ADA- Architecture Design Art initiated and organized a dialogue titled “Do You Know Your City?” The event was held in the majestic Frere Hall and was attended by people from the architecture fraternity, academia, media and citizens interested in the city. The Dialogue II was held in collaboration with Grohe Pakistan for their strategic works towards the city. The main idea was to create awareness about Karachi and going forward, with positivity. The intention was to stimulate a sense of ownership for the city, flagging strengths and weaknesses and identifying creative solutions, highlighting sustainable projects, conserving the environment and natural resources and motivating people to work together towards the restoration of city’s past glory.
Dialogue II was held to honor and celebrate Parveen Rahman, a tireless advocate of the city who left us too soon in 2013. While the aim was to discuss the issues facing Karachi – a megapolis with a population of 20+ million which embraces all of Pakistan within its forever expanding horizons. The evening ended with many ideas and visions on how we, as citizens of this magnanimous city, can reclaim the glory that was prophesied for this ‘Star of The East’ in the early 1900’s.
The dialogue opened with a welcome address by ADA’s Founder & Chief Editor Maria Aslam who dedicated the evening discourse to Perween Rehman. The discourse was opened by the eminent architect and planner, Mr. Arif Hassan, who is an authority on the city of Karachi and its dynamics. He presented Karachi’s glorious past, present potential and future viability with reference to planning and land use. He shared his thought provoking presentation on the unprecedented growth of Karachi, embracing various ethnicities and the role of agencies interacting with the masses. Ms. Durriya Kazi took us on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and recalled familiar names, sights and sounds that lay hidden in the deepest recesses of our minds, obscured by time. Mr. Roland D’Souza, a socio analyst spoke about the influence of Christians on shaping Karachi over the years bringing in a fresher perspective of the minorities in the conglomerate that is Karachi. Mr. Shahid Abdulla narrated provocative stories about philanthropic efforts by Karachiites, on both collective and individual levels, for welfare and revitalisation projects. He shared his experiences on communal development and elaborated on the philanthropic works that are singular to Karachi. He presented various urban projects that respond to the socio-cultural values of this mega city.
The Grohe presentation by Country Head Mr. Azhar Zaidi was informative and challenged the audience to think on the individual water consumption in the fast depleting sources. He emphasized on radical changes towards our collective usage of water by creating awareness and inculcating a mindset that is aware of the water crises looming ahead for the country.
Much has been said about Karachi in the past, much is being said and probably much more will be said in the years to come. However most of these discussions fall flat as they tend to eclipse Karachi’s potential with hopeless lamentations about its condition. This dialogue aimed to be different from others – to steer clear from the usual complaining and moaning, blame games and despair, and gravitate towards hope and positivity. Knowing Karachi’s dynamics, to persevere on this track is no doubt, a formidable and uphill task, but it is not entirely impossible. The role of architecture and architectural philosophies cannot be ignored in the development, progress and sustenance of cities. How a city evolves from a mere weed-like settlement to a well-manicured metropolis depends on the heads, hearts and hands the city is entrusted with. Arif Hassan’s Oath for Architects and Planners states: “I will not do any projects that will irreparably damage the ecology and environment of the area in which they are located. I will not do projects that increase poverty, dislocate people and destroy the tangible cultural heritage of the communities that live in the city; I will not do projects that destroy multi-class public space and violate building byelaws and zoning regulations; and I will always object to insensitive projects that do all this, provided I can offer other viable alternatives.”
He wrote this in 1983 and has kept his word! We have to take it forward as each and every word is valid even today.
The Dialogue II was held under the mesmerizing ceiling of Sadequain in Frere Hall. The story of the ceiling is itself fascinating. The program was conducted in collaboration with the KMC who generously made the venue available for “Do you know your city”. The location was apt to the subject as many discussion unfolded from the venue itself and a resourceful discussion followed in varied directions. Philips powered the lighting of Sadequain’s beautiful hand- painted ceiling. Grohe’s collaboration in this city awareness project is important as the company is passionately involved in the water conservation and the sensitive usage of water in the current water crisis situation.
The interesting take away of the evening was that the discussions continued long after it ended, and stimulated wide ranging works regarding the city that ADA will facilitate in addressing the wide spectrum of this multifaceted city and engage other cities in a similar discussion.