Solutions for people to erect affordable, stable and sustainable homes | Pakistan

“Earth Home Project” investigates the rising challenges Pakistanis in rural areas have to face. The focus is on trying to find applicable solutions for people to erect affordable, stable and sustainable homes. Architecture plays a crucial role in finding new ways of designing by incorporating local materials and building techniques, thereby minimizing not only the cost but most importantly the reliance on the economic situation. The project started in Pakistan in 2011, initiated by Irshad Balouch, as a direct response to the flood that devastated his country during the summer of 2010 and the lack of support people in rural areas where given following the loss of their land. For most it is strictly impossible to build their houses on their own; the inflation in the cost of basic building materials forcing those able to acquire a loan to take on life-long debts often resulting in the loss of their land. The goal of the project is to acquire, develop and spread the necessary know-how required to build stable constructions, by involving residents of flood affected areas into the process of rebuilding their houses, accompanied by skilled craftsmen, employed by the project, and neighbors, there on a voluntary basis. The project (thanks to donations) is able to cover the unavoidable expenses of some basic building materials such as concrete and burned bricks for strong foundations, wood for window and door frames as well as basic tools. Locally sourced materials such as earth, straw and bamboo, contribute to the sustainability of the design since they are highly accessible, do not require heavy machinery, and empower people by virtue of those materials being relatively easy to acquire and handle. Sustainability, understood as an environmentally as well as socially responsible answer therefor becomes the starting point for the type of architectural thinking at the heart of “Earth Home Project”. Architecture can do more than just provide blueprints for prepackaged products of consumption if it integrates the process of construction and the production of materials as an integral part of what defines it. The hope is that this will enable the community to be more prepared against future disasters resulting from climate change. They will be able to rely on their neighbors and their own abilities to build up their life despite the cruel and unjust conditions of the economy which is pushing many into desperation and towards the margins. So far the endeavor has been able to help raise 121 homes around the area of Multan, which had been very badly affected by the flood due to its position in the Indus river basin.

By: Amandin Richard

Public spaces cause Regression or Progression!


Karachi Clifton Beach 1960s

The good thing about social sites is that history, in one form or the other, is becoming more accessible to all. For example, people share decade old pictures of families and cities or advertisement via facebook or chain emails. These snippets from history give one a quick glimpse into the cultural and social fabric of that time. By this I don’t mean that by mere looking at pictures and adverts one can get a full understanding of societies. Nevertheless, these tiny doses of information do provide a window into the societal norms and prevalent cultures of that time. Looking at such images of Cairo and Karachi during the 60s and 70s, It was interesting to observe the extent to which these societies have regressed or progressed in terms of inclusiveness, diversity of religions, cultural norms, fashion, gender sensitivity, civic sense, and in their overall social thinking since then. The definition of modernity would of course vary depending upon which side of the fence you are looking from. However, there is hardly any debate on the fact that societies across the globe are increasingly becoming divided on the basis of religion and ethnicities. Besides many other reasons for such state of affairs, lack of public places and mixed-use physical spaces are some of the important reasons that play a direct role in creating polarization. Open spaces for recreation in big metropolises across the developing world are diminishing and as a result there is a growing tendency for violence amongst youth as a means to self expression. Karachi, once called the Paris of Asia, is now bracketed with war torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Though, Cairo may not yet be there, but the way things are happening there, the times may not be too far. The deterioration in law and order results in gated communities and mixed use spaces become sparse. It is often seen that public spaces suffer neglect and results in abandonment when the affluent classes do not frequently visit such places. So, to what extent can we say that a lack of public spaces in mega cities leads towards regression in society? Is the current pattern of development sustainable?

A woman riding a motorbike in Karachi 196


           A Parsi family residing in Karachi during the 50

By: Unjela Kaleem