This project was an exploration of the notion of permeability in architecture as a means to dissolve boundaries between art and the public realm, and between architecture and its surrounding urban context. The project is situated in Karachi, Pakistan, within downtown Saddar; an area considered to be the cultural hub of the city. Though generating flows of movement cutting through the architecture and by incorporating architectural principles of transparency, continuity, sequence and void, the intention was to make art more accessible to the general public. Additionally, a permeable architecture, an architecture which encourages cross-movement and public activity, becomes even more relevant in the context of Saddar where the urban fabric is defined by large city blocks which are cordoned off, inhibiting pedestrian movement and creating a stark disconnect between public space and the surrounding streetscape.
The project is envisioned on a piece of land across the street from the existing Arts Council of Pakistan, the countries oldest and arguably most famous NGO, dedicated to the promotion of arts in Pakistan. Consequently, the presence of the Arts Council had a major impact on the architecture, as well as, the programmatic requirements of the intervention. The programmatic brief was developed keeping in mind the primary objectives of making art more accessible and creating a dialogue between architecture and its urban context, as well as, offering facilities to, the 7 000+ members of the existing Arts Council, various higher education facilities within the area, and other members of the surrounding community and city. The brief consists of: 1- Gallery spaces 2- Library 3- Cafe 4- Workshop spaces 5- Classrooms 6- Public plaza 7- Outdoor exhibit space. In terms of architecture, to strengthen the connection between the existing Arts Council building and the proposed intervention, a bridge gallery is proposed on the first floor, the roof of which serves as a pedestrian bridge and social space allowing students from the arts council to cross over into the proposed intervention where classrooms, workshop spaces, and a library is provided to facilitate lacking facilities within the Arts Council building.
On the grade level the idea of encouraging cross-movement is evident through the provision of two masses which are separated allowing for an internal street cutting through the architecture; creating a promenade which holds an outdoor exhibit space at its centre. Whereas the internal street is abutted by the two wings of the building creating a semi-enclosed space, another open space, the public plaza, is provided at the periphery of the site offering a contrasting experience for people moving through or inhabiting the site. Both spaces connect with one-another through a void which is created by lifting up the building mass in-between them. Consequently, as one moves through either space they are offered a glimpse into the various activities taking place around them within the gallery (through large glass facades, strategically shaded), cafe, outdoor exhibit space, public plaza, library, and various interwoven social pockets.
On the first floor, the reason for the specific massing of the building becomes evident where one mass is set back against the northern periphery of the site, connecting with the second building mass through a bridge which is part of the library, allowing for the internal street to pass beneath. This second mass then continues to extend to the edge of the plot where it turns so that it may connect with the existing Arts Council building through a bridge gallery, essentially allowing permeability between both buildings, connecting three different masses.
As we move up to the second floor the building mass disintegrates, with the presence of facilities such as classrooms and workshops which can be supported through natural ventilation, as opposed to more controlled environments like the galleries and library on the lower floors. The second floor is accessible through large social steps rising up from the first floor, which form the sloping roof of the gallery on the grade level. Numerous terrace spaces are provided for social activity for students and others, including the pedestrian bridge which connects to the Arts Council Institute of Arts and Crafts.