The Afghanistan National Archives Building on Salang Waat is a historical building constructed in 1892 by order of Amir Abdul Rahman as an office for his son, Prince Habibullah Khan. The Amir enjoyed drawing preliminary sketches for his palaces, which he then turned over to his engineers for construction.
Those that participated in the construction of the National Archives building included engineers Abdul Sobhan Khan and Abdul Rahman Khan. Mir Emran Khan, head of the office of public buildings as well as Mohammad Bakhsh and Nazir, secretaries to the Royal Court, were also actively involved.
The Afghanistan National Archives building stands in an area known as Bagh-i-Chamgari (Tanner's Garden). Located a the foot of Asmayee mountain, it was one of the most famous gardens of old Kabul with a pleasant climate and beautiful flowers. This peaceful garden measured 10,500 square meters; tthe building occupying 4,878 square meters was built of brick and plaster. Iron and concrete were used in its renovation, but great care was taken to preserve its original design.
Nancy Hatch Dupree, a famous researcher and Director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU), who has studied the architectural heritage of Afghanistan notes interesting comparisons between the Bagh-i-Bala (High Garden) palace built by Amir Abdul Rahman in 1893 and the Afghanistan National Archives building.
The Amir's tastes in architecture were clearly derived from Central Asian Islamic traditions he admired while living in Bokhara for some twelve years before becoming the Amir of Afghanistan in 1880.
Bagh-i-Bala, with its many domes, arcaded verandas, and interiors lavishly decorated with an abundance of graceful arabesques and floral motifs carved in stucco and plaster in high relief, is a fine example of his style.
Sardar Habibullah, however, favored colonial styles suggesting buildings found in the contonments of British India. Pitched roofs and spindly iron chimney stacks became hallmarks of his buildings. Instead of a profusion of floral interiors decoration, he preferred to leave the interior unadorned so that the white walls would highlight the ornate decoration of the ceilings composed of panels filled with floral painting. Such stenciled panels were popular in India at the time. These were bordered by intricate wood carvings, as were the doors and windows.
Following the death of his father in 1901, Amir Habibullah moved to the Arg (Royal Palace). Some say the Afghanistan National Archives building was used for a while as a government guesthouse, but in 1909 (1327), it opened as the Maktab-i-Harbiya (Military Academy). After a new Military Academy was established in the Bala Hissar in the 1930's, the building was left to deteriorate. It was then used for some time as a logistics depot by the Ministry of defense, became a barracks during the 1970's, and eventually fell into ruins.
In 1973, when the government began a rehabilitation and reconstruction program for Kabul's historical buildings, both Bagh-i-Bala and the National Archives building received priority attention. Afghan Construction Company architects and engineers did their best to preserve the original quality of the building and did not change the character of the structure. On each level the floors of the halls rooms, corridors, and stairs are all made of marble. Thus both its original beauty and Afghanistan's cultural heritage are exhibited within these walls.
In August 1978, a collection of documents from the Kabul Public Library was transferred to the National Archives. The manuscripts and documents are kept in underground vaults where the air conditioning system, both inside and outside the building was reactivated in 2008 to protect documents from insects and humidity. However, the current air conditioning system is old and not able to fully protect the documents; its improvement will need better financial resources and technical facilities.
Although the restoration was completed in 1978, the National Archives was not officially inaugurated and remained closed during the following years of conflict. In 1979 (1356), the National Archives was placed under the direction of the Ministry of Information and Culture. Fortunately, the war caused little damage to the building and its valuable documents and manuscripts were kept secure by the loyal and faithful staff.
Recently, due to shortage of space, construction began on a separate building to the east of the historical building. Funds for the new building amounting to 22,768,177 Afghanis were provided from Afghanistan's development budget.
National Archives Collection