Innovative and ground breaking ideas men who offer you one-stop solutions for all your building and design needs
By Nazish K Siddiqui, Photographs by SR Designworks
If you’ve been out to buy Gulab Jaman or Barfi, you’ve seen their work. If your kids go to one of many schools in the country, they have seen their work too. If you’re usually at the club, working out or playing bridge with your pals, their work is well known to you too. If you’ve only been to the hospital lately, then the chances are still great that you have been in one that they have designed.
hat does that say about SR Designworks? It says that they are the trusted name, the go-to-guys in the architecture and design world across the nation and undoubtedly, for branching out across the waters as well. With a diverse range of clients, from private residences, retail and commercial outlets, chic styling eateries to private schools and hospitals, park landscapes and corporate office spaces, this dynamic duo has done it all.
SR Designworks (SRDW) is a partnership between long standing friends Saad Mahmood Khan and Rashid Rasheed. They were 2 of the 3 partners at Designers East since 1992, and after an amicable split with their former partner, Saad and Rashid formed SRDW. Saad and Rashid are both NCA alumni, Rashid interned at Designers East during his final year, and left the company as a Partner, whereas Saad interned with Nayyar Ali Dada, before joining Rashid at Designers East. Now, more than 2 years strong, and with a loyal clientele, SRDW is stronger than ever. So what do they reveal about themselves when they sit with Valuemag to discuss the world of Architecture, and Design?
SRDW is a one stop firm. From the ground up and from the outside to the interiors, they do it all, and do it well. In Rashid’s’ opinion, “a building is not complete if you haven’t taken it to a level where it can take furniture etc. It has to be inside out and outside in, it doesn’t get the right feel unless if you just do one or the other.” Saad and Rashid are innovative and ground- breaking-ideas men. On one of their newer projects, they designed the first ever recycle-able school. This elite private English medium school is located on a rented land, Saad and Rashid were pressed for time to complete a purpose built school, and successfully persuaded the owners to build a school that was 80 percent recyclable.
They could dismantle their school and rebuild it at a new location, or sell off the recyclable materials and recover the cost of having built the school in the first place. It also was constructed in lightning speed, in 3 to 4 months, as compared to a concrete structure which would have taken more than double the time. The school is made mostly of steel that’s bolted together. With the rising cost of steel, recycling the school when the rent expires would actually turn a pretty profit. Some of the other schools that they have designed include Lahore American School, and the LAS Theatre Arts Building, Ibne Sina Nursery Section in Defence Lahore, TNS Lahore, and Beacon House School in Faisalabad.
So what does it take to turn an idea from the clients mind, into a freestanding reality on the main roads of Lahore? A good architect is able to read his client well, and mould the vision into reality and functionality. Pair it with aesthetically appealing interiors and you’ve hit the mother-lode. “Architects are usually conduits, clients come in with their own requirements, we add our own input, “says Rashid. “Our job is to take their ideas and turn them into something that is actually buildable. We could draw something absolutely amazing but it would never see the light of day.”
“Our design philosophy revolves around making sure that the space we create works well. We are always trying to do things that are one up on our previous projects, sometimes they’re technically tricky, but it’s not something that the client may even realize. We try something new in every project, as test cases, to see if we can accomplish our goals with our crafts men,” he says.
Saad is quick to point out that SRDW is particular about whom they choose to take on as clients. “There are some very unprofessional people in the market. We pick and choose our clients. We only work with people who we get along with and those are the ones that understand that there is actually value added with consultancy, and picking up a good designer or architect.”
As is the case in many professions, many a times Saad and Rashid face clients with whom keeping a working relationship proves difficult. “We have refunded money that was given to us as advance payments on signed contracts. We don’t want people to say that ‘they took our money and took us for a ride’, you won’t ever hear that we were unfair with anyone.”
In an era where green construction is gaining popularity with home owners and corporations alike, the world over, what is the situation within the Land of the Pure? Surely more and more people in the know must be turning to eco-friendly solutions, considering the long term repercussions if they are not implemented. “Everything ‘green’ is very expensive, solar panels and the like are all high end technology. But there are other ways to save energy like double glazing your windows, or making your walls twice as thick, or insulating your roof, or making smaller bedrooms. It does cost twice as much money but its worth it in the long run.”
Both Saad and Rashid agree that the old world colonial architecture of Lahore included some of these more effective methods which resulted in home owners staying cool in the summers and warm in the winters. But we, as a nation have tended to swoon at the sight of western style homes and have moved away from the tried and tested methods. Rashid reminisces over the kind of city life that only sporadically still exists in old Lahore, “there were always serious issues with hygiene, there were rats etc. The sandwiched homes never got any sun on three sides, so they were built with ventilation shafts. The shops were on the ground floor, and you’d just toss down your basket to get your daily groceries. Even if everyone knew your business, you could safely leave your children at home knowing full well that your neighbors could watch over them, and they would always be safe.”
“That culture has changed. The goras, who had built their bungalows to distance themselves from the locals, became the standard we had to copy, since that’s all we know how to do. Now we don’t know who lives to the left or the right of us,” he continues. “When you divide a nation, and send 20 million across the border and import 20 million who live a different lifestyle, the culture will naturally dissipate. People have picked and chosen what they want to make their culture, nowhere in the world can you find the kind of mix of cultures you can get in Pakistan,” he concludes.
So fast have we been to take up modern architectural design and adopt it in Pakistan, that in doing so we have forgotten to learn the lessons that come along with the new ideas, “we love to make California style homes here in Pakistan, with terracotta roof tiling, yet we haven’t been quick to adopt energy produced by windmills as done in California,” notes Saad and Rashid.
Both partners, NCA alumni, comment at the slowly declining quality of architecture studies in the universities of the country, their alma mater included. “You have to have good faculty, anyone who is good will be working in the market. Unless it is financially feasible, no one in their right mind will quit their careers just to teach, and it isn’t yet.”
Saad and Rashid do their bit, at the national level they represent Pakistan’s Council of Architects and Town Planners, and do their duty as inspectors and jurors, but according to them it’s a very slow process to bring about change. “In NCA people are averse to change, and if there is to be change they want someone else to do all the donkey work. They won’t even show up at a seminar or a lecture, the architecture department is suffering as a result of it.”
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, issue 4, August 2008