Mon. Jul 6th, 2020

Tabeer e Nau – A Creative Summer School in Hunza

Participatory, conversational, approach of community involvement


Didar Ali

Tabeer e Nau is a privately initiated visiting school in Gulmit (Upper Hunza, Northern Pakistan) by Faisal Arshad and André Meyerhans. The bijoux of a village has a well preserved historic center with a summer palace and a polo field typical for the region.

Together with the local community, the participants of Tabeer e Nau look into possible solutions to socio-economical and ecological matters. Topics are addressed on an urban and architectural scale to enhance and sustainably develop the village to a more prosperous settlement. An additional field of interest is product design. All proposals developed are meant to be implemented, thus, they need to be realizable within the resources available to the community. Tabeer e Nau presents and discusses the outcome of every visiting school with the local community.

Participants of Tabeer e Nau are architects, designers, photographers – mainly young professionals or students – and they come from all over Pakistan and beyond.

The next season will be conducted in Gulmit from 12th to 19th April 2020 (exclusive of two days for itinerary). Application is open for participants now.

For further information, please visit website:  www.tabeerenau.com

As a private initiative, Tabeer e Nau relies on sponsors and supporters. If you find this of interest, contact under tabeer.e.nau@gmail.com .

Tabeer e Nau is a self-initiated visiting school program of two individuals, André C. Meyerhans and  Faisal Arshad, who strongly believe in the exploration of cross-discipline and collaborative works.

The word “Tabeer e Nau” is extracted from Urdu language and roots back to Persian literature. “Tabeer” means “Interpretation” and “Nau” means “New” or “Re-“, deriving to “Re-Interpretation.”

Tabeer e Nau usually takes place in Gulmit, Upper Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan. Gulmit sits aside the Karakorum Highway, the old Silk Road that is now expanded to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC. The village has a well preserved historic center with a summer palace, traditional stone houses enlightened by peculiarly twisted and staggered squares that form skylights and a polo field which is typical for the region.

“Re-interpretation” is the key objective of the private, educational initiative behind Tabeer e Nau. Together with the local community, the participants of Tabeer e Nau look into possible solutions to socio-economical and ecological matters on three levels:

1) Urban Planning

Most tourists and organizations focus on the Middle Hunza Valley. With the restauration of Altit and Baltit Fort with the support of international organizations, villages in their vicinity – such as Karimabad – have profited much socioeconomically. Local, regional and international tourism increased significantly and with it came lasting economical prosperity.

Gulmit lies in the Upper Hunza Valley. The village is pristine-untouched with original architecture in place. What seems picturesque to the outsider has its challenges for the population. How can the original and historically valuable character be preserved while the settlement is made attractive for (eco-)tourism? What interventions are necessarily to facilitate the economical uplift? How can prosperity be sustainable and with minimal, negative impact for the character of the village?

At Tabeer e Nau, we evaluated the relevance or merit of the individual buildings, cataloged their typology and use, assessed the structural condition and created an inventory. All this led to create a zoning plan with a historic zone and a buffer zone. Smaller interventions were proposed to activate and enhance the attractiveness of the village in a resourceful and tailor-made way.

In the coming season, we focus on two key things:
a) Legitimation of the zoning plans and codes through the local community
b) Realization of an eco-tourism trail to Onda Fort

2) Architectural Projects – Bulbulik Heritage Center

Gulmit has a rich tradition of art and culture that has been carefully nurtured over the generations. The community wishes to give it a place to further prosper as well as to strengthen solidarity and in particular to enhance the perspectives for the young population.

One of the active groups is the Bulbulik Music School. The group of young and enthusiastic people not only keep the musical tradition alive but export it with great success beyond the valley of Hunza. The UNESCO identified the music of Bulbulik as unique and worth to be preserved.

There are also significant efforts in regards of other community based crafts such as carpentry, embroidery, tailoring, produce related activities, …

Together with the local community, Tabeer e Nau developed a brief, gathered site information and collected specifics of the regional architecture to create some concept designs. This shall be the base for discussions within the community on what is needed and what would be nice to have, on architectural styles and cost estimations. All of which will be compiled to reach out for funding.

There are two other architectural projects the next season looks into:
a) Mir’s Summer Palace – Development of reactivation proposals
b) Ondra Fort – forensic architecture to reconstruct the vanished fort based on witness’ descriptions

3) Product Design

The local community creates a large variety of products and sells many of their local, organic produces. Amongst them are dried fruits, seeds, oils, teas and jams as well as house shoes, rugs and wooden artifacts.

Tabeer e Nau looked into designs to cater for a more international audience while maintaining the local flair, labeling and packaging in order to enhance branding and, finally, the students also looked into sales channels in order to improve opportunities to find customers.

All solutions are meant to be implemented – sooner or later. Thus, all proposals need to be accepted by the local community, realizable within the limited resources available in the village or developed into a project format that allows fundraising or a financial patronage by a third party.

Tabeer e Nau developed a unique, academic structure to address points of focus in a creative way but with a tangible and feasible outcome. The steps go from Situation to Evaluation then Instigation and finally Activation. This format also allows to bring together different actors – not only from different disciplines but also the local community.

The objective of Tabeer e Nau is to activate the potential of culture. Culture is identification to group and individuals and prescribes the characteristics as well as the uniqueness of the output of a certain group. Culture can be heritage and tradition, something backward looking and something that shall be preserved. Culture can be inspiration that has the potential to instigate something new and unique, something that leads to innovation. In particular for the younger generation, it is important for them to know about the power of design for their culture and their identity. Tabeer e Nau wishes to give this understanding not only to the participants but also to the community where Tabeer e Nau takes place.

Tabeer e Nau develops local solutions. Aim is to create solution with and for the local community. Solutions that can be realized by the local community – within their resources and within their potential – and also want to be realized, which requires an identification with and a liking of the proposed solutions. Ultimately, the execution shall remain with the local population. Tabeer e Nau is a stimulator only.

For participants, it is important to understand that these solutions might be not ideal by other standards (e.g. their personal design point of view) but they are right and work in this specific environment. Thus, an understanding of the resources, potential, capabilities and requirement are key to create a feasible solution. Only community-carried or community-driven solutions are sustainable solutions.

This coming season, Tabeer e Nau is joined by a group of textile students from the Indus Valley School. Their knowhow in regards of design and material will surely influence the outcome of the product designs. Focus lies on these areas:
a) Product packaging, labelling and placing – as a continuation of the last season
b) Product design suitable for production and sale in Gulmit
c) Recording of tales (text, illustration)
d) Rug designs based on recorded tales

The next season of Tabeer e Nau is scheduled in Gulmit, Upper Hunza, from 12th to 19th April 2020. If you are interested, there are many ways to be part of Tabeer e Nau:
– Participant
– Sponsor
– Scholarship patron

Contact Tabeer e Nau at:
Website:    www.tabeerenau.com
Email:     tabeer.e.nau@gmail.com
Social Media Messages:   /tabeer.e.nau (facebook)
tabeerenau.official (Instagram)
Faisal Arshad (Cofounder): +92 333 521 5127
André Meyerhans (Cofounder): +971 50 550 8670

Instagram did not return a 200.
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