Nature Contest was created by Umair Zia as a tribute to his mentor, Architect Arfan Ghani. Arfan is believed to be the greatest educator to teach at the Department of Architecture, National College of Arts, Lahore which is the oldest and most prestigious Art school of 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 adopt.

Decline of Architectural education in Pakistan started in late 90’s when Architects from Lahore found a private University in England which offered a quick PhD degree after Bachelors. A number of young individuals skipped Masters and hasted to become PhD doctors in about the same time their colleagues would finish Masters. Initially, Government had no choice but to accept these fast-track degrees since there were no PhD doctors in Architecture but later on the door was shut for good. After a few good years of hope and celebration what followed was irreversibly detrimental. The entire lot succeeded in publishing no quality book, had their names added in hundreds of articles written by their students, opened up tens of private schools while the number of locally produced PhD’s remained hopelessly low. It was not the degree but the education normally acquired at Masters-level studies which they had lacked- and that too in a country which was already struggling to promote research. Architectural education took a nose dive and culture of academic feudalism, submission and flattery prevailed for decades.

It was during these hopeless times, Arfan Ghani stood up against such culture. But his revolt was not against anyone or anything. He revolted by showing the alternate path to students. He sparked a 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 National College of Arts by Arfan Ghani. He would agitate the minds of young students with fascinating new ideas from complexity sciences and referred to them books which had never been mentioned before. He would spend hours reading on multifarious topics before discussing them with students, a trait which made him 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, Arfan 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.