Residence Design | By Habib Fida Ali, Architects – Renovation Project
HFA residence, winner of the 2012 IAP Design Excellence Award for restoration.
The excellence of this project is rooted in conserving, editing, extracting and enhancing certain qualities of this otherwise period building, that have brought to it the qualities of a spatial, temporal and experientially immersive environment willing to receive many a fictional script; in the characteristic versatility of the surfaces and spaces as they receive and transform light to all its rich manifestations; in the commitment towards “saving” a historical building in a self sustaining manner.
Walking westward along the railway line from the cantonment railway station, past the Clifton Bridge, lie a row of mostly decrepit residential bungalows. Built from the 1880s onward they seem to have come off a common template. All the houses are constructed of pale yellow sandstone with red tiled roofs, elegant porches terraced on top with stone balustrades and strongly accentuated arches. Their tall arched windows are shaded by wooden blinds that open or close as needed and the verandas are shielded behind timber fretwork.
About a century before these houses were built in Karachi, far away in Kolkata, the engineers of East India Company in Kolkata were either raising the most grandiose edifices to showcase their wealth and power or building homes for staff. Though in no way modest, the design of the residences did not warrant much concern for individuality. Or so it seems. Indeed, a complete template appears to have been used for all and sundry.
By the time the Crown took over administration of India in 1858, the template may have been lost but a memory of it still lingered on. The houses strung out along the railway line and sprinkled in other parts of what was then called “White Karachi” all seem to follow the template for they are more or less identical in design.
Some common elements in these houses were necessary to keep out the intense heat of a summer day. The thick walls, the fretwork on the veranda and the blinds on the windows were all meant to ward of the elements. The veranda, never a part of typical English residential structures, was a necessary adjunct to shade the rooms from the heat. In other words, in the essentially European design of the bungalows, the veranda was a necessary vernacular addition.
One such house that came off that forgotten template snuggles between the corner of McNeil and Chaudhry Khaliquzaman roads in Clifton. It was owned by Khaliq Dina Trust now for the past 40 years been home to renowned architect Habib Fida Ali. When he acquired this building in 1974, it was in a shambles and needed a great deal of work to be made habitable. He did just that, even though once taken in hand the work dragged on for considerable time, with more and more aspects of restoration needing attention and the residence is the winner winner of the 2012 IAP Design Excellence Award for restoration.
The building may have followed a lookalike design to be one of many in Victorian Karachi but in the late 20th century it was one of a decreasing number of empire structures. With more and more Victorian bungalows and their sprawling lawns demolished and replaced by high rises, it was just as well that this now priceless house was saved from destruction.
Born in 1936, Habib Fida Ali is a Pakistani national. He holds membership to Association of Royal Institute of British Architects (ARIBA) and Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP) He travels extensively and has taught in Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and NED University.
Habib Fida Ali established the practice in 1965 as a sole proprietor. Prior to this he worked for William Perry following his graduation from the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK.
His work was recognized by Institute of Architects Pakistan (IAP) who honored him with the lifetime achievement award. His involvement in project extends from strategic planning, through concept design and construction administration.
A commitment to design, quality, innovation and delivery is illustrated in his complete projects. Quality of design is of paramount importance to him and he continues to strive to provide clients with buildings of excellence.