KARACHI: An ambitious plan for restoration and revival of the historic Frere Hall and its surrounding gardens was unveiled by the Guardian Board on Friday evening in the lawns of the magnificent work of construction amidst a good number of invitees interested in heritage and cultural legacy of Karachi.
Architect Yawar Jilani gave a detailed presentation to the audience about the project, beginning from the architectural blueprint of Frere Hall to the master plan that the board intends to implement to restore and revive the structure. He said they had first looked at the traffic aspect and how could the zone be pedestrianised for the gardens. There will be adequate parking and with time there will even be underground parking. There will be four clearly designated entryway gates to the facility.
Mr Jilani said the Frere Hall library will be moved to the left side, to a much bigger space which will be a conditioned space. Its size will be doubled. Then there will be an amphitheatre, a souvenir shop and a cafe.
A visitors’ centre on the ground floor is also planned, which will serve as the first interface for the tourists to the city. The bandstand, along with the fountains, will be restored. There will be several features to the gardens at the centre of which will be Jinnah Square. Cars will not be allowed to enter the central space.
Acknowledging a member of the board Ghazi Salahuddin’s thoughts that the hall was once associated with the city’s intelligentsia and public where book fairs happened, where people got together for exchange of ideas, Mr Jilani said stalls will be put together keeping all those things in mind.
Talking about the efforts related to the restoration of the building, the architect said his team was working alongside NED University’s Dr Noman Ahmed and Anila Naeem. The cleaning of the stones, the restoration of the roof drainage system and replacement of missing elements are some of the key aspects of the restoration process. All of that may require two years to complete.
Earlier chairman of the board Shahid Firoz spoke about members of his team and underlined the historic significance of Frere Hall. He said it was built in 1863 and inaugurated two years later as the city’s first town hall. He pointed out that this enclave has survived the apathy and helplessness of successive administrations. He thanked the Mayor of Karachi Wasim Akhtar for his role in the whole project. He added when they first took the idea to the mayor he was a bit reticent about it thinking it was too bold but then they were able to convince him and an agreement was signed between the KMC and the board.
Architect Shahid Abdulla, who stood alongside Mr Jilani when he was giving the presentation, informed the audience on how they could help raise funds for the project.
Jameel Yusuf delivered the vote of thanks in an impassioned manner. He floated the suggestion to Commissioner of Karachi Iftikhar Shallwani that instead of calling Karachi the city of lights let’s call it the city of love and care.
Ayesha Tammy Haq conducted the event. A musical programme followed.
Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019