ADRL Signs Memorandum with Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Program

Architectural Design Research Lab (ADRL) signed a memorandum of understanding with Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Program (KNIP) in May 2022. KNIP was a World Bank Funded project in liaison with the local government of Karachi which ran for five years (2017 - 2022), working on 30 under-developed low-income neighborhoods within Karachi, with a focus on public space design. KNIP worked on the ongoing initiatives by the Government of Sindh to rejuvenate Karachi.  ADRL came on board on their last project titled "Pedestrianizing Boat Basin", as a stakeholder from academia, contributing to technical feedback on development work, and on the planning and design stages.

ADRL provided consultancy services to KNIP in terms of planning and designing. This entailed meetings to improve on public space design proposals, participating in site visits to account for the progress of ongoing projects, and attending conferences and events to brainstorm and support KNIP’s vision for the development of the city. Additionally, there was student engagement in the form of internships during the summer of 2022, where students worked on data collection, site surveys, design proposals, and concept and construction drawings for the project Pedestrianizing Boat Basin. The project’s objective was to revitalize a 1 km stretch of the boat basin food street located within the southern tip of the city of Karachi to make it pedestrian friendly. ADRL works closely with our alumni. For this project we worked with Farheen Rehan, a communication design alumni. She was involved in developing the design identity for the closing event - a public walk for the project as a motion to make Karachi a pedestrian-friendly city. This included designing invitation cards, banners, placards, t-shirts and caps for the walk. The walk was held on Sunday, Jan 8 2023, and was inaugurated by Murtaza Wahab, advisor to the chief minister of Karachi. 

One of ADRL’s objectives is to bridge, strengthen and sustain the role and relationship of academia with practice, for students to be part of the public domain and participate in public design which is an integral part of their academic learning. ADRL engages students in research work and stresses on critical understanding of the nuances of public design and its complexities in the city of Karachi, especially how the local government understands, develops, and executes public projects. The intention is to expose students to different sectors responsible for city development, and how they separately and together work on developing the city.

Conclusively, the general practice of development in contexts of growing economies is based on the multiple stakeholders approach which is also the case of KNIP and other development organizations. Here, private and public institutions, government agencies, NGOs, donor agencies, academia and primary users of the space such as residents, shopkeepers, etc. come together to derive, engage and conclude decision-making and outputs. However, each stakeholder comes in with their agenda, and often in this process the decision outputs are top-down. ADRL as a research lab and part of academia critiques the processes and outcomes of development in Karachi. We work towards how the development of a megapolis like Karachi can be done in alternative ways, which are directed toward bottom up processes, and keep the primary user central to these processes, but also cater to the holistic and infrastructural development of the city.  With respect to this idea, we at ADRL feel that the KNIP interventions could have had greater ownership and acceptability if they adopt a bottom-up approach I and  engage in a more localized scale with the end users. 

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