KARACHI: Second-year architecture students of the University of Karachi’s Department of Visual Studies (DOVS) held an end-of-the-year show at T2F from January 21 to 23 to display their work.
Even bigger than the fact that the work was being showcased outside their campus for the first time ever, was the achievement they had made internationally. Four students, Arwa Shahid, Fatima M. Shoaib, M. Faique Ghyas and Mohsin bin Mazhar, won the jury prize for the Chicken Coop Competition 2010, conducted by the Poultry Project, USA. They beat 62 entries which were received from all over the world for designing a project for the Aids-affected orphans in the conflict-ridden Ugandan state.
The Poultry Project 2010 Chicken Coop Design Competition had invited farmers, designers, thinkers, architects, and artists to design a chicken coop for use in urban or suburban backyards. The ideal coop was one that could integrate aesthetics with utility and make creative use of local materials.
The life-sized chicken coop, that will now be manufactured and commercially distributed in Uganda or be modified for use by The Poultry Project participants of the country, was on display at T2F.
The students were not expecting a grand reward. “It was so unexpected-we found out two days late that we had won,” Fatima told The Express Tribune. “Don’t kid around!” was what Arwa had said when her classmates gave her the news on the day of their Pakistan studies viva, she recalled. Mohsin and Ghyas too had told off the messengers, saying they didn’t want to be disturbed on the day of their exam.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Sehr Bokhari, the teacher who chose the competition for her class, said that it was chosen because it appealed to all students and faculty. In the write-up prepared by her and her students, she wrote that as a design exercise it was challenging. The considerations of light, wind, feed, nests, perch, local materials, protection and of course, amount of space per bird, were similar to the design factors the students consider everyday in studio. Secondly, on a personal level they could understand the concept of raising chickens in a backyard, an urban/suburban setting and also, as citizens of a developing nation which faces similar issues to the ones in Uganda, which is beset with disease, malnutrition and HIV/Aids, the students felt compelled to enter.
The students were helped by their teachers and architects, Salman Jawed and Bilal Kapadia (of Coalesce Design Studio), who critiqued their work and kept the pressure high.
The students also studied Uganda and its political and social conditions with special focus on the Aids-affected children and their lifestyle. “We saw how and where they live, what is their environment, what are their threats, social constraints, political constraints, culture, tradition and norms,” said Mohsin.
The winning design was an ideal mix of usability and portability, tailored to perfection in comparison to other designs. Made of “reuse” materials in a span of almost four weeks, the winning coop has wheels and incorporates factors to provide protection from predators, theft and injury. It also allows space for easy access to feed and water supplies. It has windows, door(s) and a roof to control humidity, has one nest for every four hens, provides six to 10 inches of perch space per bird and keeps in mind the need for a light source.
“We wanted to create something that those disease and poverty-affected children could manage easily to earn a living and also be able to carry it with them,” the students explained.
Apart from the winning group, the remaining 12 students of their small class were equally happy. They said it was the first time that they were receiving such a good response from their mentors and the public because previously they have had minimal exposure. “KU already has a notorious reputation and when it comes to security, entry to the premises is very difficult,” said Syed Saad Mustafa, explaining why not too many people came to see their work on campus.
The class was extremely excited to see their seniors and pioneers, including Shahid Khan, Tariq Qaiser, Adnan Pardesi, Sehba Akhtar and Samina Khan, critique their work.
Bokhari, who has also taught at other architecture schools, said that KU students have immense talent and potential, much of which is still ‘untapped’.
Praising the success of the students, Sabeen Mahmood, T2F owner, said that it is a notable achievement for not just for the students of DOVS, but for KU as a whole since that university is only highlighted for its student conflicts and other negative things.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2011.
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