Friday, July 15, 2016

What is your favourite building?

It’s a strange question, isn’t it? One that we never really think about or actually ask people. Do you have one? Think about it. In Karachi? Or in the places you’ve visited over the past few years?

A lot of people might say Burj Khalifa because it’s the tallest building in the world and an engineering marvel. I don’t like it very much. It’s kind of scary. Whenever you look at it don't you wonder how it’s standing up? Aren't you afraid it might come crashing down on the dancing fountain? I do. 

Can the favourite buildings of a friend also become dear to you? I remember seeing the Chrysler building through the eyes of my dearest friend, Samiya. It was through the pictures of her first trip to NYC (maybe in 2002?) that I was introduced to the skyline and architecture of the city in-depth. It didn’t mean much to me then but all I thought of was her when I finally saw the Chrysler building two years back. Or the house of Frank Lloyd Wright, her favourite architect, in Arizona. 

What about buildings in other cities? Maybe the National Art Gallery? It was one of my favourite haunts in London. I loved going there again and again. Whenever I approached it I felt comfortable, as if I’ve come to a familiar place. There was this one time when I rounded the corner and came across it, completely unaware, and it brought a smile to my face. In many ways, that building was the focal point of my everyday exploration of London. 

After giving it some thought I’ll probably say one of my favourite buildings in Karachi is the Hindu Gymkhana which is now NAPA. That is where I hung out with my husband during our courtship period and it was such an important part of my life in the initial years of our marriage. 

I think Atif was right when he said that buildings by themselves don’t carry any meaning. It is only your experiences with that particular building which makes it important for you. We all admire buildings, or are disgusted by them, or just give them a passing glance as we walk or drive by them everyday. But if they are the place where we spent time with a lover, or where we saw our first Van Gogh and Monet - then they acquire a special place in our lives and I guess, become favourites. 

Note: This blogpost was inspired by a conversation with my friend Atif who told me that this is a question in the IELTS speaking test.