In these pictures provided by organisers of the Pakistan pavilion, the interior and exterior of city shadi halls can be seen.
In these pictures provided by organisers of the Pakistan pavilion, the interior and exterior of city shadi halls can be seen.

KARACHI: The 17th International Architecture Exhibition having the theme ‘How will we live together?’ organised by La Biennale di Venezia will take place in May. The National Pavilion of Pakistan at the event will open to the public from May 22 and remain open until Nov 1, while the preview for the press and professionals will happen on May 20 and 21.

The Pakistani Pavilion will present Mapping Festivities for its second official participation in the exhibition. The research explores the shadi (marriage) halls as an architectural typology of the post-partition, postcolonial Pakistan through the transformation to the domestic villa project as an organic response to urban and social needs.

Talking to Dawn, lead researcher of the team that’s prepared the pavilion, Farhan Anwar, said: “The biennale was supposed to take place in 2019 but due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was postponed. The Pakistani Pavilion is curated by Sara Anwar. She gathered around a team that sought approvals that are required for such an endeavour and was also endorsed by the president of Pakistan. So, we have been officially designated to present it at the biennale.”

Mr Anwar said this year’s theme ‘How will we live together?’ is all about inclusiveness and togetherness. “We have a culture where people gather around events. We focused on marriage halls because the culture associated with [them] is unique, particularly with reference to Karachi — how it brings so many people together, how it triggers so many businesses, and how that one event (shadi) proves to be the catalyst for so many people to get together,” he said.

He added that for this purpose their team engaged Habib University as well. Its students helped with the mapping part of the project — old pictures, archives and information. “Through the resources that we had at our disposal we developed physical, print and visual content for the pavilion.”

‘We focused on marriage halls because the culture associated with them is unique’

Surely, such an important venture could not have come to fruition without challenges. Talking about them, curator of the pavilion Sara Anwar, who is based in Dubai, said: “One of the biggest challenges with this project was to work in the absence of a framework for participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale at a national level. National pavilions are typically supported and sponsored by government entities. We have been fortunate to be supported by and work with a remarkable team of individuals both outside of and within Pakistan to activate research, produce and finally make this participation possible. Covid-19-related delays and restrictions have been an added layer of challenge; but this is something that is not unique to us, rather all participating countries have had to work around them.”

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2021

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