The story of ARCOP (Architecture49 Inc), the making of Al-Azhar Garden housing, and the Momina Ismailis in Pakistan

The hospital for women and children at Bamyan.There’s Work to be Done – Pakistani architect Yawar Jilani on people-centric architecture and pursuing his first love — social housing.


One such was for the Momina Ismailis in Pakistan, who migrated from Gujarat nearly three generations ago. These agrarian people became the milkmen for Karachi, but it took them nearly 45 years to buy a piece of land they could call home. The Al-Azhar Garden housing in the city would give people a “sense of community, history, and pride”. The designers observed that religion, visits to the jamat khana, and gathering together was central to their way of life. The development, therefore, had courtyards, plazas, and gardens, linked by ceremonial pathways. “It took us nearly 10 years to build, and was an exercise in patience, and a belief that something good will come out of it. People still felt connected to their villages, so the 22 parks in the complex have been named after places in Gujarat,” says Jilani.

Pakistani architect Yawar Jilani.
Pakistani architect Yawar Jilani.

Their resilience reflects in the earthy tones of the buildings the Ismaili community live in. Ceramic tiles with floral patterns, precast concrete jaalis, and customised cemented leaf patterns on external walls make their homes artistic yet understated. “We had to make it known through our design that they were not just a number, but individuals in their own right,” says Jilani. “Sadly, these days, with migrations from rural to urban centres, that cohesiveness is lost and our cities are no longer people-led.”

With the firm belief that architecture should be able to give to the community, Arcop built 5,000 homes each, for survivors of the 2005 earthquake and the 2014 floods, working with rural communities and local panchayats. But they are not only invested in community projects. If they have to their credit, Ocean Towers (393 ft), a retail and hospitality building in Karachi and Pakistan’s tallest building, they are also currently constructing the Telenor headquarters in Islamabad.

Jilani acknowledges that there are other challenges in Pakistan, the primary one being security. “People have layers and layers of security in their own homes, but they want it in public projects too.

Click here to read at the source: Shiny Varghese – May 8, 2016 – The Indian Express


Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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