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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Khaplu City: The best example of a connection and land of glaciers with nature

Being involved in teaching architecture, I teach sustainability to my students as a concept, a principle, and a design strategy. However, in Karachi, I find it difficult to present case studies and examples from which students can learn.


Sustainability literally means the ability to maintain balance. This balance can be in nature and man-made architecture, in culture and economy, or in environmental and economic matters. From these three references we see many examples in the Far East and the West, but in the case of Pakistan there are very few such examples in the cities.


But my search for local examples was somewhat completed during my recent visit to Khaplo. Khaplo, situated in the Ganchha division of Gilgit-Baltistan, was settled by Syed Ali Hamdani at the foot of the Karakoram dynasty in the late 14th century.

KhapluFortKhapluPalaceKhapluGilgitBaltistanPakistan2022
This is the last stop for trekkers heading to Mashreq, K6 and K7 via Hoshe gorge. What astounded me at Khaplo was the nature-friendly architecture here. The majority of the buildings were built using locally available resources and construction techniques and seemed to blend in with the environment.


Unlike any other tourist destination in the Northern Territory, there is no desire to subdue nature, cut down vast forests and control wild flora and fauna. For me, Khaplo was an oasis in the cold desert of Gilgit-Baltistan where natural places, river flows and local forests are valued.


In this city of 200,000 people, no crime has been committed for more than half a century. The crime rate here is zero. To me, this is an example of sustainability because nature is happy and its citizens are satisfied, thus maintaining a balance between the city's structure and its social impact. This 'balance' is moreover reflected in the hospitality of the locals. Even strangers would talk to us and request us to their homes and offer us fruit. Can we imagine this in Karachi?


We visited Khaplo in the month of June and were told that there are different sights and colors in different seasons. The white trees here turn yellow in the autumn and the area is covered with a white sheet in the winter, while the pink color is seen here at the beginning of the spring season. Thus we see another example of harmony. The local houses here are also a reflection of the natural colors and are usually painted in bright colors.


Residents often use stone, mud bricks, tin sheets, wood and limestone for construction. Often all of these things are put together in a very crude way. Nothing is done to cover this rough condition and rough surface. There is no shame in revealing the correct style of construction. In fact, locals are proud to point out the irregularities in the construction of houses as they represent the organic and natural elements found in nature.


The overall structure of the city also shows a lack of sophistication. There are no extensive roads for vehicles, but the quiet streets are built keeping in mind the changes in land structure and altitude. The buildings here are also in harmony with the ordinary water resources of the area. There is no sewerage system and citywide sewerage depends on natural gravity.


One might think that this quiet city is safe from the effects of globalization due to its distance from the provincial capital Skardu or difficult routes but this impression is shattered when you know that the literacy rate here is 90%. ۔ I went to a government boys' secondary school to participate in a speech contest. The profound knowledge and confidence shown by the students there showed how much they were connected to the world and how much they knew about it.


The school building was built around a large courtyard, with many trees. There were various school buildings around which were constructed keeping in view the natural structure of the land. All of those buildings were built of locally available stones, had only one floor and had a slope on one side of their roofs due to snowfall in the area. Due to the materials used in the school building, it had a natural beauty and was easy to repair.


Garden of paradise


As a tourist destination, Khaplo is famous for its forts and the 800-year-old Chachchan Mosque. These two constructions are an expression of the desire to harmonize with nature rather than to subjugate it.


The materials used in these two constructions make them part of the natural environment of the area instead of isolating them from the environment. Even the rehabilitation project of Khaplo Fort, which was started in 2005 under the Aga Khan Cultural Service, took care to use only natural materials in the restoration work.

Khaplucity
Historical memoirs of British tourists call it the 'Fortress of the Local Mountains', while Khaplo is described as the 'Garden of Paradise' and the 'Most Beautiful Oasis in the Region'. The river Shewak, which flows through here, adds to its beauty. Most of the houses built along the river have now been converted into rest houses and hotels, just like the rest house in which we stayed.

The-best-example-of-a-connection-and-land-of-glaciers-with-nature


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