre and other facilities were not built.

The complex comprises an 800-seat auditorium, a 500-seat theatre, an art gallery, and a music centre, housed in three separate wings; each based on octagonal forms. The structure is built of thick exposed brick and is reminiscent of Mughal forms.

Although the complex was designed and built over a period of fifteen years, Dada retained his basic design concepts.  He began with the idea that a polygonal shape helps with acoustic requirements and can be put together in various combinations. Another basic premise was the use of solid red-brick walls. A major departure from Dada’s earlier work in concrete, the brick recalled the red sandstone of the Mughal Lahore Fort  and Badshahi Mosque, the two most  important historic buildings in the city.  The locally produced brick was also the most economical material, a prime consideration given the small amount budgeted for the complex.

The project was conceived according to the architect’s twofold desire, to find a contemporary architectural expression that related to a strong pre-existing tradition, and to provide acoustically and visually successful spaces for performances. Handmade bricks locally produced and fired, were employed for bearing walls whose thickness and massiveness are emphasized by their being tapered, slanted inwards, and disengaged at the 22 comers.


The Alhamra Arts Council buildings constitute a performing and visual arts complex that has become Pakistan’s leading cultural centre.The whole complex is a rare example of flexible spaces, and has enabled several additions to be made over time, each of which has in turn enhanced rather than detracted from, its overall architectural value. This is a very popular and successful public building, projecting its complexities in a simple and powerful manner.

Nayyar Ali Dada developed a series of polygonal shapes that, with slightly tapered walls built in red brick, recall historic, red sandstone Mughal
monuments in the city. The four-phase building programme included an art gallery (opposite) and three theatres.

The arrangement of the various facilities has led to the development of soft, public green spaces between them.  The mostly windowless, massive walls,  which are the result of the Arts Council’s 5  programmes, are articulated with brick   coursing and sometimes alleviated by colourful murals and sculpture installations.

The tapered walls ofthe buildings are opened at the corners, which are glazed. The fly tower hovers over the theatre complex composed of phases one and three.

A dramatic lobby welcomes visitors to the largest theatre, which is accessed by two large and simply detailed stairs.

The two-level lobby is partially tucked under the theatre seating, which can be seen in the stepped ceiling plan. The simple, broad stairs that lead to the theatre are in stark contrast with the tight spiral staircase that links the floors in the nearby two-storey art gallery building.

Phase 1

Design 1976 – 1977
Construction 1977-1979
Project Occupancy 1979

Phase 2

Design 1980 – 1982
Construction 1982-1983
Project Occupancy 1983

Phase 3

Design 1983
Construction 1984-1985
Project Occupancy 1985

Phase 4

Design 1989
Construction 199-1992
Project Occupancy 1992



Floor Plans 



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