The Legacy of Habib Fida Ali A Voice Silenced Death of a Professional The Flying Horse of Women’s Football
Friendship and humility came before fame and fortune for this iconic personality – a gentle and loving man with immense aesthetic sense, a great love of art, and talent beyond measure as an architect.
Habib Fida Ali – a name synonymous with modesty, simplicity and excellence – is no more. He died on January 7, 2017 and left behind commendable work in the field of architecture and his remarkable building designs. However, what is remembered most is his innate kindness and how he always went out of his way to give advice to others and lend a hand when needed.
Habib Fida Ali’s name was synonymous with Pakistan’s functional architecture. A truly homegrown architectural movement has never emerged in Pakistan and whatever there is does not have much substance or character. In contrast, Habib Fida Ali thought originally, keeping the national ethos in mind, laying new directions of architecture that were based on the soil and climate but working strictly on his own terms. His work created vibes of a finesse that a person only of his vast understanding and knowledge could have been capable of executing with such confidence. He strictly believed in straight lines and it was very rare to see him deviating from this approach.
He designed the Shell House, the LUMS complex, the SSGC and SNGPL head office buildings, the National Bank of Pakistan head office, The Forum, the Faysal Bank Building on Sharah e Faisal, the Allied Bank building, the Midway House as well as the CAS School. He also designed the Dubai Jumeirah Beach Residence and more than 700 residences in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Islamabad and Dhaka. He also restored the architectural beauty of the Mohatta Palace in Karachi.
Fida Ali’s designs had one thing in common: they were all driven by the need for practicality. His designs for residences of several entrepreneurs and businessmen were minimalist, practical and visually appealing. However, his own residence, an old colonial house restored with a brilliant modern touch, was his contribution to the preservation of old architecture.
The late architect was a true Pakistani. His language was not mere drawings and theories based on mathematical calculations. A person of simple habits and an organized lifestyle, he was a music lover and adored classical music. He loved literature, especially books on art and architecture and was known to visit old book shops just to browse through magazines.
He loved films enormously. When he once went to India in his young days, he visited the studios in Bombay and took the autographs of Nargis, Nutan, Meena Kumari, etc.
Habib Fida Ali also collected art and it was a serious passion for him. He loved to buy art for his family and friends. His nephew Adil Kerai says he was a very generous person. He did a lot for his family and they were everything for him. He had a brother and a sister and he doted on them. Adil Kerai admired him for enriching his close relatives’ lives with his passions and teaching them to appreciate the good things in life.
While he was recognised for his modern minimalist style of architectural design, he did not go for the ‘bare bones’ style in his functional and efficient buildings.
Despite all the odds and obstacles in his path, Habib Fida Ali went on to become one of Pakistan’s most celebrated and distinguished architects and it brought him numerous awards and accolades. A book on Habib Fida Ali’s greatest works was appropriately titled “A Labour of Love.” Fida Ali’s architectural insight was deeply influenced and inspired by the famed American architect Robert Venturi, who opposed traditional opinions and provided alternate ways in face of established conventions.
Fida Ali has left a rich legacy behind him that will be difficult to match for a long time.
Jumeirah Beach Residences, Dubai
The LUMS Complex