Thursday, June 10, 2010

A penchant for glass & metal

The real role of an architect should be a consciously rationalized effort, towards balancing the environment and creating sustainable living conditions, rather then just playing around with unrealistic ideas and sheer implementation of personal logic.

This means that while designing, the whole socio-economic, cultural, political, environmental and geographic context must be kept in view. However, looking around the city, it is sheer torture to notice the high-end, high-energy-consuming buildings that have popped up over the last few decades.

Interestingly, some of these buildings are not even designed by the notoriously infamous contractors, but the elite architects of Karachi, who have been foreign-trained in one of the best architecture schools of the world.

Let us talk of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) House that is an eye-sore in the extremely hot weather of the city and the dilapidated power supply system. Let us imagine the cost of cooling this monstrosity, covered in glass, let us also try to understand the maintenance and cleaning cost of this building. Although I am sure that the PSO is well able to afford all the costs. But is the country with its constantly depleting energy supply capable of bearing such buildings?

Moving on, I would love to compare the humble Habib Bank Plaza (HBP) with the cheaply arrayed MCB Tower. It understandably heads over the HBP in height, but it is no match with the sober, snugly fit and contextual rotund building, constructed in 1971. It is not an eyesore, unlike the MCB and it does not put fear in my heart every day when I pass by it, that it would fall at even a moderate earthquake measuring 5.5 on Richter Scale, especially since a structural failure in the building has already been repaired.

The MCB Tower and the PSO House, have both been designed by two of the most famous and acclaimed architects of this country. Despite that, they fail to stir any sense of pride and belonging in me as an architect or a of Karachi. With grotesque usage of glass, just like any third rate contractor, these buildings look extremely irritating while one is traveling on the road on a sunny day.

Moreover, when qualified architects can indulge in such blunders, what can one say about unqualified contractors and builders?

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