KARACHI: A young architect from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture has proposed designs for a restaurant in the historic Hussaini Manzil, that has been reduced to a mere shell over the years.
The owners of the building agreed to the idea and Moyena Ahmed Niazi has started work on the project. Hussaini Manzil, a protected heritage site that faces MA Jinnah Road on one side and the Marriott Road on the other, will thus become an example of “adaptive reuse”, a concept that has been advocated by the Heritage Foundation Pakistan and Karavan Karachi for years.
Simultaneously, the HFP plans to move its head office to Denso Hall this week after the building was declared fit for use, said Marvi Mazhar, an architect working for HFP.
The idea of adaptive reuse has been advocated by many architects and town planners who believe that old buildings must not be replaced with new ones and be instead restored to their former glory.
“As long as our heritage is not clean, no one can see its grandeur,” said HFP chairperson Yasmeen Lari while talking to The Express Tribune.
The people of Karachi are proud of these buildings and it is our duty to save those that are still standing, she added. Lari’s dream of restoring buildings in the area around Denso Hall and the Juni Gali (Purani Gali) is gradually taking shape.
Eight heritage buildings have already been cleaned by three batches of students between January and April 2010 while five facades are still being restored. Architects Samar Hussain, Zainab Fida and Marvi Mazhar are working for Lari to make this happen.
“We had earlier lost three of the seven buildings damaged in the Boulton post-blast arson,” said Mazhar. They had plans to restore the rest but the Karachi Building Control Authority only left the skin, or the facade, for them to work with.
All seven buildings around Akbar Market that were damaged in the blast are just skeletons. “After we lost these buildings, we focused primarily on Denso Hall,” said Mazhar. Denso Hall was built 127 years ago. It was the first reading room and assembly hall for the ‘natives’ of Karachi when the British soldiers had the option of the Sind Club library.
In its efforts to restore the area, HFP is likely to face opposition from shop keepers, pushcart owners, khoka restaurants and a makeshift mosque occupying the ground-floor corner of Denso Hall. “We are now trying to restore the upper portion of the building with the help of KESC, who is sponsoring the restoration,” said Mazhar. Right now they are working on documentation with the help of students from Dawood University and Karachi University.
The students can only help clean the ground floor as the upper floors must be cleaned professionally, she said. The Juni Gali project is being designed with kiosks, signage, pavements and shaded walkways, while conserving arches and architecture around the street to make it pedestrian friendly.
Over the last 4 months, the students have gathered each Sunday to clean the facades of the buildings, out of which Quetta Building (opposite Denso Hall), Hussaini Manzil and Denso Hall have already been completed.
“Simultaneously, five other buildings have been cleaned professionally while one is currently being restored,” said Mazhar. Rasha Tariq, a volunteer, said, “We are all Pakistanis and we feel overwhelmed that these are very old buildings that we can actually touch.”
The Karavan Karachi and Heritage Foundation project to clean the buildings focuses on identifying the heritage structures that need restoration, calculating the cost, evaluating the building for structural stabilisation and conservation methodologies and donor interest. The good news is that the rehabilitation of historic buildings is economical and fast and they are actually much safer as the concrete structures and additions have collapsed, compared to old stone masonry walls which survived.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ