Pakistan Chowk

Mahera Omar
Country of filming:

A neglected public square in the historic Arambagh neighbourhood of Karachi, Pakistan gets a much needed makeover.

“You must’ve seen this chowk (public square) fixed several times over the years, right?” architect and heritage consultant Marvi Mazhar says to tailer Masood ul Hassan as she visits his shop at Pakistan Chowk.

“Don’t ask”, he replies with a smile on his face.

“So, now I’m fixing up the chowk” Marvi tells him. “You must be laughing at me as well and thinking it’ll go back to being a dump.”

Situated in the heart of the historic Arambagh neighbourhood, the once vibrant community space in Karachi had in recent years become a favourite jaunt of drug addicts and a dumping ground for trash. The chowk has been around since the British ruled over the Indian subcontinent.

“Homes were small back then. Women would bring home cooked meals in the evenings and have dinner with their husbands when they came back from work. Girls played on the roundabout, their scarves tied around their necks, playing childhood games. It was a lively place before the authorities made a mess of it” says Masood to Marvi. “Do what you will, the chowk will stay as it is”, he adds as she tells him about her plan to rehabilitate the neglected space and bring back its former charm.

What follows is the story of an urban intervention by Marvi and her team to engage the local community in taking back ownership of their beloved chowk.