Nature Contest is an international design and writing competition for individuals from all places and professions of the world. Individual participants can enter the contest in three different ways. They can a. Visualize a design concept for nature gadget, b. Write down a revolutionary nature policy or c. Share a portfolio of previous work.
Nature Contest was founded by Architect Umair Zia as a tribute to his mentor, Architect Arfan Ghani. Arfan is believed to be the greatest educator at the Department of Architecture, National College of Arts, Lahore- which is the oldest and most prestigious Art school in Pakistan. Arfan was trained by two legendary Architects of his time, Baba Javaid Najam and Agha Khan Award-winning Architect, Kamil Khan Mumtaz. After completing his degree, Arfan went to New York for Architectural practice and returned a decade later to teach at NCA. His students and colleagues called him a nonconformist, a true rebel in academics and even an anarchist. But time proved that his method to madness was the right method to follow.
The decline of Architectural education in Pakistan started in the late ’90s when Architects from Lahore found a private University in England which offered a quick Ph.D. degree right after bachelors. Several young individuals skipped Masters and hasted to become Ph.D. doctors in about the same time their colleagues would finish Masters. Initially, the Government had no choice but to accept these fast-track degrees since there were no Ph.D. doctors in Architecture but later on the door was shut for good. After a few good years of hope and celebration upon their return, what followed was irreversibly detrimental. The entire group succeeded in publishing no quality book; had its names added- rather systematically- in hundreds of articles that were written by faculty and students; took control of private-sector universities and opened up tens of new private schools in a short span; all this, while the number of Ph.D.’s produced locally remained hopelessly low. It dawned upon authorities over the following decades that it was not the absence of a Master’s degree but rather the absence of knowledge that comes at that stage, which rapid Ph.D. doctors had lacked. But it was too late by then. In 30 years, Architectural education in the country spiraled down and culture of academic feudalism, absolute submission and odious flattery prevailed.
It was during those hopeless times, Arfan Ghani- along with other Architects and academics in the country- stood up against that culture. Ghani did not revolt against people. He revolted against the system by showing an alternate path to students. He sparked perpetual curiosity in his students who in turn explored exciting new possibilities in design. His singular goal was to develop critical thinking in his students and to involve them in the latest scientific and academic debates of their time. His achievements could not be summed up in numbers or papers. His biggest achievement remains to be the countless number of young revolutionary Architects from Pakistan who are doing tremendous work all over the world.
Nature-inspired-design (bio-mimicry) in Architecture was introduced at the National College of Arts by Arfan Ghani. He would agitate the minds of young students with fascinating new ideas from complexity sciences and refer to the books which had never been mentioned before. He would spend hours reading on multifarious topics before discussing them with students, a trait that made him a favorite among the student body. Naturally, he faced resistance like all such people do and had to lose his job at one point. But this triggered a historic protest by the staff and the students and he had to be reinstated. All his life, Ghani never compromised on academic integrity, never pursued empty diplomas or indulged in flattery.
We hope that through this initiative, we shall produce design leaders of tomorrow and will keep Arfan Ghani’s name alive forever.