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Although most architects in Pakistan would concur that a distinct Pakistani design language is yet to emerge on our skylines, a number of trends over the last decade have resulted in the construction of some outstanding structures.

These include:

  • Global influence. Architecture in Pakistan has taken on a distinctively global flavour in terms of design and functionality. Consequently, an increasing number of commercial high rises and houses now display straight lines, simple façades and clean finishes, using ‘no-nonsense’ materials such concrete, wood and glass. Sometimes a combination of these materials is used to create façades with large windows or glass curtain-walls.
  • Old world courtyards. There has been a resurgence of the traditional sehans (inner courtyards), an enduring component of old world havelis, in contemporary homes and even commercial spaces, such as restaurants. Courtyards create private outdoor areas that are centrally located within the structure. They can be used as relaxing sanctuaries or recreational spaces. Special attention is paid to details such as flooring, finishes and landscaping; plants (such as bamboos) are used to create partitions within the courtyard, or a backdrop for water features. Wooden pergolas (usually made of mahogany or teak) are used as accents.
  • East meets west. While there is a movement towards contemporary design ideals, traditional architectural elements are deployed equally frequently. For example, sinuous-detailed screens, known as jafri, can be seen in many commercial projects against modern backdrops of glass, wood or steel. Regional materials such as reddish terracotta tiles (which are earthy and reminiscent of colonial flooring) and traditional fabrics and textiles are equally visible and serve as edgy design details.
  • Going green. Green architecture is gaining traction; some solutions to ensure that a structure is environmentally friendly include the appropriation of open spaces for adequate wind flow to allow cross ventilation, roof insulation to keep the interiors cool, the addition of water bodies to create cool spaces and an emphasis on foliage to provide shade. Rainwater harvesting systems are being used in order to facilitate the collection, conservation, and recycling of water.

– Bisha Shabir
The writer is an architect at Copper and Steel.

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 12, 2012.