Karachi, Pakistan Pavilion, Urban development, Urbanism, Venice Biennale, Venice Biennale 2018

Pakistan to debut its pavilion at 2018 Venice Biennale in collaboration with Dubai-based creative platform

Pakistan will reveal its first ever National Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, focusing on the physical and social dimensions of open spaces within Karachi’s densely-populated informal settlements.

“The exhibition, called ‘The Fold’, will be curated by Karachi-based assistant professor of architecture,  Sami Chohan, and is co-organized by design studio Coalesce Design and Dubai-based creative platform Antidote Art & Design.”

As a response to this year theme, Free Space, the exhibition will zone into Pakistan’s most densely populated city, Karachi, which continues to draw people from all areas of the country in search of employment opportunities and higher standards of living.

Karachi is also currently home to a large number of immigrants from near-by countries who are facing regional conflicts and economic deprivation, causing the city to grow from one million inhabitants in 1950 to the current population of 20 million people.

This influx has caused the city to expand rapidly into an urban fabric that houses both regulated, but often, unregulated development patterns, with over 60% of its population residing within informal settlements, which due to low housing supply, has caused them to become further densified. This has, in turn, caused a severe contraction of traditional open spaces for social activity, save for narrow corridors between layers of buildings.

The urban fabric of Karachi, Pakistan.

In the absence of parks and playgrounds, these corridors of public space have become functional areas for interaction and sociability, open to the communities around them.

“The Fold…takes inspiration from the tangible and intangible qualities of open spaces embedded within the numerous informal settlements of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and most populated city. Despite confined physical conditions, these spaces remain full of life and vitality, making enough room for everyone through an overwhelming sense of community that builds and thrives on consensus,” said Sami Chohan, curator of the Pakistan Pavilion.

“Layered with ideas of limitation and interdependence, our proposal echoes these qualities, inviting visitors to comprehend Free Space as a consequence of unity, mutuality and harmony.”

The design and curatorial team for the Pakistan Pavilion.

The curatorial team of the national pavilion includes: architects Salman Jawed, Mustafa Mehdi and Bilal Kapadia of Coalesce Design Studio; assistant professor Durreshahwar Alvi of Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) and fourth-year architecture student, Zeba Asad; with head of the department of Architecture at IVS, Assistant Professor Sami Chohan, who has been appointed curator by Architect Asad I. Khan, chairperson of the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners and Commissioner of Pakistan’s national participation.

From the Middle East, Saudi Arabia will be making its inaugural appearance at the event, focusing on informal design process. 

The UAE Pavilion, curated by Emirati Masdar professor, Dr. Khaled Alawadi, will explore human-scale architecture in the UAE. 

UAE-based architects have also been chosen to curate this year’s Egyptian pavilion which aims to redevelop unstructured commercial spaces.