Loss Of Intrinsic Qualities Of Urban Form And Local Social Processes In The Face Of Globalisation: Case Of Karachi’s Old Town

Suneela AHMED


In their aspiration to imitate cities of the west, many cities in the context of the developing world blindly imitate the built form being constructed in the west, irrepective of the fact that this imitation may lead to creation of built form which may not be climatically, socially and economically relevant. As a certain type of building is supposed to form represent ‘modernism’ and the future, thus this exercise of copy pasting continues. This practice is evident in all major cities of Pakistan.


At ground reality, the perception of space, by the local communities, is not always related to the physical form. The social attachment of the communties with the built form and the social usage of certain typologies of local spaces cannot be translated, either linguistically or physically, into other languages, and through the influence of foreign imported design language, significant aspect of local built form is lost in newer developments that aspire to project a global image. There are certain words of the local language used by communities and residents that describe urban space and spaces within buildings, in a particular manner. These words loose their physical and conceptual essence if they are translated in foreign languages. 


Using a combination of inductive and deductive research approach that arches over mixed methods, based on semi structured interviews, focus groups, urban form documentation, archive review and personal observation methods, this research postulates lessons from its study of local processes of built form production, the value given to local places by communities and the impact of global forces. This paper analyses an indigenous locality in Karachi, Pakistan, identifying  certain words associated with urban spaces and local built form, which cannot be translated into the official planning language, which is English.


The research identifies that urban anthropologists are better positioned to understand the way locals associate with built form because of their cross-disciplinary approach to analysing the society, as compared to built form theorists. It also identifies that there is a requirement to analyse places at diverse global and local scales to understand what urban forms need to be retained and to understand that these spatial models are contextual, rather than universal. 

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4305/metu.jfa.2020.1.10


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