ArchiTravel interviews the architect, writer and publisher Maria Aslam-Hyder.
Interview by : Maria Anagnostou
Maria Anagnostou: What is the importance of architectural tourism?
Maria Aslam-Hyder: I think it’s the key importance of any country because you are showcasing your heritage, your culture, your buildings, your dynamics through architecture. That ranges from hundreds of years ago to the present. So you’re actually showing an interface of history, as well as the present and the future all rolled into one.
M.A.: What is the importance of traveling, especially for architects and humans in general?
M.A.H.: It is very important. Even if I was not an architect, I would still think that it is really important. It makes you aware of so many different cultures and people in general. There are beautiful people all over the world and it’s great to meet them and make friends with them. I don’t like to use the word networking, but the word friends. In every country you travel to, you actually make a friend and you want to come back and extend that friendship.
M.A.: What is the added value that architecture creates within a city?
M.A.H.: I am a fan of old buildings. If I am in Barcelona, I will eventually land in the Gothic areas, if I am in London I would seek out the old ports, if I’m in Turkey I will do the same. I do have that tension to history. I like to explore it and I think there is no better way than to go around the buildings, around the exhibitions. There is just so much to see, so much to learn through history and through architecture.
M.A.: What is the importance of architectural events (like WAF) worldwide? What are the profits for a city holding such kind of major events?
M.A.H.: It is important to have events like WAF because that is one way of interacting with the architectural fraternity on a global scale. We are all sitting in our own countries hosting our own events but when we come together and talk about energy issues, global warming and architecture of the new millennium it all starts to make a difference. I don’t like to use the word reinventing, but kind of learning from each other and putting that to our own country level. As for those cities hosting such events, I think the city is highlighted, the history is highlighted, its architecture and its architects are highlighted.
M.A.: You have launched an ambitious project ADA-Architecture Design Art, a quarterly publication from Pakistan on the creativity and works in the field of architecture, design and art of which you are the Founder and Chief Editor.
How did you come with this idea in the country of Pakistan?
M.A.H.: I’ve done a lot of traveling. I’ve been to a lot of different countries, different continents, I’ve lived in different continents and every time I’d move around I would see there is a book from this country or from that architect. It would really hurt me that I would not see Pakistan edit any magazine or book. That was a time when I was not living in Pakistan and I was determined when I went back to start something in the country that would actually showcase the Pakistani architecture, design and art and put it on a global platform. That was the whole idea.
M.A.: How would you characterize the modern Pakistani architecture?
M.A.H.: If you look at the modern buildings you would say that they are all the same. Globalization has sprawl to such an extent that if you plant one building in Karachi and plant the same building in Dubai or Singapore or even Canada, it would all be the same. But if the same building is sited and has some kind of an ocular aspect, some kind of traditional roots coming from the region, not promoting regionalism but if something from the region is picked up and translated to that building, it definitely makes that building a Pakistani one, or a Singaporean one. But that is another issue, whether we want to embrace globalization or focus on regionalism or, for now, think “green”. So, there are different kinds of architecture.
M.A.: Pakistan is a country with great history. Designing a modern building within this context is a complex procedure. Is critical regionalism an approach to modern Pakistan architecture?
M.A.H.: There are some very modern buildings designed by some great architects from Pakistan and I think it comes naturally to them since they’ve been to the States or other countries for their education or just spent time in other countries and they bring that extra baggage with them. So when they design modern buildings I think it comes very naturally. A building should not be categorized as modern. It should be categorized as making a public statement and it should be a well done building from all aspects, build, energy, since energy is a factor we should consider these days, the region and of course to the user, the one who will inhabit the building.
M.A.: As an architectural critic do you think that an architecture magazine can influence ordinary people, non architects, to deal with architecture and demand better urban environment? How can this be done?
M.A.H.: Yes, I think the publication does that and it should do that. People who are venturing into new projects they should go to these publications and magazines. They should start questioning how these prints can be promoted and pushed on a positive site, rather than state whatever is happening. We should always question what is good or what can be better. So if we encourage that kind of environment, then I would say that the publication would have done its job.
M.A.: At the end, can you please provide your personal proposal for 10 buildings which you think as the most important worldwide that someone must visit anyway?
M.A.H.: That keeps changing for me every two years. I would advise the students to look up history first because from there you learn a lot. Those where the complex times with the complex construction and complex drawings and I think that the students should go through them. The palaces, the museums, the cathedrals. I think for a student, or even for a tourist, Italy and Turkey are two of the countries that he should go to. It’s an architectural treasure that should be explored. There are so many countries, though… I mention the two that one would start from, to venture to this kind of an adventure.
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About this Author : Maria Anagnostou