The Legacy of Habib Fida Ali A Voice Si­lenced Death of a Pro­fes­sional The Fly­ing Horse of Women’s Foot­ball

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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

Shell House

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