Life

Architectural Education in Pakistan, today…

Part 3

Text: Ar. Shahid Sayeed Khan

The author is the CEO of Indus Earth, an NGO which is in continuous experimentation of mud housing and has revitalized thousands of lives and reinstated the sustainable aspects of mud architecture. Apart from other forays Shahid Sayeed Khan is also a part time faculty at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and has presented papers on many platforms both on the local and international scene.

Assalam-o-Alaikum conveys to me the epitome of a greeting. Used throughout the Muslim world. No matter where you are, the response opens up a smile and warmth towards the other person.

Why does this not show physically in our architectural attitude, which seems so ‘cold’ exuding little warmth and certainly no smile? The aloofness, the anonymity, no hospitality, “enter if you dare”, seems the trend taken mostly, sometimes copied quite blatantly, from those societies who are aloof and want to be “at arm's length”.

This is not us.

I read the Aga Khan’s survey and recommendations of Architectural Education and their Institutes in the Muslim world. Very interesting and recommended reading; for those who wish to impart their knowledge on the subject. Every Institution has their own methods of teaching. So it should be, but the survey picks up interesting phenomena. There is no underlying link in any form to the fact that these are Muslim countries. It recommends that there should be, at least not a ‘free for all approach’ which leads to ad hoc is in its worst form.

I am one who believes that there should be a sense of direction. As stated before; this does not have to emulate “Islamic” in any way by placing a few arches and domes here and there. This does not make anything except superficial hypocrisy. No there is much more depth of thought needed. If we can discover Algebra, why not explore an architectural language or a vocabulary to build it?

In my view, our climate will provide a vocabulary and those who have the guts can enter the realm of understanding our own culture. Interestingly it is foreign architects who come here that show the way; Aga Khan University being a prime example. We are too lost by the glitz and glamour of the West to see what is in front of us. The legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was first given accolades in the West and only then did we wake up to recognize our own. How many times has this happened?

Architecture is an intellectual exercise. Talent is secondary. Unfortunately, the students do not seem to think so. Talent is all. No need to study past masters works or read and explore and understand. No need to go to the library. Google has all the answers. Copy paste from the internet and the work is complete. This is perfidious in student culture.

There is a desperate need to instill some “meaning” in this profession so that our students can emulate some examples that we feel proud of.

These articles are reaching out to those who take architectural education seriously and we must start a dialogue amongst our selves. There is no one answer but we can agree to a direction????

It is now necessary to actually reinvent the wheel. The time is right. Seize it.