Quest for Architectural Identity of Pakistan: Ideological Shifts in the works of Kamil Khan Mumtaz

Sarah Javed Shah, Rabia Ahmed Qureshi, Munazzah Akhtar


Pakistan has a rich cultural history, originating from the pre-historic civilizations that flourished thousands of years ago. Before ultimately becoming an independent country in 1947, the prolific lands that are now a part of present-day Pakistan, at one time or another, experienced the rule of Hindus, Buddhists, Greeks, Arabs, Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, and British. Despite having such a diverse heritage, the contemporary architecture of this country appears to have lost its cultural and regional identity. Due to globalization and standardization, buildings of multiple architectural styles are visible throughout the country without any consideration of the context in terms of time and place. Such architecture is unable to evoke any connection between people, society, and culture. It is, therefore, unsustainable in its social, economic, cultural, and environmental framework.

Most of the contemporary architects in Pakistan imitate the West, without the understanding of their own roots, yet frequently question the architectural identity of this region. Focusing on the architectural works of the renowned contemporary architect, Kamil Khan Mumtaz, this paper attempts to analyze how such questions on architectural identity can be answered. Kamil Khan Mumtaz is among the most prominent figures of the architectural profession in Pakistan. A recent recipient of the prestigious Sitara-e-Imtiaz award, he aspiringly synthesizes both pragmatic and philosophical facets of architecture. Throughout his career, he has been breaking new grounds in the conservation of architectural heritage, in addition to discovering and endorsing the principles used in the historic buildings of Pakistan. Through the study of Kamil Khan’s significant works, this paper explores the Architect’s professional journey, beginning as a trained Modernist, and then avidly shifting towards regionalism and traditionalism. It outlines the discourse by mapping the works in three distinctive phases of Kamil Khan’s professional life and discusses the shift in his architectural ideology through time. which was in fact a quest for an “Architectural Identity” in search of a more appropriate architectural expression for Pakistan.

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