"Practicing Islamic Architecture"
A Workshop for Developing Design Skills in Building Traditions
of the Sub-Continent

Islamic Architecture

By The History Group Members

The legacy of our predecessors came to us as a treasure and so significant and diversified is the cultural heritage of Pakistan that all of us can be proud of it. To promote and celebrate this rich cultural heritage a unique 10 day workshop was organized by the History Group of the Department of Architecture and Planning NEDUET from 6th till 16th February, 2012. This was the third in the HG Workshop series which is being held annually since 2010. The workshop was successfully conducted by Mr. Taimoor Khan Mumtaz, a practicing architect and member of Hast-o-Neest, Centre for Traditional Art and Culture in Lahore.

Islamic Architecture is governed by geometry, proportion and a refined sense of beauty and harmony. This year's workshop was titled "Practicing Islamic Architecture" and focused on the theoretical frame-work, methods and vocabulary of design used in Islamic Art and Architecture. The outcome of the workshop was a space designed according to the principles and elements of Islamic Architecture in the City Campus through hands-on construction methods.

The workshop started with an introductory public lecture on 'The Traditional View of Art' that highlighted the meaning, role, forms and principles of art in the traditional point of view. This was followed by site visits to Makli Graveyard, Shah Jehan Mosque Thatta and a Mazaar in Sakhi Hasan designed by Kamil Khan Mumtaz. The study of the exquisite details and principles used in the historical and contemporary monuments inspired and motivated the participants, who consisted of students and faculty from DAP-NEDUET and other institutions of Karachi and Lahore.

Learning the practical use of geometry in design, as well as the underlying logic, philosophy and methods through drawing and model-making broadened the vision of the participants. The participants learnt to draw complex arches, domes and jalis during the course of the workshop. References were drawn from the works of past masters including drawings by Ustad Rahim Bakhsh and Ustad Muhammad Siddique Glotar of Multan and Chiniot respectively. Participants experienced the whole process from sketching, drawing, drafting to actual on-site fabrication of a traditional space in NED University City Campus. This year the HG Department, architect Taimoor Khan Mumtaz and the participants tried to take the workshop a step forward and worked to make permanent elements with cement and concrete. The on-site activities were carried out under the guidance and supervision of Ustad Javed, who is a hereditary master-mason. Working under his guidance, the exposure to the site, materials and hands-on construction on-site was indeed a priceless experience for the participants. They were determined and devoted and worked whole-heartedly which produced an end-product that was very well received and acknowledged when exhibited at the closing ceremony.

The practical and hands-on exposure provided the participants a good understanding of scale, construction materials and molding and casting techniques. This workshop was unique in not only in its objective to revive the principles and practice of traditional architecture but also sought to bridge the existing pedagogical divides between architect - craftsman and architect - brick and mortar. All of these aspects are neglected in the formal architectural education of the country and require further integration. The workshop conductor, Taimoor Khan Mumtaz provided key information, references, lectures, presentations which set the pace for the workshop and inspired the participants. The closing ceremony was highlighted by an exhibition of the students' work, and the certificate distribution followed by refreshments.

Islamic Art and Architecture is a shining glory of the past which at the same time also brings creative ideas for the present cultural needs. It manifests the basic theme of Oneness (unity) and Infinity simultaneously. The participants found the workshop not only very informative but also thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of the majesty of Islamic Architecture, art, culture and heritage and found the perfect fusion between the 'timely' and the 'timeless' elements within a design.

(For further information contact: historygroup2007@gmail.com)