Shabbir Kazmi and Mariam Karrar in Dawn:
The past June in Karachi, temperatures soared to 47.2 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) with 94 percent humidity, resulting in scores of deaths caused from heatstrokes alone. These catastrophic statistics are equal to any crisis the city of Karachi has witnessed.
As architects, a recurring question for us is why our buildings aren’t designed to withstand harsh temperatures. More importantly, why do we fail to capitalise on our natural resources, such as the sea breeze and subtropical conditions that nurture greenery and are favourable to our thermal comfort? In fact, due to the lack of ventilation and poor insulation, building interiors are comparable to a hot oven, baking its residents in the hot climate.Our built environment fails, both at the level of choice of material and design, which results in buildings that are not suited for the health and well-being of the end-users.
With this constant query in mind, while visiting a friend at the University of Karachi (KU) campus, we toured the Mahmud Hussain Library (See photograph 1) and the surrounding buildings for the first time. We were fortunate to see the architectural works and perhaps one of the best design solutions for the harsh climate, designed by a master of Modern Architecture, Michael Ecochard (March 11, 1905 — May 24, 1985). In line with the great Modernists of his time, Ecochard was the contemporary of the great architect Le Corbusier and followed very similar Modernist principles. Commissioned by the Government of Pakistan, Ecochard was the original architect for the Karachi University master plan and campus buildings from the 1950s.