A home for the rusting infrastructure of Karachi’s past.

Written by Ghania Shams Khan

On first glance a chimney of stone masonry will peak any bystander’s curiosity crossing Nishtar road. Like a point in space the structure stands out from its context because of its verticality and materials of the colonial era. Within Ranchoreline quarters, this particular building is strongly engraved in the old town’s fabric.

 

 Site map for the compound: chimney seen from Nishtar road, Ranchore line quarters.

Site map for the compound: chimney seen from Nishtar road, Ranchore line quarters.

Crossing a rusted gate and skipping the pile of trash present on site, the curiosity will lead to a stone built structure displaying a plaque with carvings nostalgic of the British rule. Written on it “Karachi municipal drainage works opened by his Excellency the right honorable Lord Harris G.C.I.E. Governor of Bombay’ A governor who served from 1890 to 1895 during British rule and another important name ‘James Strachan’ the chief engineer and secretary of Karachi municipality in 1873. The two names who had great influence in Karachi’s history as a critical governor and as the architect/engineer who left behind some of the important colonial heritage in the city.

 

 An engraved signage at the entrance naming the officials involved in the project | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

An engraved signage at the entrance naming the officials involved in the project | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

 Typical colonial elements are evident on the structure with its cornice, arches and the stone masonry | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

Typical colonial elements are evident on the structure with its cornice, arches and the stone masonry | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

 On entrance one sees the chimney and the start of the stone building. A plaque is present on the front archiving the buildings history | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates   

On entrance one sees the chimney and the start of the stone building. A plaque is present on the front archiving the buildings history | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

 

Upon further discovery, massive machinery is found within the building as well with a label of ‘Fraser and Chalmer Ltd- Erith, England’ (fig.no.1.3.) an Anglo-American company specializing in boilers, engines, pumps, etc. As written on the plaque these machinery must have been used for the drainage works, and as boilers.

 

 Machinery found on site labeled "Fraser and Chalmer Ltd- Erith, England", an Anglo-American company specializing in boilers, engines, etc. | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

Machinery found on site labeled "Fraser and Chalmer Ltd- Erith, England", an Anglo-American company specializing in boilers, engines, etc. | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

This pre-partition building has evident colonial features with its stone masonry and arches some blocked and a chimney that can be spotted from afar. The building stands as a reminder of the British rule and represents the development done in Karachi by them, simultaneously representing the abandonment of such development right after the British left.
Maybe this built structure could’ve been very beneficial for the context but it stands as an empty compound now, inhabited by wild shrubs only and the machinery which show the role they played in the city’s infrastructure, now rusting into behemoth hollow metal structures intertwined with plants, existing in a hauntingly dilapidated condition.

 Wild plants, shrubs cover the site transforming the open space into a bed of green and taking over the machinery | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

Wild plants, shrubs cover the site transforming the open space into a bed of green and taking over the machinery | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

 The infrastructure that could’ve been an integral part of the context, is now rusting into useless metal | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates

The infrastructure that could’ve been an integral part of the context, is now rusting into useless metal | Copyright Marvi Mazhar & Associates