Karachi being the only international Port city of Pakistan plays a major role in the economy and development of the country. Karachi was developed as a modern port city by the British in the year 1854. Karachi Being developed as a port city, the port becomes a significant part of the identity of the city Karachi itself. Multiple bridges like the Native Jetty bridge and the Jinnah bridge have been constructed to connect the city to the port. These bridges not only connect the city to the port but, have also served as public spaces for the people of the city. These bridges have witnessed a decline in serving as public space after the development of the Native Jetty Bridge as ‘Port Grand. The research will focus on the factors which affected the role of these bridges as active public spaces.
Karachi the beginning:
To understand the relationship between Karachi and the port, one needs to understand the historical background of the city and how it grew and developed to a port city. Yasmin Lari, a very well-known Pakistani architect, and authors talk about the development of the city in many of her literature. She talks about how Karachi started as a small community inhabiting only around 15,000 people. Historically, Karachi has been linked to the ancient cities “Krokala” and“Debal”. The growth of Karachi as the modern city started to gain prominence after the acquisition by the Talpur rulers of Sindh in the eighteenth century.Karachi itself initially started out as a small fishing village known as ‘Kalachi-Jo-Ghote.’ Its clear condition of the sea made it an important trading location. This growth in trading activities of the city increased security concerns, and the area was fortified. This fortification of the vicinity had two entrances known as “Khara Darwaza” or brackish gate and “Meetha Darwaza” or sweet gate.
By the middle of Eighteenth-century Karachi became a flourishing port and the transit center for Sindh. The fortune of this transit center changed when the British saw the potential of trade due to the presence of the sea. Describing the city, Hamilton recorded that, “Corachie is a seaport town in the district of tatta, province of scinde, 57 miles from the district of tatta…. The bay of corachie affords good shelter for shipping and vessels of three or 400 tons berthen may enter the port from the beginning of September to May… the entrance of the harbor is narrow, and the deepest water is about 200 yards from the western point of entrance, on which is a castle….”
Understanding the historical background of the city, undoubtedly the port has played an influential role in the development of Karachi as a city. It can be apparently witnessed that the port plays an integral role in the identity of the city and it is essential to comprehend the role the port plays now in the current identity of the city.
Karachi is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. A lot has been written on the development of the city by various authors. Arif Hasan, a well reputed Pakistani author, and writers have written several articles and paper about the city. He talks about how Karachi is Pakistan’s largest growing port city. The estimation says that 24 percent urban population of the country lives in Karachi.Karachi is one of the most populated cities in the world.Neoliberalism has changed the dynamics of the city. Karachi is competing in the race of becoming a world-class city. Studies show that the race of becoming a world-class city has affected the population. People living in the city centers are being evicted for the development of the city. This exclusion creates a socio-economic divide among the people of Karachi. 
Since Karachi is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, it attracts a large number of people from around the country and the world. People come to Karachi for better living conditions, which aids in the densification of the city.
Karachi as a port city is not only studied and discussed locally but, a lot has been written about it internationally. Books like ‘Global Gentrification’ is a good example which discusses the idea of gentrification in Karachi. The idea of an international city has promoted ‘Gentrification’ in the entire city. Gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a district in such a manner that it conforms to middle-class taste. Public spaces all over the town are being privatized. This privatization creates a divide among the people of Karachi on socio-economic and even physical basis.
The Native Jetty Bridge was built by the British in the 1800s. After the construction of The Jinnah Bridge, the Native Jetty Bridge served as a public space not only for the community but the entire city. It was a hub for some various activities such as feeding dough to the fishes, fishing, sightseeing, etc. Some various religious processions also took place on the banks of the water near the Native Jetty Bridge. These activities have now moved to Jinnah Bridge after the Native Jetty bridge was taken from the citizens of the Karachi for the development of a privatized food street named ‘Port Grand.’ It was praised by all the upper class and middle-income groups. However, all the popular activities moved to the Jinnah Bridge. These activities have seen a decline due to the restrictions and barriers placed on the opening of ‘Port Grand.
This shows that the local stakeholders have disowned these bridges as public spaces because of the intervention made into these areas. A clear divide can be seen in the user group of these bridges as public spaces. This divide aid into the lack of connection between the city and the port. This shows that how important it is for an architect or designer to understand the primary function of the site before making interventions into any public space.
A lot has been written and discussed on city’s development as a whole. There is a lack of substance which could help in understanding that how these bridges play a role in developing a relationship between the city and the port. There is also a lack of substance in understanding what activities used to take place in these public spaces. Detailed study and analysis of this can help in understanding how important it is to understand the context of public areas while developing it. So that they don’t lose their identity and people can associate with them the same way as before.
It is very evident that port has always been a vital part of Karachi’s identity and has played a critical role in its development, Whether it be as a trade hub or as a metropolitan city. Karachi has always been known and will always be associated with its port. These bridges are one of the very few binders left which allows the citizens of Karachi to connect to the port. This creates a sense of ownership for the citizens of the port. Losing these binders can affect the city’s relationship to the port. It is essential to understand how losing these binders are and will be changing the city’s relationship with these space
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