Pride of Pakistan : Nayyar Ali Dada

In lieu of Independence Day on August 14, all of August the Daily Times will highlight individuals who continue to make Pakistan proud. Our 10th interview is with the country’s top architect, the dynamic and the very creative, award-winning veteran Nayyar Ali Dada

How did you start your career? Did you have a mentor? A muse? What was your background and training?

I was good at drawings, inclined towards paintings. Fine arts was not a field, which could become a career unlike nowadays. I was transferred from paintings to architecture in the first year. I believe architecture is different from engineering and close to creative arts. Architecture career is a process of evolution. I was trained by modernist American teachers and started working in the modernist discipline of 1980s. I realised that the international trends did not cater for local culture and local conditions. I started producing work around local conditions, searching for local idioms and local materials, without losing sense of time.

“Your ultimate bondage is with the soil you belong to. You are lucky if you have added something meaningful to the place you belong to”

What were your top priorities when you were still young and working towards becoming an architect?

I was inspired by my teacher towards a creative, contemporary career, aspiring to invent the future.

How has the National College of Arts changed from your days as a student to your days now, as a professor?

The problem with NCA is density, there are too many students, less space and faculty. Creative subjects can only be bought in smaller groups.

What’s important to you when you’re designing a structure? What are some design rules you love to break?

A good structure has to follow rules; it is the handling of forms where departures can take place.

How would you describe your personal aesthetic? What periods/people have influenced you?

I was inspired by an iconic mentor Shakir Ali my aesthetic cruelty was nurtured in his shadow.

What are some of your favourite buildings in Pakistan?

Ziarat Residency designed by British engineers. I admire it for its simplicity and relation to its surroundings.

Tell us about your experience working with the government on public projects. How have different regimes differed in their attitudes towards supporting the arts and architecture industry?

Dealing with the governments has been invariably a turbulent passage; their attitude is dogmatic burdened with outdated procedures and bad taste.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? What has been your career high and your career low?

The Agha Khan Award for Architecture in 1998 was the high mark. Career lows are a regular happening; they keep on coming and going in a professional environment.

Are you involved in any public restoration work? What is currently being done in Pakistan to support restoration projects? Is the public sector more active in this regard, or private? What are the setbacks?

The scene on restoration is generally depressing however a sense of awareness is growing and hopefully we shall have better heritage care.

What does it mean to be Pakistani for you?

Your ultimate bondage is with the soil you belong to. You are lucky if you have added something meaningful to the place you belong to.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a memorial in Peshawar to honour the great sacrifice of children and the teachers of Army Public School.

How much is having a strong vision and an effective inspiration important to designing an impressive looking building?

Creative work is all about inspiration and vision. Creativity is not a craft and does not come by diligence alone; it is an immeasurable quality of imaginations.

Do you place yourself under self critique?

Most of the time you are fighting with yourself a dialogue and discourse for commitment
to your own ideas. This is usual in all creative pursuits.

Who have you grown up admiring the most in the field of architecture?

Architect Louis Khan from the US and Geoffrey Bawa of Sri Lanka.

To design such important buildings and scrapers in the country and to be honoured and appreciated for your work so much, what is your vision for Pakistan?

Pakistan has tremendous talent and potential. The potential has not been realised. Pakistan needs to wake up to the realities of present times and invent a new future. Clean up the ongoing mess and move on towards a progressive, free and liberal society.


Crest Of Architecture

Nayyar Ali Dada has earned himself the repute of being the country’s leading architect to date. He has designed one of the most iconic and powerful buildings of Pakistan and has raked in laurels and awards for his work.

Multiple Award-Winning Pro

Nayyar has won several awards and honours for his work as an architect, some of the most prestigious of those include the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, which made him the first Pakistani to win the award. He has also been honoured with the President’s Pride of Performance Award in 1992. Nayyar has also won the coveted Arcasia Award for Architecture, which is an honour acknowledging exemplary work done by architects working in Asia. He also has a Lux Style Award for Best Architect to his credit.

Iconic Structures

Nayyar Ali Dada & Associates is the name behind many powerful and iconic buildings in Pakistan, namely Alhamra, Beaconhouse National University, the Gaddafi Stadium, Serena Hotel, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre, Vogue Towers and the Muslim Commercial Bank to name a few

International Star

Nayyar has been lauded for his work globally that earned him the Arcasia Award. He designed the BCCI Bank’s building in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Humanitarian & Educationist

Nayyar has pioneered the cause of conservation in Pakistan and is a founding member of the Lahore Conservation Society. He is devoted to the education of young architects and has been a lecturer at NCA since 1965. He was named a Fellow of the College in 1976. Nayyar is actively involved in the creative arts in Pakistan, both as water colourist and as the director of a private gallery and is a board member of and advisor to many cultural institutions.

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