What I enjoy the most is not making buildings, but creating livelihoods
Mubeen Ahmad is an IHS alumnus, who graduated from the MSc programme in Urban Management and Development (UMD7) almost six years ago. Prior to establishing his own company (Emnay Design), he worked on several large scale hospitality and sustainable residential projects in New York, USA. He has extensive experience in development of civic and institutional work and also teaching experience in Lahore, Pakistan.
A few times a year, our alumni visit IHS and we are more than happy to hear about their latest activities and future plans. In a talk with Mubeen, we found out how his study experience translated in useful inputs in the actual work process and about the challenges and rewards of his job. Read everything below!
What is your area of activity? What kind of projects do you like to work on? Mostly we work on large-scale projects, though we have started by designing houses. Once we have proceeded to larger housing complexes, we proposed a holistic development of the housing situation, particularly in the underdeveloped areas. In fact, once our proposals started gaining more public awareness, the policy makers began contacting us to work not only on a house construction, but also providing a livelihood in a form of a community park or a commercial area. As a result, we have gradually increased our capacity that allows us working on projects like schools, hospitals, and commercial buildings.
What was the biggest professional challenge you have encountered? I think there were some technical challenges, but there were some mind-set challenges as well. Surprisingly, people were not particularly aware that cities require lots of work and that they would not grow naturally. I would say only by resorting to proper planning and thinking it is possible to link cities together. Overall, our challenge was to consistently deliver quality and results, and based on our experience we have managed to gradually make a shift in thinking, meaning that nowadays we have a lot of infrastructure that combines both shopping and residential areas, which contributes greatly to the city’s eco-system. In this respect, we believe that a good idea has a potential to make a paradigm-shift.
What is the best part of your work? There was a time when a lady came to me saying that her son needed a job and wondering whether I could help her out. I just told her to send him in and see if maybe we could work it out. Eventually, I did hire him, and four years later she came back and told me: "you’re the one who gave my son the job, and because of you we are doing well! And in effect, you helped so many others as well, because of the kind of work that you do." So, everyone wants a good change, everyone wants to live in a better place, which is our motto here - to create a better place for people to live, work and thrive in. This is the one thing that I enjoy the most: not necessarily constructing buildings, but creating livelihoods. When I probably turn 50 or 60, I want to see not only the cities that I have built, but also the livelihoods that came along with that, and that is what I want to be remembered for.
How was life after graduation? 5 years since my graduation, I am happy to say that all that I have learnt in theory I have been able to link with practice. One of the fundamental things I have noticed is how IHS has helped me in bridging the gap between theory and practice, and that it prepared and provided me with the tools that can address real-life challenges by resorting to the in-class methodology.
In Pakistan, we had a situation where we were constructing the entire school system, and we had to come up with a site selection for it. Eventually we applied the same sort of methodology and concepts as learned, while trying to figure out what was the core problem behind. Just like in our classroom sessions, we sat together and arrived at the main problem. In the end, our clients were satisfied with the findings that revealed precisely the problem that had to be tackled.
What do you think is next in urban development? Right now most cities have their own urban centres, but it might happen that the distance between cities will become much shorter, meaning you would live in one place, but work in another, while the commute between them will be getting better and better.