Habib University – City Campus, Karachi, Pakistan

1) The design is for Habib University (HU), a unique and first of its kind liberal arts university in Karachi, Pakistan. Three faculties – Science and Engineering, Arts and Humanities, and Entrepreneurship – will together impart a liberal arts undergraduate education unprecedented in Pakistan where these diverse disciplines are typically isolated in specialized institutions. Habib University Foundation (H.U.F.) has articulated three elements of its academic vision: interactivity, openness, and environmental friendliness. To establish design objectives, the architects interpret in these elements relationships to be nurtured between three stakeholders: the city of Karachi, students and teachers of the University, and nature. Consequently, three objectives emerge: diverse disciplines should actively interact while every student should enjoy both introspection and social engagement; openness should be facilitated with the city, offering opportunities for constructive contact; and a degraded natural context should be proactively ameliorated and a haven created for study, recreation, and human development essential for nation-building.

Computer rendering: Front facade in the evening, Habib University.

These objectives are challenged by a context inhospitable to them. The 6.79 acre site abuts natural storm-water rivulets long serving as open sewers of untreated effluent from upstream residential and industrial areas, posing a health hazard and environmental nuisance. Proximity to Karachi’s international airport limits allowable building heights, increasing density of footprint on a site restrictive compared to the 350,000 sqft building program. City-wide water shortages challenge green landscape. Finally, Karachi’s sustained problems with law and order demand a well-secured educational campus.
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Habib University.The urban strategy is based upon the following elements: • The north façade of HU is designed as a permeable urban wall that provides an edge to the weakly-defined urban space at the roundabout. Outside this wall and parallel to it is a boundary wall to secure the campus. The library and auditorium as semi-public facilities are arrayed along the urban edge for accessibility by outside users. The restrictions on building heights due to flight-path requirements are used as an opportunity to deliver a building profile stepping downwards from a monumental civic presence at the north end of the site to a domestically-scaled building fabric at the south end. 2) In order to achieve the three design objectives. and helps create an urban place where none exists yet. • • 2 .North Site map showing rivulets along western and eastern edges. and architectural. Site Analysis Sketch. the planning process deploys three strategies in simultaneity: urban. environmental.

• • • The architectural strategy comprises the following elements: • Whereas the urban wall to the north and the public park relate to the external context. Tree-planting is preferred over grass to conserve water and ensure a durable. courtyards are preferred over long corridors as spatial organizers. Covered circulation is deployed as a protective spatial layer outside workspaces. and recreation. outdoor sports facilities and parking on the land thus reclaimed. The environmental strategy comprises the following elements: • The rivulets are addressed as an opportunity to solve pressing civic issues of open sewers and scarce open recreational space. 3 . Open green spaces and terraces preserve human scale. Site Plan showing proposed buildings and landscaped rivulets. Passive solutions such as sun shades. Habib University. Channeling the effluent in a buried conduit.Computer rendering: View of front facade of Habib University as a permeable wall to the city. and north lights are used to modulate natural light. shade-giving green landscape and edge with the city. the design proposes a public park. pergolas. collective study. In the laboratory blocks. courtyards of a range of scales create inward-looking microcosms for individual reflection.

Computer rendering: Sunken courtyard giving on to labs. 3) The civic institutional character of the project is the foremost criterion for not only the spatial strategy but also the choice of architectural materials. Terra-cotta tiles are chosen for exterior spaces as a way to decrease heating of floors.• • Extra-curricular spaces are centralized in a communal meeting place for students Fragmented building masses placed within nature create experiential richness and environmental comfort through natural ventilation drawing on Karachi’s natural western breezes. and all roof surfaces are covered with white gravel to reflect solar heat as well as noise from the airport. 4 . Aging of the campus has been kept in mind with these materials expected to be taken over in time by greenery. At the same time. For ease of maintenance and durability all buildings and shading pergolas are proposed in textured. Water is used as a cooling presence in the Arts and Humanities courtyard where building height is too low to provide shadow. retaining walls as accents will be of yellow sandstone quarried in Karachi. unpainted concrete. stone and concrete taken over in time by greenery. Habib University. North North Ground floor plan showing pedestrian and vehicular circulation. to ground the project within its local context.

aspects of the planning process are useful for and transferable to future projects in Pakistan. For example. the campus offers these for use by the public. Computer rendering: Landscaped solution for polluted rivulets. directly at its edges. specifically by addressing the city-wide issue of open sewers and scarce open recreational space. Habib University. natural and urban. Rather than physically buffer itself from the public sphere – as is the wont of Karachi’s colonial institutional buildings and their local progeny – the building form of this urban campus meets its context. the plan for a public park and management of sewage sets a worthy precedent in community and environmental improvement for future institutional projects in Karachi. Computer rendering: Birds-eye view from northern end of site. Arraying the library and auditorium along the urban edge. By deploying trees along its edges it contributes greenery to the city. measurable results are not yet available to prove the efficacy of planning to meet objectives. Also in the post-colonial context of Pakistan it offers an example of how public institutions can interface through form and function with the urban realm. However. Habib University.4) As the project awaits construction. 5 .

5) Five of the most important issues driving decision-making are as follows: Academic program requirements The challenge is to retain the integrity and autonomy of each discipline while allowing abundant opportunity for cross-pollination in a liberal arts educational program. Habib University. Computer rendering: amphitheatre as non-programmed space in recreation courtyard. One recreational court with amphitheatre. These three courts are connected with a central street as circulation spine and a central sunken court that caters for relaxed academic exchange at the cafeteria. North Ground floor plan showing courtyards. Habib University. Habib University. Therefore. The program for science and engineering labs is deployed in layers of four stories in order to efficiently concentrate services in vertical cores. and indoor leisure center concentrates noisy socializing near the center of the site plan with the intent to draw everyone together. gym. two introverted academic courtyards are created. 6 . Computer rendering: Outdoor meeting space in Science courtyard. open enough for easy access and egress.

7 .Open space and pedestrian circulation Education outside the formal classroom and lab environment has been given importance from the start of the design process. Computer rendering: Seating bay in patio. Habib University. Computer rendering: Cafeteria outdoor seating in sunken court. Together with bridges and open walkways. the vertical layering of these spaces delivers a dynamic field for exchange and connection for the academic community. A variety of such spaces distributed all over the campus would also promise the possibility of individual introspection. Habib University. Habib University. Concept section showing vertical layering of open and closed spaces. A range of scales from the large center court to intimate upper-floor patios is deployed to allow gatherings in a range of numbers. Open space has been seen as a catalyst for informal and liberal exchange of ideas as well as of cross-departmental interaction amongst students and also their teachers.

At the same time handicapped access is ensured by connecting all levels with ramps and elevators. Habib University. Covered walks as climatic buffers for conditioned spaces.An experiential richness and a sense of promenade has driven formal development. Computer rendering: Landscaped entrance court starts the pedestrian experience from vehicular drop-off. vehicular movement is restricted to the peripheries of site. Computer rendering: Entrance Plaza Computer rendering: Central Street with seating balconies to overlook the sunken court. 8 . At HU these allow interface with nature as well as promote social encounter. Students have to be given an environment where a sense of discovery is felt. Karachi’s temperatures throughout the year allow open corridors and walkways shaded from the sun and rain. Habib University. To offer an uninterrupted pedestrian experience. Habib University. Computer rendering: Ramped promenade to Science courtyard.

These conditions suggest a concentration of the largest programmatic components such as administration and the Science department towards the north end. Computer renderings show contrasting scales of spaces: monumental in the north entrance court. These height limits taper from sixty-five feet at the north end of the site to eleven feet at the south end. Significant topographical depressions in the north-east and south-west portions of the site present opportunities for creating sunken courts and labs in those two zones. North-south longitudinal section showing stepped profile. The smaller departments of Arts and Entrepreneurship are housed at the south end. mitigating to a degree the flight-path restrictions. Also at the south end. domestic in southern Arts and Entrepreneurship courtyard. 9 . Habib University. Habib University. the site converges to its narrowest point.Space Utilization The flight-path around the airport stipulates precise limits on building height over the extent of the site.

10 . This is done not only for flexibility in planning but also to evoke the sense of community and incremental growth that is to be found in the organically formed traditional cities of South Asia.Architectural and open space design heritage Inspired by a sustained debate on how to be architecturally contextual and respect tradition while embracing modernity. A city challenged by an enduring law and order breakdown arising from its turbulent socio-political history. Karachi is also seriously deficient in open public recreation space and public amenities for social interaction.Open natural storm-water rivulets are an integral and long-serving component of Karachi’s sewerage system. Other: Physical Context The campus is sited in a degraded natural context. carrying untreated household and industrial waste. Concept sketch showing vertical scaling of courtyards. Computer renderings: Habib University campus is a cluster of courtyards. Habib University. The courtyard is one such element that is adopted for its climatic and social functions. the design seeks to draw on spatial strategies that have endured in local tradition. The design endeavor is driven by an aspiration to vest academia with a proactive role in addressing these civic issues. At the same time a morphology based on an accretion of masses is preferred over an architectural object of pure form.

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