Not long ago, wetlands were considered wastelands. They were neglected by the people as well as the environmentalists. The lack of awareness in public subjected them to use these wetlands for drainage, and it became normal to treat these flooding meadows as dumping lands. However, due to changing climate conditions and habitat destruction, researchers sought a lasting and sustainable solution. In Karachi, Pakistan, there were 36 wetlands in operation in 1968, but today only three remain. One of these wetlands is located just 20km from the bustling city of Karachi, where the fishermen's community has lived since 1880.
Given the current scenario of the Fishermen Community ‘Of Kakapir’, the rising unsustainable development has been threatening the whole region for years and the village is now on the verge of disappearance. WWF can be seen working with fishermen and community-based organizations to rehabilitate mangrove forests and provide alternatives to unsustainable harvests. This ongoing program has the potential to open a window into the exploration of conservation interventions but the ongoing program is not able to serve its main purposes which are to spread awareness and to introduce concepts of sustainability to the fishermen and visitors. This is why this project aims to explore self-sustaining design methods to address existing problems. It hopes to understand design strategies that can allow the architecture to coexist with nature in harmony, ultimately uplifting the fishermen's community.
To address the existing issues, the design program has been divided into three main components:
Work Units for Fishermen: The work units have been integrated into the design program to support the local fishermen community in maintaining their economic stability while protecting the forest and land. These units are strategically placed on the land to cater to the needs of the fishermen and ensure their sustainable livelihood. In order to meet the collection needs in mangrove forests, the design incorporates a functional detachable sampling unit. This unit can be effortlessly anchored by a boat and guided into the forest, ensuring the collection process remains both efficient and effective.
Mangrove Nursery for Researchers: The inclusion of a mangrove nursery is crucial for researchers and scientists involved in habitat restoration. The nursery not only helps restore the balance of the entire ecosystem but also serves as an educational space for visitors, raising awareness about the significance of mangrove forests and the conservation of endangered species.
Connecting Bridges and Ramps: Since the selected site is an island surrounded by water and forest, access is limited to boats. To address this, a community bridge has been incorporated into the program to provide pedestrian access for both the local community and visitors. This bridge acts as a central spine, connecting different parts of the program. Additionally, it transforms into a ramp at the other end of the island, where modules of the mangrove nursery are positioned on bamboo stilts. These modules are designed to adapt to rising water levels, with the ability to rise up to 4 feet while remaining connected to the ramp.
Considering the potential flooding during the monsoon season, the scattered workshops for fishermen and the bamboo stilts supporting the mangrove nursery are designed to mitigate such challenges. The modular design approach has been employed to ensure flexibility and adaptability, meeting diverse needs that may arise during emergency operations. This design allows for the configuration of different functional and distributive environments, providing a resilient solution for the site.
Modular units possess the inherent flexibility and adaptability to accommodate various programs, whether they be workshops or nursery units. The transformative nature of these modules allows them to seamlessly adjust to different situations. The modularity of the internal composition enables the exploration of diverse spatial solutions. In anticipation of rising water levels during the rainy season in the mangrove forests, lightweight materials were chosen to ensure the modules remain floatable in flooding scenarios.
The module construction utilizes a range of materials, including bamboo, waste boat wood, plastic, and water drums. Bamboo, known for its sustainability, lightness, and flexibility, offers significant environmental benefits. Given the fishing community's expertise in boat-making and woodworking, bamboo can be easily manipulated and tailored to meet specific needs while possessing favorable mechanical properties. The roof structure comprises three layers of 1" diameter bamboo poles sandwiched on one another, forming a strong and resilient framework. Additionally, 3" diameter vertical bamboo poles support the entire roof structure. Bamboo lattice and a waterproofing membrane cover and weave the roof, creating a lightweight yet protective barrier that offers shade, and water resistance, and serves as a nesting space for birds.
The module's wall panels are categorized into four types based on the materials employed: bamboo panel, waste wood panel, cloth panel, and bamboo curtain panel. The cloth wall panels feature traditional fabrics, known as "ralli," specially crafted by the women of the 'Kakapir Village.' These fabrics are distinguished by their vibrant colored geometric patterns, adding a unique touch to the modules. Waste wood panels, sourced from discarded boats found throughout the site, are repurposed to minimize waste. To ensure emergency floatability, the module's base incorporates a bamboo grid that accommodates water drums, readily available within the village.
The convertible roof and walls offer the opportunity to modify and adapt the module's interior spaces as needed. By sharing walls, a single module can be replicated multiple times, allowing for the formation of clusters. The true essence of this architectural design lies in its ability to seamlessly assemble in emergencies and integrate harmoniously with the forest once the habitat is restored.
In the future, once the forest has fully regenerated after 40-50 years, a bridge can be constructed, following the footsteps of mankind, to create a natural pathway. This bridge would serve as an experiential space for explorers and enthusiasts, promoting eco-tourism. Meanwhile, the modules can navigate waterways to neighboring mangrove islands, effectively restoring ecosystems in those areas as well.