KARACHI: Rafiq Azam from Bangladesh is basically an artist and a lover of nature. His watercolour paintings depict nature in all its raw beauty — the greenery, the midday sun in all its splendour, boats on rivers, the rich soil and paddy fields after the monsoons. “When you think of Bangladesh, you think of water, you think of flowers,” he said at the Pakistan launch of his book Architecture for green living: creating a hallmark for Bangladesh organised by the Fomma Trust here on Wednesday.
“I wanted to be an artist and even won awards for my watercolour paintings in which I tried capturing the beauty in nature. Still my father didn’t want me to pursue art. So I became an architect,” he said.
“We were nine siblings and after my father passed away, we realised that the old house we were living in was falling apart. We needed a bigger place but my mother didn’t want that and leave behind her memories. So committing to my mother’s wishes, I renovated our old home, creating courtyards, gardens where she could walk around, tend to the garden and listen to the birds, which she still does at the age of 89,” said the artist, who never lets go of his link with Mother Earth in his designs as he showed slides of his improved home.
Showing various examples of his other work all in sync with nature and resembling art more than architecture where the light of the sun at various times of day changes the aura of the room, he said that the light in his structures had been used to touch souls.
“I will even find spaces for nature in a 450 square feet house so that no one is deprived of sunlight, fresh air, birds and butterflies. I want you to make beautiful memories in your homes,” he said.
“Today, we tell other people passing by our homes that we don’t trust them by building high boundary walls and putting up ‘Beware of dog’ signs on our gates,” he said. For one such building, the architect did away with the wall and grew in its place a hedge to let the passers-by feel like they are moving through a living space rather than a concrete jungle.
“Then when someone asked me to put in a swimming pool in their home design, I said I’d do better by putting in a swimming pond instead,” the architect said before showing what he meant by ‘pond’. “I made the pool but it was surrounded by trees and flowers and lots and lots of greenery,” he said, showing more slides of his creation.
“My homes have to have a wind room, rain room, sun room and anger reduction room for if you want to change the world, change it by first changing your life by changing your living space.”
Expressing his views on Rafiq Azam’s work, Architect Syed Zaigham Shafiq Jaffery said: “Rafiq’s work is more about uplifting human spirit, rather than raising the cost per square foot of a structure.”
Sameera Raja of the Canvas art gallery said that she had to keep reminding herself that the book was about architecture and not art. “Rafiq’s designs are like an oasis away from the mayhem of city life,” she said.
Architect and town planner Prof Dr Noman Ahmed, Fomma Trust’s CEO Fawzia Naqvi, chairman Zulfiqar Lakhani and Trustee Ejaz Ahed also spoke.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2014