Note on Mohatta Palace Out-Houses

I have visited Mohatta Palace on two occasions to assess the relationship between the out-houses and the Palace Complex. My views on the subject are given below.

    1. The Palace is obviously being restored because it is: i) a piece of outstanding architecture; ii) it represents a certain style peculiar to a period in the history of Karachi; and iii) it is connected to at least three historic persons and/or institutions (Aga Ahmed Hussain, its architect; Ms. Fatima Jinnah and Pakistan’s first Foreign Office. Mohatta, of whom we know little, can be considered as yet another person). As such, any part of the building complex that is related to its original design or to the historic persons and/or institutions associated with it, should be preserved.
    2. The out-houses are an integral part of the design of the Palace Complex. This is obvious when it is recognised that the Palace Complex was designed on plot A (see attached sketch). Plot B was certainly added later. This contention is supported by the fact that the periphery wall design changes and becomes unrelated to the Palace design, once the wall crosses into plot B. In addition, the detailing of the out-houses is similar to that of the main building of the Complex.
    3. The plan of the Complex consists of two out-houses; the front wall which has two arched entrances and two “burjis”; and the main building of the Complex.  These four elements enclose a “charbagh” through which you enter the house. Without even one of these four enclosing elements, the “charbagh” concept no longer holds.
    4. Out-houses of this nature were common to all Karachi houses during the period when Mohatta Palace was built. Usually these out-houses were at the back of the house and were built in a slightly less elaborate fashion than the main house. In the case of Mohatta Palace the out-houses are in front because the Palace opens out onto a back terrace overlooking the sea and not towards the front.
    5. The out-houses definitely housed domestic staff, carriages and/or cars. On Plot A, there is no other evidence of staff quarters or garages.
    6. In view of the above, the out-houses should not be demolished. They should be restored. They are in an advanced stage of physical decay and may require under-pinning for the foundations, replacement of roofs and reapplication of plastering and colour creting. However, these are technical issues and can be examined once the decision to restore the out-houses is taken.

    B. Additional Comments

    1. Mohatta Palace is associated with the names of two important persons, in addition to Mohatta himself. These are Aga Ahmed Hussain and Ms. Fatima Jinnah. It was also Pakistan’s first Foreign Office and as such is of considerable historic importance. Aga Ahmed Hussain was a well-known architect who moved from his native Agra and settled in Karachi. He designed a number of important buildings in the city including the Hindu Gymkhana and the old building of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce. More information about him can be had from his grand-daughter Qurat ul Ain Bukhtiari who lives in Quetta at the Loudres Hotel.
    2. In view the above, one room in the Palace or the out-houses should be set aside for displaying the times, life and designs of Aga Ahmed Hussain. Another room should be set aside as a Mohatta Palace related Fatima Jinnah Museum. Yet another room should house a Mohatta Palace related Foreign Office Museum. It is also important that yet another room should cntain photographs, drawings and other material showing the conservation and restoration process of the Palace.
    3. It is suggested that for all public and ceremonial purposes the Palace Complex should be entered from the two arched entrances flanked by the “burjis” and not from the entrance on Plot B. This will give the visitors a better feel for the Palace Complex and the “charbagh” and will enhance the historic and architectural importance of the Complex.

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