Creat. Sp.

Encapsulating the Translatory Attributes in the Formulation and Development of the Selected Modernist Building Constructed in Islamabad, Capital of Pakistan

Mansoor Ahmed

  • Download PDF
  • DOI Number

National Identity, Modernity and New Nations State.

PUBLISHED DATE January 02, 2017
PUBLISHER The Author(s) 2017. This article is published with open access at

Right after the construction of Islamabad, National Capital of Pakistan, different foreign architectswere hired by the State to undertake landmark projects in the city. Most notable among them were Doxiadis, Kenzo Tange, Edward Durell Stone. The preference given to these foreign architects over the local architect was tied to the inherited ideas of Modernist Supermacy, ‘glorified western cultures’ and their understanding of the traditional architecture specifically the so called, Islamic architecture. It was assumed that the architecture, foreign architects will produce would be technologically advanced, help in the International recognition of national architecture and become a symbol of Nation’s progression. The paper focusses on a comparative critique of the two landmark projects namely Presidential Estate and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission building (PAEC) named as Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH), both situated in Islamabad and designed by Edward Durell Stone. These two buildings have been analysedwith reference to the background forces, in line to Foucault’s term,narrated as political power, subjectivity and resistance. The research has anchored on the idea that in line with the official brief, the former project was not only inspired byInternationalstyle,but also adapted to the Mughal gardens in terms ofgrandeur and spatial construction. On the other hand, PINSTECH building can be read as an effort of the forceful marriage of states religious subjectivities and Modernity. The paper concludes with ‘folk architecture’ a term coined by Doxiadis and reading it in conjunction with the architectural anomalies.


In her seminal book“Esra Akcan” defines translation as “any act of changing from one place, position, condition, medium or language” [1].Keeping this definition as a broader framework for operation, this paper has developed a criticism of the “two” seminal projectsdesigned by Edward Durrell Stone (EDS), after Independence of Pakistan in 1947. These projects present a critical discourse on the post-independence modernistarchitecture in Pakistan. The analysis of this discourse has highlighted that how background forces like power, representation and national identityhelped in shaping the architecture in a newly formed country. EDS was born in Arkansas and actively engaged in the practice of architecture across the globe. He was also an active member of CIAM. Being a foreign architect (in Pakistan)and widely recognized as “Modernist populous architect” [8] ,the selection of EDS as an architect to design some of the landmark buildings in Pakistan was made after he displayed an elaborate understanding of the local architectural tradition, especially Mughal architecture1. The‘Islamic’ debate remained in the core of theideological development of architecture in the new state. Apart from the progressive approach andliberal agendas of ruling martial law regime, the main reason for overly emphasizingthe religious ethos in architecture was to provide an authenticity to their rule by manipulating peoples aspiration.

Thisamalgamation of new and old had become a challenge for architects and resulted in the competitive selection of EDS. Thoughhighly criticized by the architect and theorist,Kamil Khan Mumtaz (KKM)the design of Wapda House (Offi of Water and Power Development Authority) in Lahore [18] by EDS and the other projects undertaken by him helped in developing a hybrid architecture style in Pakistan. Theseworks also provided a platform for synthesis of opposing ideas andprovided a culminating point for progressive modernity and local tradition. Thishybridity not only helped in successful incorporation of the State’s agenda in architecture but also provided a guideline forthefuturearchitectural development.

ided a guideline forthefuturearchitectural development. The following lines would try to decipher the issue in translation concerning the EDS’s two seminalprojects designed in Pakistan namely the Presidential Estate and the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) at Islamabad. Thesebuildings were designed not only to serve a straight forward function but because of their political importance, also subjected to bear the burden of identity and representation. The‘PresidentialEstate’ was the center of the political power in the newly developed capital Islamabad, while ‘Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology’ was founded to bring the country in line with thesuperpowers,(beholding atomic power), and to make Pakistan invincible. Hence in both the projects,power was operative with full force, as defined by Foucault,as “an instrument of coercion”.

Page(s) 179188
ISSN Print : 2321-3892, Online : 2321-7154

Themodernist architecture in the newly formed capital of Pakistan, was appropriated by grounding in the tradition, mainly in the building built or utilized by Muslim ruler of India, as desired by the ruling regime. The states agenda was translated into architecture bya number of architects. Edward Durrell Stone, an American architect, was among the prominent architects who undertook this task. His ability to provide a hybrid solution was the key to his appointment as one of the favorite architects of the ruling regimes. Daeschel narrated EDS contextual acclamationas “Stone quickly learned to make copious, if often merely rhetorical, a reference to Islamic building norms in his sales pitch”. Daeschel also criticized his approach as “showing little sensitivity to such matters in actual architectural space” [9].Thelatter part might be correct for some of the stone works in Pakistan like Wapda House, Lahore. For quite a longthe facade ofthe presidential complex was also read in contrast to his study of Islamic architecture, the paper however has shed light on the fact that the present façade was “normalized’ after the removal of certain element proposed by EDS. Various studies of the plan and the pictures taken from drone cameras also reveal that the constructed space exhibits a strong influence of the Mughal geometric space as evident in the Jahangir’s Tomb, Shalimar Garden and Lahore Fort.

Theskillful mastery of EDS which he utilized while translating the modernist agendas of place making and monumentality in the specific geographical location is terrific. The two buildings, discussed in this paper, designed by EDS are in line with his study of traditional architecture in Pakistan and exemplify his expertise as a modern master. Also, these building provided a foundation for the development of regionalist discourse on architecture in Pakistan. A detailed analysis of the buildings of EDS reveala conceptual agreement between EDS and Khawaja’s definition of “Islamic” architecture. Islamic architecture to Khwaja does not only correspond to specific building elements but refers to architecture constructed in the geographical areas inhabited or ruled by Muslims with broader aims covering all the required symbolic and functional aspect [12]. The main attribute of this architecture is more “conceptual/symbolic in nature rather than material”.However, a further debate is required to locate the diffe ences (if any) between the so-called “Islamic” architecture and other forms of architecture practiced across the world.

  • Akcan, E. (2012). Melancholy in Translation. In Architecture in Translation: Germany, Turkey, and the Modern House, Duke University Press.
  • Bozdogan, S. (2002). Modernism and Nation Building: Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic. New edition , Seattle, Wash. u.a.: University of Washington Press.
  • Chaudhry, Nazir A. (2002). Harappa: The Cradle of Our Civilization. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications.
  • Daechsel, M. (2015). “From ‘great Plan’ to Great Project.” In Islamabad and the Politics of International Development in Pakistan, Cambridge University Press.
  • Doxiadis, Constantinos A. (2016). Ekistics, the Science of Human Settlements Available athttp://www.doxiadis. org/Downloads/ecistics_the_science_of_human_ settlements.pdf(Accessed April 19, 2016).
  • Hasan, A.(2016). Planning and Its Assumption. Available at P13_Planning-and-its-Assumptions.pdf (Accessed April 19, 2016).
  • Holston, J. (1989) The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Hunting, Mary A. (2012). Edward Durell Stone: Modernism’s Populist Architect. First Edition: W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Islamabad and the Politics of International Development in Pakistan. (2015). Islamabad and the Politics of International Development in Pakistan. Cambridge University Press
  • Khan, A. Z. (2013). On Design and Politics of Co-producing Public Space: The Long Marches and the Reincarnation of the ‘Forecourt’ of the Pakistani Nation’, International Journal of Islamic Architecture 2: 1, pp. 125–156, doi: 10.1386/ ijia.2.1.125_1
  • Khosla, R. (1992). A Period of Renaissance. Review of TheArchitecture of Mughal India. Social Scientist 20 (11), 58–61. doi:10.2307/3517780.
  • Khwaja, Zaheerud D. (2016). The Spirit of Islamic Architecture. Avaialbale at publications/contents/3536/original/DPC0055. pdf?1384775526. (Accessed April 20, 2016).
  • Kusno, A. (2000). Behind the Postcolonial: Architecture, Urban Space and Political Cultures in Indonesia. First edition. London ; New York: Routledge.
  • Leslie, Stuart W. (2016). Atomic Isolation. In Newsweek Pakistan. Available at atomic-isolation.
  • Leslie, Stuart W. (2015). Atomic Structures: Th Architecture of Nuclear Nationalism in India and Pakistan. History and Technology 31(30), July, 2015). doi:10.1080/07341512.2015.1124635.
  • Leslie, Stuart W. (2015). Pakistan’s Nuclear Taj Mahal. Physics Today 68(2), pp. 40–46. doi:10.1063/ PT.3.2688.
  • McGarr, Paul M. (2013). The Cold War in South Asia: Britain, the United States and the Indian Subcontinent 1945– 1965. Cambridge University Press
  • Mumtaz, Kamil K. (1990). Architecture in Pakistan. London: Architectural Press.
  • Naveed, Muhammad B. (2016). Harappa: An Overview of Harappan Architecture and Town Planning. Retrieved from
  • Nazir Ahmad C. (2002). Harappa: The Cradle of Our Civilization. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications.
  • Nilsson, Sten A.(1973). The New Capitals of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies Monograph Series No. 12. pp. 230. Lund, Studentlitteratur, 1973. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 108(2), 175-175. doi:10.1017/S0035869X0013360X
  • Pakistan Dawn (2014). Pakistan Wants to Build More N-Power Plants, IAEA Told. Retrieved from http:// news/1134378
  • Prakash, V. (2002). Chandigarh’s Le Corbusier: The Struggle for Modernity in Postcolonial India. First Edition. Seattle. University of Washington Press.
  • Timothy R. and Mohammad G. (2013). Edward Durrel Stone: Architectural Works in Asia and North Africa. Paper presented at 2nd international conference on Sustainable Cities, Urban Sustainability And Transportation. Baltimore. pp. 232–238. WSEAS Press
  • USA, IBP. (2012). Pakistan Nuclear Programs and Projects Handbook - Strategic Information and Regulations. IBP USA
  • Wescoat, James L. and Joachim Wolschke, B. (1996). Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, and Prospects. Dumbarton Oaks.