I start my day early (at least I think it’s early) at seven in the morning by dropping my kids to school and then going for exercise. Breakfast is a ritual I usually have with my Gymkhana friends. It’s a great time to unwind and discuss everything and anything. I reach office around 10.00am and that is when the daily work starts. I have a very short attention span and it is very hard for me to focus on one thing for a long time. I have made it a point to multitask and get involved in several projects beyond my usual architectural practice. In the mornings, I meet the office architects and look at their projects, giving them tasks for the day. This helps me organise my architectural practice and work out my site visits and client meetings.
Meeting with clients and dealing with contractors and site issues is not as glamorous as it sounds. It requires patience and a lot of deep breathing (which is possible only because of my yoga practice). Clients are very demanding nowadays. With their foreign trips and collection of ideas from books and the internet, it becomes very challenging to convince them that not everything is possible or appropriate for their space, environment or lifestyle. These days, people are obsessed with ‘foreign’ styles and trends. They do not realise that our weather, lifestyle and cultural values are very different from those in the Western world. We have major issues of electricity and water shortages and other basic amenities.
"Clients are very demanding nowadays. With their foreign trips and collection of ideas from books and the internet, it becomes very challenging to convince them that not everything is possible or appropriate for their space, environment or lifestyle."
Houses in most developed countries depend on mechanical ventilation. The use of large, fixed glass panels and an open kitchen is not something that works in our region. We need to have houses that can be naturally ventilated and we need to protect the rooms from heat gain. We must look at the practicality of the house and how the people living in these spaces function. We cook our food differently, with baghaars and tarkas, and we entertain and socialise differently as well. We have large families, and most of us live in a joint family system, where each family member wants a large bedroom, a larger dresser and bath. We need to understand our basic space requirements and that everything cannot be accommodated in any size of plot. We need to rethink our social setup and our own lifestyle. We should not try to follow the modern trends blindly. Sometimes it is very draining to make my clients understand these issues. But I enjoy these challenging debates and working with their ideas and requirements, trying my best to materialise their dream house.
Apart from my architectural practice, I keep myself busy with several other projects, which is a great relief, as I need diversity in my life and work. Teaching at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture keeps me updated in several fields, such as art, design and textiles. My design house – Copper and Steel – takes up some time of my day as well. It involves either designing new furniture, fountains or tableware, or dealing with the copper craftsmen, clients or managing the shop. This, I enjoy the most, as I started this venture 15 years ago and working with the craft of copper really relaxes me.
My work with copper craft started as a hobby; I enjoyed exploring local crafts and materials. I started by looking at traditional tableware, like karhais, rice dishes and other tableware items and developed them. I did not want to change their identity but to refine their forms. Also, working with craftsmen was a big challenge, but over the years, they have become familiar with new forms and techniques. It has also opened several new avenues for me. With copper, I am always involved in working on some exhibition or developing a new line of design. So far, I have worked with copper in two solo shows and recently participated in a two-person show called Dysfunctional Objects, with visual artist Sadia Salim. I enjoy collaborating with other artists, architects and designers as it helps me develop as a person, and it is a great learning experience as well.
Amean J. and I have formed a publication house called Black Olive Publication and we have published four books, the most recently compiled and edited is one on the interior designs of Pakistan for The Pakistan Institute of Interior Designers (PIID). The President of PIID, architect Naheed Mashooqulla, entrusted me with this book and architect Maria Aslam was the author. This is the first book of its kind and has given a platform to the interior designers of Pakistan to showcase their talent. Our books are creative collaborations between architecture and photography, and it is great to work and develop new and exciting themes for our books.
"I enjoy collaborating with other artists, architects and designers as it helps me develop as a person, and it is a great learning experience as well."
Since I am part of the National Council of the Institute of Architects Pakistan, it also requires some attention and time. These days I am the Chairman, Board of Architectural Education, and busy organising the First Architectural students’ photography competition which opens in January. This is a competition open to the architectural students from all the institutions of Pakistan, and provides a great opportunity for students to participate in a photography competition on a national level.
I am also a founding member of Pursukoon Karachi, an organisation formed in reaction to the violence and deteriorating conditions in Karachi. It is the voice of the creative community and the idea was to highlight the city’s condition. The renovation of the Karachi Cantt Station is an initiative taken by Pursukoon Karachi to bring back the 125-year-old structure to its original form.
Apart from these regular commitments, I am involved with several social organisations, curating and participating in exhibitions and projects, so it’s fair to say, there is never a dull moment in my day. And I have to say, all this is done during my working time. I believe that evenings are for relaxing and spending time with family and friends...
Arshad Faruqui is an architect and CEO, Copper and Steel.