Responsive Geometries 2012.04.23. Faisal Bashir Advisor. Robert Levit
Karachi in 1889
Responsive Geometries The aim of proposed thesis is to revisit advances in computation and fabrication as a cultural project within the context of Karachi, Pakistan; in an effort to produce formal and tectonic design logic that instill ‘civic memory’, therefore enhancing urban citizenship. The literature research is framed by the essay “Metropolis, Memory and Citizenship” in Democracy, Citizenship and the Global City by Richard Dagger. He discusses the importance of architecture and symbolism in enhancing urban citizenship. Dagger discusses how loss of the civic memory, among many other factors, has devastating effects on urban citizenship. Civic memory is described as “recollection of events, characters and developments that make up the history of one’s city.” Historically architecture has played a key role in sustaining civic memory as representations of social values and symbolism. Karachi, under the pressure to accommodate massive population inﬂux, political unrest and socio-cultural degradation, is at a loss of civic identity. The severity of such condition is most evident in the city’s architecture that, despite having a rich architectural heritage, has turned the city into a bare concrete jungle. It is the ‘architecture of utility’ in its crudest form that has rendered the citizens’ inability to identify themselves with the city. This raises the question of form and aesthetics gaining as much if not more criticality as utility and its’ importance in stitching social fabric. The use of digital computation and advances in fabrication techniques could possibly bridge the gap between architecture of economy and exploration in culturally responsive forms.
The lack of discourse within the architectural society of Karachi has created the need to compile a chronological catalog of distinctive architectural periods within the boundaries of the city. I have cataloged few of the major architectural works that have been classiﬁed national heritage sites. An analysis of socio-economic forces provides an overview of state of the city as well as the state of construction industry. A statistics comparison of Karachi and Toronto provides a global perspective on growth of the city. Furthermore, examples of parametric driven projects are presented as precedents for simple aggregation systems creating complex geometries. Work of Marc Frones & Theverymany as well as a group project from Daniel Hambelton’s class is illustrates some of the possibilities of the Danzer packing. Construction climate of Karachi that consists of high material cost; predominantly concrete construction; extremely low labour cost; and huge deﬁcit in skilled labour among all trades. These conditions create a need for repetitive and transformative elements that create complex assemblies that produce formal and tectonic logic that instill ‘civic memory’, thus enhancing urban citizenship.
4 Distinct Eras Four distinct architectural style eras can be found within the boundaries of Karachi district. It is important to understand the lineage of architectural style with in the city in order to comprehend the its symbolism. Each era can be further divided into sub-categories, however the following four categories are sufďŹ cient for the purpose of this study. 1) Sindhi-Islamic
2) British Raj
3) Mughal Revival // Anglo-Mughal
4) Post-Independence Era
Sindhi-Islamic The Sindhi Islamic Era can be described as the Samma and Mughal period between the 14th and 19th Centuries. The Samma dynasty in particular created magniďŹ cent structures throughout Sindh including the famous necropolis of Makli in Thatta city. The architectural styles of Samma dynasty continued to prosper under the Mughal rule. Although the Mughal style soon took over, it did not have too much inďŹ‚uence with in the city boundaries. Some of the distinct Sindhi-Islamic architectural features contain the use of sandstone, geometric carvings and simple geometric forms.
Chaukhandi Necropolis Date. 15th - 18th Century
Built between 15th and 18th centuries, Chaukhandi necropolis is located on the north east periphery of Karachi and it is attributed to Jokhio tribe in the Sindh province of Pakistan. This particular style of architecture - often described as Sindhi-Islamic - is unique to this province, however Chaukhandi is the only remaining example within the limits of Karachi. Image: 2A
Structures of similar styles including other necropoli - including the tombs at Makli - exist across the province, as they symbolise the rule of Samma dynasty 1335-1520 AD. Image: 2B
Oriented North-South the graves are made of sandstone that is carved with geometrical patterns, religious scripts, and ďŹ gures such as hunting horsemen, arms and jewelry. The graves are either single or in groups of six made with a series of stacked slabs in both horizontal and vertical orientation. Image: 2C
British Raj The era of British Raj - 1800 to 1947 - brought European architectural styles to the subcontinent of India. Being a key port city, Karachi saw a surge in government, public and residential buildings mainly designed in neo-gothic and neoclassic style. Today most of the monumental buildings in Karachi are of the British era and its stylistic inďŹ‚uences can be seen in architecture across Karachi.
Frere Hall Date. 1865
Designed by Lt. Col. St. Clair Wilson, Frere Hall was used as a Town Hall during the British Raj. The Hall is located in the heart of the city and currently in use for public and communal programs. Image: 3A
Similar to the structures Samma dynasty, structures during the British rule continued to be built from vernacular yellow limestone and were inďŹ‚uenced by Islamic architecture. Image: 3B
St. Patrick Cathedral Date. 1881
St. Patrickâ€™s Cathedral was built in 1881 by the architect Father Karl Wagner. Built in Neo-Gothic style the cathedral is built with local limestone, while the marble monument in the foreground was built in 1931. The cathedral is the second biggest in the country with seating for two thousand people. Image: 4A
The church is modestly done as it lacks excessive ornamentation. v Left: This image shows vaulted ceilings with ribs. Top Right: Intricate stained glass Bottom Right: Entrance to the cathedral Image: 4B
An aerial view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in today’s sprawling city Image: 4E
D.J. Science College Date. 1892
Fashioned in the neoclassical style, DJ Science College is yet another icon of the city. Designed by the architect James Strachan, it is said to be one of his ďŹ nest works. DJ College has inďŹ‚uenced a great deal of architectural works in Karachi. Image: 5A
A view of DJ Science College among the sprawling city Image: 5B
A consistent use of local materials can be seen throughout the history of Karachi. This dramatically shifted in decades to come after the independence in 1947. Image: 5C
Mughal Revival // Anglo-Mughal In response to the socio-political struggle for independence from the British rule, the Mughal Revival movement took place towards the end of British Raj. Both British and Indian architects were at its forefront. The fusion of European and Mughal architectural style produced few but spectacular results.
Mohatta Palace Museum Date. 1927
Shivratan Chandraratan Mohatta built Mohatta Palace as his summer home. The design was conceived by the architect Agha Ahmed Hussain. Image: 6A
Museum gallery space Image: 6C
The Palace was built in tradition of stone palaces in Rajasthan. Again the local yellow lime stone was used along with the pink Jodhpur stone. Image: 6B
Roof top view inside the copula Image: 6D
Hindu Gymkhana Date. 1929
Similar to Mohatta Palace, the Hindu Gymkhana was designed by Ahmed Hussain Agha as part of the mughal revival movement. Unlike previous examples, the Gymkhana used an array of imported stones from central India as well as reinforced concrete for copulas.
Left: Ornamental details of the copula. Top Right: Intricate Jali (mesh work) from the inside of the central Jharoka. Bottom Right: Chattris as part of the parapet wall. Image: 7B
Karachi Municipal Corporation Date. 1930
The Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) building is perhaps the true deﬁnition of Anglo-Mughal architectural style. Designed by James C. Wynne in 1930’s, the overall building composition reﬂects a mix between the neoclassical and mughal architectural styles. Image: 8A
KMC building surrounded with post-independence mid-rise multiuse buildings. Image: 8C
Post-Independence Era Post-Independence era - 1947 onwards - has seen a dramatic shift in architecture compared to what was produced during the British Raj. Although the architectural styles of the past still played a big role, the distinct architectural features were. Inﬂuences of post-modernism is also evident in the buildings produced in 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. The standards of architectural design and construction practices has continued to decline over the past 70 years. In the recent decades Karachi has tried to adopt contemporary western architecture, however it has failed to achieve signiﬁcance in public realm, as the buildings produced are devoid of originality or culture.
Jinnah Mausoleum Date. 1960
Located in the heart of Karachi, the Jinnah Mausoleum or Mizar-e-Quaid is the most iconic structure in Pakistan as its the tomb of Mohammad Ali Jinnah - the founding father of Pakistan. The mausoleum is perhaps the ďŹ rst structure in Pakistan built after the independence that moves the architectural discourse forward, embodying symbolism of Sindh, the Mughals and the British Raj, while creating a national landmark due to its programmatic nature. Image: 9A
The pure white marble structure was designed by a Mumbai based architect Yahya Merchant. The tapered cubic mass opens up to an octagonal volume on the inside. The ceiling opens up to a 43m high dome. Geometric diagrid pattern on the wall is a subtle reference to carved patterns in Sindhi-Islamic architecture. Image: 9B
The four oversized arches that contain three smaller arches each for entrance are slightly referenced towards the Moorish arches of the Mughal architecture. However the radius at the top of mausoleum arches makes it distinct. The arched openings also contain ornamental copper mesh - a reference to â€˜Jaaliâ€™ in mughal architecture. Image: 9C
The exterior walls and the dome rests on a tension ring. A chandelier hangs from the center of the dome. Image: 9D
Tooba Mosque Date. 1969
Tooba mosque was designed and built in 1969 by the architect Babar Hamid Chauhan. It is claimed to be the largest single dome mosque in the world with 72m diameter. It has a capacity of 5000 people. Image: 10A
View from the inside of dome. Image: 10B
Aga Khan University Hospital Date. 1985
Designed by an American architectural ďŹ rm Payette Associates, Aga Khan University Hospital is one of the only campus style university/hospital complex in the city. Based on 84 Acres, the architecture represents evolution of indigenous architectural style, materials and tectonics Image: 11A
Left: Entrance to the University building Right: Courtyard with a garden pond
Habib Bank Plaza 1963 Image: 12A
Finance and Trade Center 1989 Image: 12B
PIC Towers 1980s Image: 12C
PSO House 1991 Image: 12D
Habib Bank Plaza 2005 Image: 12E
Techno City Corp. 2005 Image: 12F
Dolmen City Towers 2006 Image: 12G
New Business Tower
Condition of most Residential Blocks in the City
Image: 12 I
Proposed Trade Center
Image: 12 J
New Construction Shopping Mall
Image: 12 K
Q1 What went wrong?
Massive Rural to Urban Migration
Karachi has witnessed unprecedented increase in urban population after the independence. In the past 70 years the population of Karachi increased from 435,000 to almost 20 million. The massive increase has put socio-economic pressures on the city which the administrative bodies has unable to manage. Some of the major causes of population increase include massive rural-to-urban migration; migration of IDPâ€™s (internally displace people) due to decades of war on both north-western and north-eastern front; and lastly the cultural norms of large family size.
Flight of Human Capital Over the past three decades Karachi has seen poor economic development, scretarian violence and increase in crimes. This has led to ďŹ‚ight of human capital to Arab and European countries. The shortage of skilled labour as well as trained design professionals has partly resulted into stagnation of architectural development.
Karachi Arabian Sea
Post 1947 Migration
Karachi // Population Growth in Global Context Karachi Metropolitan Area
2012 UN-WUP Report
Population 20 Million
Population in 1941 435,000
Population 5.6 Million Population in 1941 950,000 Current Growth Rate 0.2% / Year
Current Growth Rate 5% / Year
City Area 3,527 km2
Average Household Size 6.9 People
City Area 7,125 km2
Average Household Size 2.8 People
Q2 What is the role of Aesthetics and Form - under the umbrella of economy - and its importance in stitching social fabric?
Q3 How does decline in skilled labour - due to lack of skill training and export of labour effects architectural design practices
Q4 How can advancement in digital computation and fabrication help address issues of architectural design, construction and urban citizenship?
The Parametric Approach The province of Sindh has a strong history of using blocks or stencils to produce arts and crafts. Perhaps one way to move forward within the realm of architecture of Karachi is to revisit the use of mathematical patterns and tiling used in pre-colonnial architecture. Utilization of limited number of blocks that create complexity in form or surface treatment would enable low skill workers to assemble complex geometries. Use of periodic and aperiodic tiling has widely been used in Islamic architecture, often only as an ornamental surface treatment. The use of periodic or aperiodic sets of tiles for space packing can help create complex geometric forms and surface treatments.
Examples of Block // Stencil Work
Marc Frones & Theverymany
The work of Marc Frones is one of the prime examples of space packing or 3d tiling. The complex geometry is achieved through danzer packing that only four shapes. Image: 13AB
The Bone Yard Bashir - Papantonis - Savone
A similar project to that of Marc Fronesâ€™ was produced in Architectural Geometry course with Daniel Hambilton. Four simple shapes were aggregated in a Danzer packing system to achieve a rather complex result.
Bashir - Papantonis - Savone
Bashir - Papantonis - Savone
Vault Aggregation Faisal Bashir
Another aggregation system creating interesting light and spatial experience
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Published on Oct 11, 2013