Virtual design studio for planning in Afghanistan - AKDN
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Ishkashim is a small mountain town in Badakhshan, Afghanistan along the border with Tajikistan. The town and surrounding settlements have strong potential for growth but a high degree of exposure to natural hazards.


Ishkashim is a small mountain town in Badakhshan, Afghanistan along the border with Tajikistan with a bustling market and unique tourism potential as the gateway to the Wakhan. With large regional infrastructure investments planned through Ishkashim, connecting a trade corridor from China to Pakistan, the potential for growth is strong. It is also an area with a high degree of exposure to natural hazards, including landslides, avalanches, earthquakes and floods. Inclusive, intelligent and sustainable planning is required to harness these prospects while mitigating the risks and improve the quality of life of all its residents.

The virtual design studio, taught at the Harvard GSD and called “Extreme Urbanism VII: Imagining an Urban Future for Ishkashim”, engages Harvard graduate students to work with AKAH and other local partners to understand and define an urban vision for Ishkashim that is responsive to its context and the climatic, social, political and economic risks and opportunities it faces. The goal of the partnership is to test and develop approaches for virtual planning building on AKAH’s Habitat Planning Framework. In this way, AKAH will expand not only access to planning expertise but also its toolbox of Habitat Planning that addresses marginalised communities and settlement types which go beyond the traditional contexts of urban planning. Through such initiatives, AKAH aspires to make planning methods and knowledge available to the varied communities it serves in order to improve physical environments and quality of life.