Architects play a phenomenal role in defining their country’s place in history. They are perceived to be artistic technocrats who not only design buildings but simultaneously write history in 3D. For when we consider history, the most enduring testament to a nation’s past is its architectural remains which tell the tale of days gone by. When there is no history left in books, no people left to tell tales of their past, it is the architecture which recreates the civilizations of the past for us. This is exactly what happened in Pakistan. Its architecture has evolved from the grandeur of Mughal to the British Colonial to the modern; the latter being a fusion of all these traditions.
Let us just start with Lahore the architectural capital of Pakistan, which has been the heart of empires over the past centuries that have left their marks on the flavor of the city. For instance, the walled portion of Lahore secured by 13 gates was constructed by Mahmud Ghaznavi; Mughal remnants such as Badshahi Mosque; British Colonial Structures such as Lahore Museum etc. Modern Lahore is juxtaposed between these majestic structures and the more ordered and controlled new developments. This can be witnessed in the well-engineered roads, greenbelts, commercial areas and well-structured residential housing societies such as DHA, Bahria Town, Gulberg and Model Town. Although Lahore has grown in proportions beyond any limits imagined, it still manages to maintain that elusive element which makes it stand out among other cities. It is a city of anachronisms which still echo down the length of its eight-lane boulevards, making its presence known to all those who are drawn to its wonders and to those who have claimed it as their identity.
Moving on to Karachi, it is a cosmopolitan and international identity with its malls such as Dolmen Mall, Park Towers, Ocean Towers, Atrium. It also has remains of British architecture such as Frere Hall and Mohatta Palace. Besides, modern office buildings such as Pakistan State Oil building, Executive Towers have become the city’s symbol for vanguard architecture.
Islamabad is a city which projects the modern face of Pakistan. It was constructed along the lines of being a Dynapolis, which is a city expanding in a linear fan shape from an initial point, coping with the explosive urbanization and growth of our population. Islamabad is a planned city with wide tree-lined roads, green belts, planned residential sectors, earmarked commercial areas, proper zoning along with important buildings such as President House, Parliament House and Supreme Court. Its Faisal Mosque with not-so-traditional dome styles has cast a lasting influence in changing the mindset of a society which is averse to influences outside the confines of its own traditions and cultures.
An architect’s true canvas is the residential housing society which also constitutes as the most expensive and high-end market for them. Currently a one kanal house in posh societies costs around $ 1 million, see here. The price also reflects the architectural work into constructing these houses and buildings according to current environmental concerns and energy issues. Although residential buildings are small projects compared to city landmarks, the architectural contributions to them equally represent the creativity and vision of our times.
All these combined reveal a varied picture of our nation’s splendid architecture and unique art treasures.