Karachi’s endangered architecture

Empress Market. Karachi
Empress Market. Karachi

I wrote a piece for the Financial Times about architecture in Karachi, a city I’ve lived in. It’s full of beautiful colonial-era architecture, but the prevailing attitude has been to knock down the old and build new, more profitable buildings. The article looks at attempts to preserve these heritage buildings in the face of rapid expansion.

Today, Karachi, the sprawling megacity on Pakistan’s southern coast, is best known for violence. As the country’s economic hub, it has undergone an exponential rise in population, from 435,000 in 1947 to between 18m and 25m today. An underfunded and undersized police force has struggled to keep pace, and Karachi is home to a complex web of vying criminal gangs. Police figures show that there were 2,700 murders in 2013.

Of course, this was not always the case. The British arrived in Karachi in 1839 and declared it the capital of Sindh province in 1843. A port city, it quickly became immensely prosperous. It contains many architecturally significant buildings both in the elite enclaves, built by the British and continued by wealthy locals, and in the older parts of town, which predate colonisation. Since most Mughal and Sultanate period architecture is found in Lahore, Karachi’s buildings have traditionally not been considered historically significant, but the city’s structures were built by local craftsmen, and often commissioned by local merchants.

You can read the full article over at the Financial Times and I’ll post a clipping soon.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *