Students transform KU’s wasted space into outdoor studio

Updated September 13, 2015

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A cabin 'The Lodge' made by a group of 40 students at Department of Visual Studies. — Photo by Zoya Anwer
A cabin 'The Lodge' made by a group of 40 students at Department of Visual Studies. — Photo by Zoya Anwer

KARACHI: Home to wild plants, gravel and garbage, an open sewage in Karachi University that appeared to be useless has been transformed with recycled material into a sitting place where students of the Visual Studies Department would love to do their experimental work and laze around after back-to-back classes, it emerged on Saturday.

The ‘outdoor studio’ is the creation of foundation year students of Visual Studies who took around 22 days to completely revamp the area. Under the supervision of their teacher Asim Mehdi Kazmi, 117 students from architecture, media, graphic and textile designing, industrial design and Islamic arts courses transformed the area using their own handwork.

Four well-built wooden cabins accompanied with wooden benches as well as a swing have brought life to an area where no one would bother coming during the day, let alone in the evening. But keeping the late classes in mind, students also made sure that all cabins were well-lit and will bring a glow to the renowned arts department.

Explaining the initiative, Mr Kazmi said: “This is basically a foundation year project and there is a course called ‘Material and Process’ in which students have to explore different materials especially in the light of how they can use them apart from their common functionality. They have recycled crates and pallets, which are normally used for shipment, and converted them into outdoor chaos.”

What earlier seemed like woodwork exhibition turned out to be a sustainable project that will not only provide students a space to relax after classes but is also designed in a way to help them do their respective assignments. “The concept is that the students should have an outdoor studio as well, because many don’t have such space at their homes. We wanted to provide them with a space where they can discuss as well as do experimental work because practical work is essential in our field,” Mr Kazmi elaborated.

“We had asked them to explore wood and when the space was provided, they delved deeper and did land scrapping, arranged gravels, pebbles, dealt with plantation. To cater to the functionality of this project, they made sure that the cabins had shelves, were built in accordance with the sheets like 22 by 28 inches so the workstations had such specifications too. Not to forget, we live in the digital age so there are sockets to charge phones and laptops as well as an internet connection,” he added.

Given that the students were just beginners, the 117 students divided into four groups took more than three weeks to wind up their project. Mr Kazmi said everything was done by students alone. “The students worked from scratch in this project from hammering nails to chopping wood and levelling the uneven ground, they did it all themselves. No labour was asked to assist them rather they were asked to get help to clean the sewage area but they said they’d do it and they did so. The area that was basically a pile of garbage is now unrecognisable due to their efforts.”

But will the pallets be able to bear the rainfall? Mr Kazmi said that they were varnished and given that Karachi didn’t see a lot of rainfall, the cabins would withstand such weather conditions and at least has a life of four to five years.

“I think it’s a huge achievement as these students have only studied for a semester while their second semester of first year has just begun. This is not a decorative exhibition rather it is very beneficial,” he added.

Lalarukh, a student who wishes to pursue architecture, shared with Dawn that she and her fellow students would spend hours after their classes to make this happen. “We worked on our project after our classes would end and we also had to make sure that we were not compromising other course in lieu of this. It was very tough but we made it through somehow, because this is the first time that foundation year students have been asked to do such a large project.”

With each student investing Rs1,500 to Rs2,000, the result of their efforts was visible as students beamed with pride as the head of department, Durriya Kazi, lauded their creative handiwork.

Admiring their skill and dedication, Ms Kazi said their work was indeed notable. “I think it’s very remarkable how people can transform very ordinary, simple things into these very beautiful buildings. I hope they will carry along this knowledge further and would love to see them helping a dhaba being made. They have worked very hard and they have learnt recycling as well as teamwork. The moment you make something that’s in a larger scale than yourself the sense of achievement is much more,” she said.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2015

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