Transient Spaces, Transcendental Experiences

Issue | 42
Text | Maria Aslam
Photography | Nimr Pervaiz

Architecture – a form of art that encapsulates life, its utility and survival takes command of the land with full weight of its authority. Architecture is historical and creates history manifold in the lives of those that interact with its built structure. Yet architecture is fragile is story telling and at times encapsulates transient space but leaves a transcendental experience in its interaction. The Biennale cities, exhibition spaces, art and architecture festivals and design weeks now spread across different cities all over the globe create their art within the art of architecture installation. These installations assert the resolve by elevating the visitor from the vulgarities of everyday to the nobility of its lofty domain. It is theatrical contemporary experimentation of architecture that reveals the malleability, flexibility of materials and the technology that supports the possibilities of construction that were not possible some decades back.

One such architect though rooted in her practice of residential design, amenity projects, adaptive reuse and small scale commercial interiors is known for her sensitized vernacular rendering of spaces and experiments with architectural installations with ease and expertise. She is the award recipient of IAP Excellence Award in single family residence category 2017. Her design philosophy advocates contextual response, addressing climatic change, building less and incorporating natural surroundings and exploration of local crafts and materials.

Khadija tul Kubra started her experimentation in architectural installation in the year 2013 where she explored the idea of ‘No Barriers’ for the IAPex 2013 Karachi. IAP conducts an annual conference parallel to a building material exhibit through its four chapters. The IAPex is not only an annual function for the fraternity but also provides a platform for the art and architecture students to engage with the conference proceedings, professionals and building material industry.

The ‘No Barriers’ questioned the user-friendly attitude of built structures in our cities and the building codes and bylaws intent towards the handicapped diaspora. The discourse further elaborated on the reuse sustainability of materials in alternate paradigms. The designer extrapolated scaffolding in the interiors opening a discourse on the repetitive re-usability making it one of the most sustainable modules in the field of construction. The concept was to create modes of user-friendly architectural solution for handicapped population. The introduction of steel scaffolding an element that is distinctly exterior has been integrated in the interiors with bamboo blinds tempering the environment created the enclosures for the conference and circulation areas.

In the very next edition of IAPex 2014, the designer in collaboration with Nimr Pervaiz expanded her design exploration in expanding her material play with the interiors. In this medley of material she included fish wire and non-tear paper with scaffolding to address the theme “Architectural Icons” that celebrated the genius minds of the fraternity. The theme was elaborated in the conference hall that functioned as a lounge space for the architectural fraternity. Similarly the passage was decked with a series of installations featuring images of architects who are considered as icons in Pakistan.

The architect picks up her design foray yet again in the IAPex 2018 of Karachi Chapter with a theme on ‘Communal Spaces’. With an expanded team of Nimr Pervaiz and Haya Qadri she creates a distinct regional and vernacular rendering of the interiors with the usage of ‘charpais’ (a seating constructed of jute material). The charpai is traditionally used all over Pakistan in communal spaces such as village baithaks, house courtyards and roof- tops.

The designers taking their clue from the theme, charpai was used to create the ambiance of the IAPex. The traditional wood and jute rope charpai’s today have evolved into metal framework and polyester cotton nawar, which are affordable for the lower classes. The lightweight structure of the charpai offers ease of mobility and hence can be carried by single person. The weave and its bright colors reflect the folk culture and vernacular character of rural areas of Pakistan.

In the IAPex2018, its potential of ‘communal spaces’ was fully explored and echoed in various ways such as the seating spaces, enclosures and as props for exhibiting Architects portfolios.

Khadija tul Kubra now established in her architecture installations confidently participated in a city exhibit that was open to the masses. “Kutubkhana” conceived as an open Pavilion served as a communal space and a library that was part of the “Numaish” exhibition following the theme – to reclaim public space and create an urban retreat.

The pavilion was placed amongst the shady trees that dot the gardens of Frere hall. The Pavilion easily accessible and visible from a distance was open to all. It could accommodate up to ten adults apart from bookshelves and reading spaces. The space encouraged smaller events such as poetry recitals and book readings and therefore promoted interaction and discourse amongst a wider audience.

The form was inspired by the recurring element of octagons that are found in the landscape, the building plan and was used as a theme for other installations of the exhibition. The octagonal form was skeletal and layered in nature. It was made from scaffolding, hand woven bamboo blinds (chik) and a cement board base for the seating area. The sustainable design in terms of the materials used was easily recycled and reused. The use of bamboo blinds gave it a contemporary vernacular character and the scaffolding that is designed, to be easily dismantled and reassembled in multiple locations across the city. The openness of the form extended its boundary beyond the enclosure creating a space that was peaceful and inspirational.

The architect’s innovative rendering of transitory public spaces in conjunctions to transient timelines expands the horizon of spatial layout sans concrete and steel. The sensitized and minimalistic material rendering exposed in her design vocabulary obviates juxtaposition of spaces with material profusion intimately connected with environ and cultural residues. Her reticent usage of the material palette in installations confers to her brevity with words in her daily working.

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