Urban Design and Landscape

Celebrating the Camouflaged Springs

Mayida Zehra

Project idea

The idea behind my thesis was to identify hidden natural treasure within our region. Through "Celebrating the Camouflaged Springs", i wanted to identify Hot Sulphur Springs situated in the sub-urban area of Karachi, Pakistan named as Manghopir. This area is filled with natural resources and beauty including mountains of mineral resources, coconut gardens, natural springs (hot wells) and spiritual places (Mazaars) of very famous sufi saints of Islam. The idea was to make this area recognized and to celebrate its uniqueness.

Project description

Since this is sub-urban area of Karachi, which is not fully developed and consists of low-income community , so the idea was kept minimal and low-cost using contextual materials and techniques for construction. The materials used were sandstone for basic construction, bamboo and reeds for roofs and screenings. The main goal of this project was divided into two categories i.e spiritual and recreational. The spiritual activities were kept at the highest peak of mountain which was accessible after passing through hot springs- a purification of body and soul, a market place- a glimpse of world, a stairway- threshold between world and spirituality then to the resting place of saints where further meditative spaces were developed. This place was already filled with different type of ancient and holy trees, so they were used as key elements for shading. The space for annual festivities of 'Urs'- annual birth/death anniversary of saints, 'dhamaal'- cultural dancing and singing activities, 'langar'- free food festival for needy's and devotees, were also considered.
The hot springs were divided into three categories i.e. male section, female section and leprosy patients section. The idea of segregation was most important due to our cultural concerned. The leprosy patients were kept aside in separate zone as Leprosy is a transmittable disease whose one of basic treatment includes bathing from hot sulphur springs. Since it was a place for meditative bathing (due to properties of sulphur), so three type of postures for bathing was considered to generate program for this space i.e. standing private showers, half body dips and full body dips-'talaab' (ponds), while for Leprosy patients, only private standing showers were provided.
The market place-'bazaar' consisted of 5 contextual basic kiosks including herbal shop, floral-scent-quilt shop, dry fruit shop, souvenir shop and tea shop (dhaba). They were made from contextual material-bamboo, with simple joinery details, so that locals can learn and construct it on their own.
After completion of this project, this place will act as "A spiritual retreat that offers both a bodily and poetic experience"

Technical information

The whole scheme was divided into four physical levels i.e. Spiritual place @+14'-0" F.R.L, Recreational space @+6'-0" F.R.L, Bathing Space @+3'-0" and @-7'-0" F.R.L.
Overall project was kept minimal and sustainable. Locals were to be engage for construction due to their association and ownership of this place. The whole grey water from male and female section was treated from natural wetland process. These wetland ponds were designed as feature element of landscape. The water was treated in these ponds, stored in separate tank and later was utilized for watering of on-site and surrounding landscape. This technique was very important for the project, as sulphur water is very good for vegetation, while this area is suffering from lack of communal and green spaces due to urban formation, so this technique will promote vegetation and will change urban formation trend of cutting forests and building house on them.

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