About ADRL

The Architectural Design Research Lab is housed within the department of Architecture at IVS to pursue and lead in innovative research pertaining to the design of the built environment. It seeks to promote discourse and dialogue ranging from the practice of design pedagogy to the practice of built design. 

The built environment today is a direct expression of the human occupation of the planet that has led to significant changes in natural cycles. It refers to both the negative impact caused by most human cultural practices, exceedingly dictated by capitalist economic factors in the last century instead of ecologically, climatically and socially just practices. The solution to this problem lies in understanding the environmental, geographical and social diversity of the region. This knowledge is deemed extremely valuable, and it extends across disciplines that study various phenomena that form the tangible and intangible factors of the built environment. Using research as the bedrock, these various discourses can actively guide the design process. This knowledge production process for design then not only requires an interaction and collaboration between academics, theorists, researchers, practitioners, and students from within the field of design (Architecture) but also across all disciplines of knowledge. More specifically, it requires a focus on knowledge specific to our region to capture its diversity in all its forms. 

ADRL’s intent is to act as a collaborative platform of research, teaching, mentoring and advocacy. It strives to function as a platform to bring together theorists, academics, practitioners, researchers, public and private stakeholders and students to produce  interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and trans-disciplinary knowledge pertaining to the design of the built environment – focusing on the local and extending into the global.

Focus on design research – in which research must be understood as research into, for and through design (Frayling,1993) as a way of creating new knowledge or testing existing knowledge in local context through a systematic investigation.

Cross disciplinary engagement in design research. Producing local knowledge to fuel and drive the global fight against injustices and climate change. To inspire and empower research into, for and through design. Stimulate , assess, and evaluate research for public and environmental benefits. 

Foster design that is central to the social and cultural fabric of the local context, adapting vernacular design techniques and materials to the ever changing technologies.

  • To increase ‘grassroot’ research. 
  • To create/produce original knowledge of the region. Research Capacity Building to inspire research into, for and through design. 
  • Create networks to enable cross-disciplinary design research. 
  • Create Sustainable design practices. 
  • Create funding opportunities. 
  • Create research opportunities. 
  • Engage with the larger public to create awareness and dialogue/discourse about sustainable design practices. 

The current areas of research focus are: Design for the Public, Housing, Rural & Urban Ecologies, and Heritage Architecture. ADRL works with a mixed method approach. Some of the aspects of the research are:

  • Collection of archival data
  • Mapping and visualization 
  • Participatory design
  • Partnerships with institutions, government and non-governmental organizations for data sharing
  • Transcriptions of memoirs, first hand accounts and interviews
  • Oral Histories

Meet the ADRL Team

Mehmooda Maqsood
  • Team Lead
Ira Kazi
  • Permanent Faculty - Dept. of Arch
Durreshahwar Alvi
  • Permanent Faculty - Dept. of Arch
Zohaib Zuby
  • Permanent Faculty - Dept. of Arch

Principle Research Focus

This research focus is open to interpretations that take up the challenges faced by the public domain and problems pertaining to the design of the public domain. Currently the research focus comprises three sub threads- Low-cost House Design & Design of Public Parks. It seeks to create local knowledge not only through design led by research but by using design as a method of research.

Design of Public Parks

This is a longitudinal study comprising smaller studies. The first of the smaller design studies is Lignum Park which questions what is a neighborhood park? And how should it be designed? This design study has inspired a larger question, what is the role of parks in a city like Karachi? And how should parks be designed in a city like Karachi? These questions are not only guided by the UN sustainable development goals but also under their framework hope to contribute to the global sustainable and climate agenda by producing local knowledge. The study titled A Strategic Vision for Public Parks of Karachi, is underway.

Lignum Park is a neighborhood parks located in Clifton, Block 2, Karachi. It lies in the East of Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture. Linear in shape and covering an area of almost 1450 square yards, it is surrounded by three thoroughfares with varying degrees of vehicular traffic. Before the park was built the site served as a rubble and garbage dumping ground. It also served as a refuge for addicts. The two longer sides were already lined with a series of reasonably mature lignum trees providing the site with a natural enclosure which was retained in the proposed design. Hence, the name Lignum Park. Representatives of the community suggested that this new park may very well be designed as a place of interaction, conversations and play for the senior citizens of the neighborhood.

Designer/ResearcherIra Kazi
Output TypePark
LocationBlock 2, Clifton, Karachi
ClientIndus Valley School of Art & Architecture
BudgetPKR 400,000
Area1450 Square yards
Structural EngineerGul & Thariani Architects

Research Questions

  • How do you design a sustainable park?
  • How do you design a park that is easy to maintain?
  • What plants are suitable for the climate and social conditions?
  • What materials can withstand vandalism?
  • What material can withstand vandalism?
  • How do you socially activate a space?
  • How do you include senior citizens?
  • How do you include children?


This research theme focuses on Housing as a social system. Under this capacity it seeks to address the various problems pertaining to the system as well as its individual parts. Currently the research comprises Low-cost House Design as one of its sub-categories.

The Low-Cost House

This is a longitudinal study of house design which tackles the problem of what a low-cost house is in the context of low income settlements in Karachi. Currently, two houses have been developed – Fouzia House and Wallah House, each in a different informal settlement in Karachi. The premise of both studies has been to tackle three factors

Fozia’s House is an experiment to create dignified shelters for the lower-income strata of Karachi, who do not have access to quality design or essential services and amenities. In such a prevalent context, Fozia’s House was a conscious effort to set an example of a Pro-Bono engagement for the entire duration of the project. A participatory and user-centric approach was taken, in which context and site-sensitive strategies were given importance. The design process focused on architectural strategies that emulate vernacular organizational layouts and techniques. 

The challenge to take up design as a tool to conduct research is not as widespread in architecture as in other design disciplines. However, the problem area the author considers is the growing crisis in Housing for the lower-income, where issues of sustainable financing and inadequate urban infrastructure are at the forefront of the challenge.

Researcher / Architect:Zohaib Zuby
Completion Year:2021
Output Type:Architectural Design and Construction Management.
Function:low-cost House
Location:Mehran Town, Korangi Industrial Area, Karachi 
Client(s):Wallah (Family of 7)
Project Period:2 months for design + 7 months for construction
Budget:Rs 2,192,420
Area (sqft):1080 SF (single storey)
Structutral Engineer:Mushtaq sahib
Main Contractor:Iqbal Contractor
Funding Source:Zakat

Project Description

This was a low-cost house designed in Mehran Town, Korangi Industrial Area, for Wallah and her family of 7, using Zakat money from the people where she works, in 2020/2021. This was a plot of size 1080 SF, where we built only storey, but made provision for making one or two stores in the future. The project was completed in 9 months and the cost was Rs 2030 PSF. The expected time was 4 months and cost was Rs 2000 PSF. We were able to apply a lot of the things we learnt from Fozia’s House. This allowed us to mitigate a lot of the challenged we had faced earlier. However, since this was a slum (the plot was not a “regularized/legal” plot) we had a lot of problems with local police and neighbours. This aspect was new for our learning. This project is a great example/precedent for future work in Affordable Housing, for me and for those who are interested in similar work.

Research Questions

  1. How can we intelligently use a limited budget to deliver the best possible design solution in terms of low-cost building which will be robust and also aesthetically pleasing and dignified (given we are working in a slum)?
  2. How can our design utilize vernacular/traditional architectural methods to offer a design solution which the users will respond to, and will be economical?

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