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Identifying with the Unknown: Architecture of Acceptance for the Khawajasara’s Abdullah Abid

“Our soul is in the wrong body” Bubbly Malik

IDENTIFYING WITH THE UNKNOWN: Architecture of acceptance for the Khawajasar’s


Ernesto Aparicio A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Design in Interior Studies [Adaptive Reuse] in the Department of Interior Architecture of the Rhode Island School of Design

Critic, Department of Graphic Design, Consultant, Graphic Design

Nick Heywood


Critic, Department of Interior Architecture, Adviser, Writing and Thesis Book

Abdullah Abid

Donald Sansoucy, P.E.


Critic, Department of Interior Architecture, Consultant, Structural Engineering

Stephen Turner Approved by Master’s Examination Committee:

Critic, Department of Interior Architecture, Consultant, Energy, Systems and Sustainability

Yukie Ohta Founder, The SoHo Memory Project

________________________ Markus Berger

Associate Professor, Department of Interior Architecture, Primary Thesis Advisor & Thesis Chair

Eshaa Chaudhary Khawajasara, Worker, Activist

________________________ Jeffrey Katz Senior Critic, Department of Interior Architecture, Primary Thesis Advisor

________________________ Jonathan Bell Critic, Department of Interior Architecture, Secondary Thesis Advisor

________________________ Liliane Wong Department Head, Department of Interior Architecture, Secondary Thesis Advisor

Bubly Malik Khawajasara President, Social Activist




Why, What, How?


Case Studies


Abstract 1.1 Introduction 1.2 Trans Today 1.3 History and Cultural Background

2.1 Thesis Statement 2.2 Objectives 2.3 Design Approach 2.4 User 2.5 Scope of the Project

3.1 Ross Shool (requirements) 3.2 Baradari (adaptive reuse) 3.3 Ozgol Appartments (juxtaposition) 3.4 Research Methodology

Site Analysis 4.1 Location 4.2 Site Selection Criteria 4.3 Site Views 4.4 History of the Building 4.5 Site Plans 4.6 Site Elevation 4.7 Building Temperature 4.8 Materials


Design Strategies 5.1 Current Employement Sector 5.2 Design Solutions 5.3 Spatial Investigation 5.4 Design Concept 5.5 Original Plans with Removed Walls 5.6 Original Plans with Interventions 5.7 Sections 5.8 3D Views


The word Khawajasara or Hijra, is a term used in Pakistan to refer to intersex people who are born with an ambiguous genital identity, in which their internal perception conflicts with physical reality. It is often said that Khawajasara feel as though their “soul is in the wrong body.” An inclusive space is necessary for Khawajasara, a place which approves of their true self, boosts their morale and gives them a chance to live as nothing less and to be themselves freely. Inclusive space allows everyone to feel safe, supported, included, and encouraged to be themselves; where each person is recognized as a diverse individual connected to a community; where diversity is recognized and accepted between and among individuals and groups; and where equitable access, dignity and safety for all individuals and groups is normative. What is the architectural language of welcoming? How do place and space interact to influence a user’s lifestyle? What is the architectural language of welcoming? How can architecture support a community and encourage self confidence and boost the ability to learn new skills? Through mapping characteristics and behavior of the khawajasara user group and then translating this data into architectural features, an inclusive space for the community will be achieved. First, the space will serve as a learning hub that will provide khawajasara’s with education and career opportunities. Secondly, the inclusively designed spaces will give them a sense of security and ownership by providing them with a home they can call their own. Lastly, the building will act as an interactive node between the khawajasara community and the general public through the integration of a restaurant which will also generate income for the community. The thesis revolves around bringing out the true essence of an inclusive space designed for a specific community. With the use of contemporary material in a traditional building, the relationship between the perception of the community and residents is made plain.


“A transgender in the subcontinent, majorly known as “Khawajasara/Hijra” is a person whose self-identity does not conform to conventional notions of a male or a female gender. “In the western world, the term transgender refers to those who identify as other than the gender they were assigned at birth. However, the word transgender in Pakistan is commonly used to refer to intersex persons, individuals born with ambiguous genital identity.”1 “Before understanding the basic need of transgender architectonics, one should accept the very difference of this particular community that is, their body is not home to their soul like our bodies are to our souls. The basic phenomenon of transgender narrative is of living in the wrong body.” 2

Chapter 01


“Many hijras live in an all-hijra community, led by a guru. These communities have consisted over generations of those who are in abject poverty, rejected by, or flee, their family of origin. Many work as sex workers for survival.”3 “Few employment opportunities


are available to Khawajasaras/hijras. Many get their income through performing at ceremonies (toli), begging, or sex work.”4 “In the past, khawajasaras often supported themselves as dancers and entertainers. As cultural practices have shifted, more have moved to the sex industry. An estimated 80 percent of khawajasaras in Pakistan run their own prostitution businesses or are themselves sex workers. Lax safety measures have resulted in high HIV rates. Butt said that of the 100 khawaja saras her program recently screened, 95 were HIV-positive”5 Khawajasara in Pakistan share a poor lifestyle, they have lack of facilites, basic education, learning spaces which results in lack of growth and positivity. Consequently, they are deprived of family support and income whic results in extreme poverty. Khawajasaras have minimum degree of self acceptance. They lack medical facilities and due to their profession, they are most prone to diseases. Many of them have barricaded themselves in places and spaces which are home to us, but prison for them. However, in recent history there has been a shift in the general attitude towards them. This project aims to explore the avenues through which a stable, healthy environment can be provided for them; a space where they are allowed to explore their intricacies rather than forced to suppress them.



1.3 HISTORY AND CULTURAL BACKGROUND OTTOMAN EMPIRE In the Ottoman empire, there were two categories of eunuchs, they were categorized as black eunuchs and white eunuchs. Black Eunuchs were basically Africans, they served the concubines and officials in the Harem together with chamber maidens of low rank, while on the other hand the White Eunuchs were Early Muslim world Ancient Middle East Ottoman Empire Chinese Indian Subcontinent

Europeans from the Balkans.

CHINA: The highlighted areas mark the status and history of khawajasara in various parts of the world. “Over the centuries of China’s dynastic rule, officials pleaded that eunuch interference in state affairs shall be restrained. However, almost no one advocated that the ancient eunuch system shall be abolished. In Chinese thinking the custom was highly established that permitted only sexless males to


serve the Imperial Presence, the ladies of his royal family, and his thousands of concubines, all gathered together in the “Great Within’ behind forbidden palace doors.” 9

“In early Muslim world transgenders were referred mukhanathun in classical Arabic. A mukhannath is the one (“male”) who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristic of a woman.”6

THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT In the Indian subcontinent, during the Mughal emperors’ era, transgenders were called khuwajasaras,


they carried a status of respect and dignity. Khawajasara were employed as security officials by the Mughal emperors, to be in charge of female quarters. This role was an imitation of their historic role in


“In the Assyrian Empire, Khawajasara were a known figure, especially in the court of the Egyptian

holy cities where transgenders served as facilitators between men and women while performing prayers

pharaohs (from the Lagid dynasty to the Cleopatra). In the Achaemenid Persians, khawajasaras

and pilgrimage. In most parts of the Muslim world, khawajasara were given respect and were

became known politically.”

considered holy in the eyes of God.





“After the 1871 Criminal Tribes Act, a vicious cycle of persecution against transgenders began in British India. Degraded to criminal

“After partition, the khawajasara community majorly settled in Rawalpindi near Bani chowk, Committee chowk, Misrial and Waris

tribe with genetic flaws, khawajasara lost their royal status and gradually were excluded from all respectable social circles. Such

khan because they had better living opportunities here. After 1980’s they spread through out the city, making their hubs in Mareer

is the power of the master that slaves and servants fashion their own hierarchies of inferiority among themselves. All designated

Chowk, Rehmanabad and Chour Chowk. Today there are a huge numberof transgenders residing in Pakistan.”12

criminal tribes under the 1871 Act suffered social degradation and persecution but transgenders were the hardest hit.” 10 “In order to survive, some khawajasara took to dancing performed at the birth of a new child in the community, collecting wadhais (tips). Some developed the joyous art of clapping and dancing. Some developed the art of lampooning and were invited to the wedding feasts of the well-to-do to make fun of the groom, the guests, and even the politicians. They played the same role of amusing private gatherings as do late-night TV comedians in the United States. Some khawajasaras took to begging, some to prostitution, and some to criminality, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the 1871 Criminal Tribes Act.” 11 After the British left India, the Criminal Tribes Act was repealed with respect to transgenders. However, the damage done to transgenders was irreparable. Transgenders lost social respect and various stereotypes have been built to humiliate and discount the transgender community. A pejorative word khusra is in active currency to denigrate the personality of khawajasara. In both India and Pakistan, the word khusra is associated with impotence, incompetence, and powerlessness. In 2009, the Pakistan Supreme Court delivered a seminal ruling, recognizing the dignity of khawajasara and declaring them the third gender under the equal protection clause of the Pakistan constitution. Article 25 states that “there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex.”13 “The Supreme Court noted that khawajasara persons have been neglected on account of gender disorder in their bodies.They have been denied the inheritance rights as they were neither sons nor daughters who inherit under Islamic law. Sometimes, families disinherit khawajasara children.To remedy discrimination against khawajasara, the Court ordered provincial and federal governments to protect khawajasara’ gender identification, right to inherit property, right to vote, right to education, and right to employment. ”14



“Still, untill 2016 there is still no betterment for khawajasara community. • There is no support system to help these individuals live a normal life. • Khawajsaras tend to face harassment • Due to lack of basic education there are no job opportunities and no financial security, most members of the transgender community are forced to make their living by odd jobs.”15 “The Khawajasara Population in Pakistan is as follows: • In the province of Punjab alone, we are anywhere between 400,000 to 500,000, said 24-year Mona Ali, who heads the Khawaja Sira Society, a Lahore-based group working for the rights of transgender people. • Bindya Rana, another community activist, who heads Jiya, a transgender rights group in the port city of Karachi, put the total number of transgender people at 300,000 across Pakistan.” 16 • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa houses 913 transgender people

Chapter 02

• Balochistan is 109. • “In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, around 15,000 transgenders have been registered.” 17




2.1 THESIS (why) The purpose of this thesis is to understand how a place and a space interacts with a human being (transgender) and how architecture of a building can influence the users lifestyle. After personal interaction with khwajasaras of Rawalpindi, the need for a platform for self sustainance and exploration was observed.

2.2 OBJECTIVES (what) The aim of this project is to design inclusive spaces to live. Inclusive space is, in which everyone feels safe, supported, included, and encouraged to be themselves; where each person is recognized as a diverse individual connected to a community; where diversity is recognized and accepted between and among individuals and groups; and where equitable access, dignity and safety for all individuals and groups is normative. Secondly,to provide a hospitable environment which promotes learningand sef sustainance, polishes inner capabilities and growth.

2.3 DESIGN APPROACH (How) The focal point of the building lies in the courtyard where all the light falls. The design approach is to bring all the physical and visual movement towards the center of the building. Initially, the rooms were too compact and segregated, the idea is to bring living freedom to the user through providing openness to the rooms by omitting walls. Contemporary metal frames thus, take place of walls instead with an addition of a very traditional aspect of “Tana Bana” to them. (Tana Bana is a weaving process which means ‘the warp and the weft, Weaving is a method of textile production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric)18. The concept of a “Khawajasaras body and soul” is complimented in design through contrasting old and new materials.




Existing old structure

Contemporary design/ Materials


2.4 USER

The primary user are khawajasara/hijra in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, commonly used to refer to intersex persons,individuals born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy,perception conflicts physically.

The secondary user is basically the general public consisting of locals of Rawalpindi and existing khawajasara’s. The secondary user plays a very important role as it blends the new members within the society through actively participating in the learning/ teaching and buying process.

2.5 SCOPE OF THE PROJECT: The main approach of designing the space for khawajasara community is by mapping their characteristics and behavior and then translating them into architectural features. As this community living in the twin cities ie. Islamabad and Rawalpindi, has been

Chapter 03 Precedents found in the process of research of the topic are related to the issues of the topic and are inspiration to utilise in this project on every aspect. LGBTQ requirements, Adaptive reuse, Juxtaposition

focused for this project, their culture,their movement in the city and their personalities will be studied to ensure that the spaces which will be proposed later are in accordance with the requirements of the user. The thesis project revolves around bringing out the true essence of an inclusive space designed for the khawajasara. Hence, the project is in three folds: first, the space will provide a learning hub where trans people can learn basic skills. Secondly, the inclusively designed spaces will give them a sense of security and ownership. Lastly, the building will act as an interactive node between the transgender community and general public through the integration of a restaurant.



In order to proceed with the research, I searched for various Case studies of other students, which provide guidance in the thesis and build better understanding. Some of the case studies are discussed below.

3.1 ROSS SCHOOL - Project by Victor Fehrenbach “The Ross School not only met the programming needs (minimum 26K square feet and 2-3 levels), but it’s historic architecture was fitting for the site in a quiet NW Washington DC neighborhood. Using a school was also appropriate, since school are traditionally known as protective places for children and places of nurturinig growth.Hope House will provide safe housing for 34 total residents: long-term, dormitory-style housing for 17 residents, as well as short-term/emergency housing for 17 more. Incorporating adaptive reuse, a traditional/historic DC elementary school will be transformed and moved to an ideal site. To serve a specific community (LGBTQ) need, the underground level houses revenue-generating parking lot. To engage the community, the ground level includes an indoor/outdoor community event space, hosting regular public gatherings. The second floor consists of common kitchen and dining area for all and recreational spaces for residents to enjoy and the Third floor is private residential/ living. The design of Hope House will foster an environment for healing and growth that these young people need during their transition into independence.�19

Proposed Renders by Victor Fehrenbach


First floor

Proposed Plan by Victor Fehrenbach


Proposed Render by Victor Fehrenbach


Second floor

Proposed Plan by Victor Fehrenbach


Proposed Renders by Victor Fehrenbach


Third floor

Proposed Plan and Render by Victor WW



3.2 BARADARI - Project od Studio Lotus, 2016

This case study helps in a way, as it emphasizes on the selection of an already existing building, as to how as a program, it is

“The royal family of Jaipur invited Studio Lotus to redevelop the 14,000 sq.ft area of the

suitable for its user. Not only the covered area but also the history of the building benefits the present user. The program has been

former palace as a fine-dining destination. The brief was to expand the relatively

designed effectively keeping in mind the needs of its user by providing, public, semi public and private spaces and also being

non-descript café to include a private dining area, bar, and various private lounges, along with a quick service counter to the

considerate about the long and short-term housing.

program, while retaining the back of the house facilities in their current location.”20 “The existing buildings have been restored by stripping them of layers of paint and cement plaster. The exposed rubble masonry has then been repaire with lime mortar with details that are formed in lime plaster. A key conceptual move has been the use of the courtyard as a binding element for the new spaces and program, rather than just as an extension of the restaurant. The concept creates a balanced interplay of historical revelations and contemporary additions: both drawing from and interpreting the underlying Indo-Saracenic influences of Jaipur’s architectural history.”21



Photography by Edmund Sumner




3.3 OZGOL APPARTMENT - Hooba Design Group 2018

Selection of this project helps in understanding how a space can be redeveloped,efficiently adapted, designed and reused with

“Located in the Ozgol neighborhood of Tehran, the site of the project was a 10*22m plot. The aim of the project was to transform

the correct use of aesthetics. It projects how a historic old structure can be beautifully blended with a contemporary touch without

the common “Infill” residential typology by extending open and semi-open spaces into the building. Providing natural ventilation

visually looking awful to the eyes. And also, that a contrast in architecture can be pulled off flawlessly with paying due respect to

and lighting as well as maximizing the engagement of green spaces with different functions of the house were all considered during

heritage. In such a way one’s culture and modernism go hand in hand.

the design process.”22



Photography by Deed studio, Parham Taghioff


Functional flexibility of the balcony




The true essence of this Case study is its utilization of space. It transformed the infill typology to extended open and semi open spaces. It introduces lack of secrecy or concealment, plays with light and maximizes engagement of individuals with the

The figure illustrates the methods which I have chosen to employ in my project in order to investigate the matter thoroughly and

surrounding. It gives a space to breath and explore by creating a courtyard.

arrive at accurate conclusions for the project deisgn

interviewing the trans community visiting their hubs reading related books

watching documentary photography

meeting with NGO’s



4.1 LOCATION After partition, majority of the Transgender community settled in Rawalpindi near Bani chowk, Committee chowk, Misrial and Waris khan because they had better living opportunities here. After 1980’s the Transgender community spread thought out the city, making their hubs in Mareer Chowk, Rehmanabad and Chour Chowk.


Chapter 04

User: The proposed site is within the hubs of the khawajasara community. Neighborhood: The neighborhood around the site is very welcoming and accepting as khwajasara have already been settled there. Access: The proposed site is accessible by the primary users through local transport system, buses and taxis. Security: As Rawalpindi is a historical city with its old traditions and culture where residents live closer to each other and

Introduction and description of the site selection

cooperate in every thick and thin, and the selected building is a massive tall structure in the neighborhood

Site analysis, and the historical significance of the building and city.



4.3 SITE

4.4 HISTORY OF THE BUILDING The three floored haveli is named after Sardar Sujan Singh, a wealthy sikh contractor of Rawalpindi. Both the brothers Sujan Singh and Mohan Singh were timber merchants also, they designed and built this beautiful structure in 1893. The haveli of Sujhan Singh was originally a two storey building constructed around a central open courtyard with a recessed entrance porch with a large ornate main door leading to a staircase to the first floor. The building was used for three different functions. 1.

As family residence (1893-1947)


Post partition Refugee accomodation (1947-1982)


local use (1982-2007)

Macro view of twin cities

Mezo view of Rawalpindi

Micro view of Site




Looking at the First Floor plan it is clear that the building plan as a whole is highly irregular in outline with an angular southeast projection. Even the external walls themselves are of wildly varying thickness and shape.



The Second Floor mirrors the room arrangement below, with a terrace (106b) around the central void of the courtyard and a large chamber (111) on the east. On the west, over the Ground floor entry rooms, there is a suite of very large and highly decorated reception rooms with ceilings more than 20 feet high (100b, 101, 102a). These rooms open onto a cast iron and wood balcony that runs along the front façade. In the southwest corner a highly ornamented bridge leads from Room 100a over the road below to the first floor of Mohan Singh‘s haveli.



The Third Floor is found in two locations via these two staircases. At the top of the eastern staircase is a large terrace which covers all of the western portion of the building (211). It is surrounded with a brick parapet wall. At its southern end are two rooms (212-3) surmounted by a viewing platform and another set of steps to another platform. At the top of the other staircase is a terrace (200b) which forms the roof of the bridge to the adjacent haveli.




6. upper parapet wall of roof terrace 5. brick parapet wall of repeated arches filled originally with terracotta grills 4. brick cornice line

3. brick masonry with a row of windows with cast iron awnings

2. brick masonry with a row of doors and windows and a highly decorative cast iron balcony

1. brick masonry with a row of elaborate pointed arch widows and ventilators above




4.8 MATERIALS Table below presents a summary of the various materials used in the construction and decoration of Sujan Singh‘s Haveli with their range of uses.




Wall masonry Decorative columns, arches and cornices Floor paving Stairs





Foundations Floor paving Front steps Drain cover Window frames and shutters Ventilator frames Door frames and doors Stairs Balcony floor Roof and ceilings Carved decoration Roofing Balcony columns, decoration and awnings Window canopies Window shutters Window grills and bars Fittings for curtains, light fixtures


Window and ventilator grills


Decorative panels of fan lights




Wall surfaces Surfaces of decorative wall elements Fireplace decoration

Mortar Paint

Brick masonry Interior wall surfaces Wooden ceilings



Chapter 05 Design program, Initial concept and process of how to intervene with the host structure according to the program and space

Which employement best suits transgender?








The initial design concept revolves around the main central courtyard of the building which connects with every room, as the lines were connected through the openings of the building along the courtyard were tend to open the spaces(rooms) towards the center to make it more transparent and give feel of freedom and selfness to the users.The idea behind the intervention is to juxtapose with

Private Studios common space

the existing structure in contrast with contemporary methods and materials is to translate the characteristics of the user into architecture.

Public / Shop Kitchen

First Floor

Individual living Shared Living Circulation/common

Second Floor

Private Green space Restaurant


Third Floor



First Floor




Second Floor



Third Floor




First Floor


Second Floor



Third Floor



5.8 3D VIEWS










Endnotes Introduction 1 Pulitzercenter. “Born This Way: The Birth of Khawaja Sara Culture in Pakistan.” Pulitzer Center. October 02, 2017. Accessed April 14, 2019. 2Crawford, Lucas Cassidy. Transgender Issues and the Law ; Access to Justice ; Economic Justice ; Environmental Justice Post-Copenhagen ; Immigrant Justice. Seattle, WA: Seattle University School of Law, 2010 3 “Hijra (Indian Subcontinent).” Wikipedia. Accessed April 14, 2019. 4 “Hijra (Indian Subcontinent).” Wikipedia. April 2019. Accessed April 14, 2019. subcontinent)#Social_status_and_economic_circumstances. 5 Service, Yasir Habib Khan | Religion News. “Despite Pakistan’s ‘third Gender’ Recognition, Discrimination Is Widespread.” The Washington Post. June 08, 2015. Accessed April 14, 2019. html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e7bed50cbab2. 6 Rowson,October 1991 History and Cultural Background 7 “Timeline: Transgender Through History - Doc Zone - CBC-TV”. 2019. Cbc.Ca. 8 “Transgender History”. 2019. En.Wikipedia.Org. Accessed February 6. 9 “USRF - Hidden Power: The Palace Eunuchs Of Imperial China”. 1990. Usrf.Org. 10 11 “Pakistan Passes Historic Transgender Rights Bill”. 2019. Huffpost UK. 12 13 Section 8 of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010 (10 of 2010), omitted the word “alone”, occurring at the end of clause (2) of Art. 25, (w.e.f. April 19, 2010) 14 15 ”LGBT Rights In Pakistan”. 2019. En.Wikipedia.Org. Accessed February 6. Pakistan. 16 Cerf, Benjamin. “Likely Transgender Individuals in U.S. Federal Administrative Records and the 2010 Census.” 2017, doi:10.31235/ 17 Khan, Mubarak. 2019. “Census Shows Over 10,000 Transgender Population In Pakistan”. DAWN.COM. https://www.dawn. com/news/1354039. 18 “Weaving.” Wikipedia. April 13, 2019. Accessed April 14, 2019. Case Study 1 19 Studio I: Candace Wheeler: A Life in Art & Business on Corcoran Portfolios. Accessed February 2019. Case Study 2 20 21 Tapia, Daniel. “Baradari / Studio Lotus.” ArchDaily. October 23, 2018. Accessed February 06, 2019. Case Study 3 22Caballero, Pilar. “Ozgol Apartment / Hooba Design Group.” ArchDaily. October 19, 2018. Accessed February 06, 2019.

Thesis Advisor (external) BUBLY MALIK (Khawajasara president, Social Activist, Works for Khawajasara Rights) EESHA CHAUDHARY (Khawajasara residing in rawalpindi, Worker at Bank)



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