IT?S a story of a chimney. Perhaps it?s a non-story of a chimney in which the smokestack plays no part. It did play a role, mind you, when it was constructed in the 1920s. Today, it?s just there, with a kind of a monkey ladder to climb it, trying to touch the sky. But the Karachi skyline is smeared with smoke of some other kind, a form of air pollution caused by automotive emissions. And the chimney, the poor old chimney, has nothing to do with it. However, if you?re in the neighbourhood, you can?t help but notice it.
If you reach the area where the DJ Science College is located, you?ll notice two roads forking out from where the college exists. One leads to Burnes Road and the other to the Pakistan Chowk region. If you?re on the side which takes you to Burnes Road where the DJ college building ends, you?ll see another stone structure joined at its rear end, with a chimney standing aloft in the right corner. Take the road connecting the two sides of the DJ college and in the middle you?ll see the entrance gate to the NED University (old campus) Department of Architecture and Planning. Surrounded by blocks of (bossed) Gizri stone, with nice portals and rectangular windows, the overall ambience of the place is one of seriousness that?s in this day and age not often seen at our educational institutions. The place is not overly-crammed with students. After all, it?s the architecture and planning department, and the students are aware of the architectural worth (that?s akin to its historical value) of the institution.
In the midst of it all, there?s a neem tree, as old as the campus. According to a professor, there?s an eyrie (ea gle?s nest) in it. The birds can get hostile if you don?t treat them with respect and can give your scalp a knock or two. Once they become familiar with your presence, consider yourself safe.
Professor and co-chair of the department Aneela Naeem says: ?In the second decade of the 20th century, the need for an engineering college in Karachi was badly felt. At that time the then Prince of Wales (Prince Edward) paid a visit to the city. To commemorate his trip, the Prince of Wales Engineering College was established in 1922 at this very site. Many philanthropists contributed generously to the construction of the institution, foremost of which was Nadirshah Eduljee Dinshaw. Two years later the institution was renamed after Mr Dinshaw (the Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw Engineering College), and was subsequent ly affiliated with the University of Bombay.? ?I think when it was incepted the college must?ve had civil and mechanical departments, for which the chimney may have been made. Between the 1970s and 1990s this campus was not functional, particularly after the college, which had become a university in the mid-70s, shifted to University Road. When we came here in the ?90s there was a tunnel-like passage where the smokestack stands. The underground channel may have been used for trans porting the steam into the chimney as part of the courses for mechanical or civil department students. But now the passage is closed and there?s no use for it. However, we?ve kept it as an integral architectural feature of the entire premises.? There?s a huge room on the first floor of the main block. It was used as the drawing hall in its early days. The wood used in its roof, most of it, is Burma teak. When the current staff took charge of the building termites were up to no good. It was restored and now it looks good to withstand the test of time. A tablet on one of the walls has the name of Seth Fatehchand Devandas. The same name can be seen in the seminar hall. He was one of those individuals who made the construction of the college possible by virtue of their generous donations.
In the past neglect and abuse caused a few problems, but it?s been nicely restored now. Those who undertook the job of restoration have done it professionally; you can compare it with the restoration work on the building that?s attached to it (DJ college). Everybody had written off this old NED campus, but if things are done properly the results are always good.? ?The chimney is unique, like no other in Karachi. It has survived.
It doesn?t have a functional value any longer. Its landmark and historic sig nificance will always be discussed. And you never know if you see it around for another hundred years.? In one of the spacious studios some students have put up a sheet on a wall on which they?ve sketched a blind contour. It?s worth having a look at. A blind contour drawing is made in a continual and firm way without lifting the pencil; the idea is to keep it natural. There?s certain artistry about it. It?s nothing like the different blocks of the NED old campus. However, for some inexplicable reason the sketch has an appeal that appears to pay tribute to creativity? and to the creativity of all those architects who designed magnificent works of stonemasonry for/in Karachi, keeping it natural. Strachan, Somake, Wittet et al