Picture of the Day: A Taj Mahal for Islamabad

Posted on September 6, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Architecture, People, Photo of the Day, Poetry, Urdu
33 Comments
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Adil Najam

I know. I know. Enough of this already. Let’s move on now to something else. Things more important. That was exactly my thought too.

Until I saw this full page advert in today’s Dawn. Then, I could not resist. Look at the tag-line at the top:

“The Dilemma of Ustad Isa and Atkins.”

Ustad Isa, of course, was the architect who designed the Taj Mahal. And supposedly Atkins is the guy who did the Burj and is now trying to plagiarize his own design in Islamabad. The main text, in the middle of the advert, reads:

“One designed the Taj Mahal and the other, the Burj-Al-Arab. Both had the desire to improve upon or at least match the wonders they had conceived with their next project. We Don’t know about Ustad Isa and his team but Atkins had the wish fulfilled with The Centaurus, making it the first construction project in Pakistan to exceed global standards. To be above everything, The Centaurus was designed to be light years ahead.”

Till now I have found this whole thing intriguing and mildly amusing. A commentary on our aspirations as a society. A discourse on urban aesthetics. A debate about our role-models, about who (and what) we want to become, and who we wish to resemble. In that sense this project and its dreamt up graphics are no different from the dreamt up graphics of the 1960s PIA advert that we had written about early on and which continues to be amongst the most-visited ATP posts (here).

But this bit about comparing Ustad Isa and Atkins and my head spinning. Give me a break. Please! Comparing this to the Taj Mahal is a joke, and not a good one either. And if it has to be done, let someone else make the comparison rather than toot your own hand. Reminds me of a great Anwar Masood (here) humorous sheyr:

Ravi ka hai bayan, kay mairay saabqa pull par
choonTi koee kehti thi yeh sael-e-rawan say

folaad ka pull daikho dehal jaata hai kaisay
hum tum jo guzartay hain ik saath yahan say

The River Ravi tells the story of how on its old (metal) bridge
once a tiny any was heard saying to the gushing waters beneath

look, how this might steel bridge shakes and trembles with fear
when you and I move in unison near it!

Talk about being pretentious and taking undeserved credit!

By way of disclosure, I should say that although I admire the Taj Mahal as a building (and enjoyed visiting it); as a concept I remain rather underwhelmed by it. In this regards I am in the Sahir Ludhianvi camp (another great poet whose poetic inspirations matured in Lahore (see ATP post here):

Ik Shahenshah nay daulat ka sahara lay kar
humm ghareebouN ki mohabbat ka uRaya hai mazaaq

An Emperor has used
the crutches of his wealth
to mock at the love of the dispossessed

I guess this is because I have never been a fan of the Mughals (no offence meant, Owais!). I don’t particularly care for monarchy, and this set of monarchs had some rather nauseating habits; particularly the later ones. Of course, that does not keep me from admiring some of the works created by them – or rather in their name, by the sweat and blood of others (see ATP post on Anarkali here).

What ever one does or does not think of the Taj. The fact of the matter is that comparing this to the Taj Mahal, even by analogy, is insulting to the Taj. To paraphrase a famous American politician: “I have seen the Taj Mahal, and this is no Taj Mahal!”

Earlier ATP post on this hotel here and here. Earlier ATP post on advertising: good (here) and bad (here).

33 responses to “Picture of the Day: A Taj Mahal for Islamabad”

  1. Malik Waqar Ahmad ( Abbott abad) says:

    hi friends salam,,,
    As every one wrote exciting comments about development in modernize construction of Islamabad, I just to say that Islamabad is situated in between beautiful hills, it’s can be made and developed like any European city, if the government support and encourage to the constructions companies and builders then it’s can be a most beautiful city of south Asia. the basic view and landscape of Islamabad is very aggressive and impressive, the basic structure and foundations are very good so that’s need to improved in every field of construction, being a Pakistani I can take any step to support in development of this beautiful city of Pakistan, we need to more and more concentration to keep cleaned and developed Islamabad, the government should reconstruct to the old buildings in this city and build more beautiful and exciting buildings in Islamabad, so I hope every one will support in development of Islamabad.

    Thanks : Malik Waqar Ahmad
    Abbottabad

  2. Rao Akmal Ali says:

    hey friends….its akmal rao from multan. we shud keep our minds clean. so friend as i am sincere with u ppl so tats wot i demand from ur syds… take care!

  3. […] There has been, of course, much fanfare about the Centaurus 7-star Hotel project in Islamabad, and I remain skeptical about the hyperbole accompanying these projects until I actually see them completed. I will reserve my comments on the trumpeted building itself until I see actual plans and designs for it and until it actually materializes in reality. One has heard of too many such grandiose projects that never transpired to get all excited about them just yet. In this case, the legality and appropriateness of the sale of the island where this is to be built remains in question. However, I find the logic presented by General Musharraf to be rather confusing, even disturbing. I certainly share his desire to be seen as “an emerging, progressive and dynamic country” that is “second to none.” However, it escapes me how building a huge tower will make as any of the above. Moreover, I have absolutely no idea what he means by “we know how to handle ourselves” or how constructing such a building will demonstrate that we do. Most importantly, I do know that “progress and prosperity” is to be measured by means other than the height of one’s buildings. […]

  4. Rezz Aly Shah says:

    HELLO FRIENDS!

    WELL BEING A CITIZEN OF ISLAMABAD SINCE LAST 15 YEARS , IVEE SEEN GROWTH IN THE CITY IN MANY WAYS. SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE COME FROM ALL OVER TO SETTLE IN ISLAMABAD. AND I GUESS THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS ARE LOOKING GREAT ON THE FACE OF IT ATLEAST, AS ISLAMABAD IS THE CAPITAL OF PAKISTAN. IT SHOULD MODERN, WITH NEW BUILDINGS, UNDERPASSES AND BIG ROADS TO GIVE THE BEST IMAGE OF OUR COUNTRY. I THINK ALL OF US PAKISTANS’ EITHER LIVING IN OR OUR OF PAKISTAN SHALL FEEL PROUD THAT SO MUCH DEVELOPMENT IS TAKING PLACE RATHER THAN CRIBBING. AS FAR AS NATURAL BEAUTY OR QUITE TINSEL TOWN IMAGE IS CONCERENED, EVERY CITY IN THE WORLD HAS TO GROW AND SO IS ISLAMABAD. CANTT BE A JURRASIC PARK FOREVER!!
    CHEERS TO THE NEW IDEAS AND DEVELOPMENT SO CAN PROUDLY CLAIM TO BE ISLOOITES!!

  5. Kabir says:

    As we all know, thier is an epidemic of world class & iconic architechture in Pakistan. If one is being built, the idea needs to be supported and promoted. Also there is a difference between modernization & westernization. We should support modernization, however! I do agree that the building could have reflected Islamic style but I must say that diversity is also important.

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