Maria Aslam opened the ADA Awards by proclaiming, “Tonight is the night we will make history, you will make history, Pakistan will make history.” But was history made? It remains to be seen. 

The first biannual Architecture Design Art (ADA) Awards were held in Karachi on Saturday January 19. Some of the city’s most prominent designers and architects gathered at the Sindh Governor House where they rubbed shoulders with young, up-and-coming talent. While the event itself was a fairly bumpy ride, President Arif Alvi as well as Governor Imran Ismail were in attendance, a victory for those pushing for government support for the arts. 


The ADA Awards received over 300 submissions in 3 months from Pakistani nationals residing in the country and abroad. These submissions were filtered down by an interim jury before being presented anonymously to the final jury which comprised of experts from Pakistan and around the world, representing countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Italy, Singapore, France and the UK. 

However, there was far too much focus on international exposure at the expense of local talent. 

Art jurors were unable to judge four of the nine categories, Printmaking, Photography, New Media and Video Art, due to low quality and quantity of submissions. Art Chair Sameera Raja, a trained architect and founder of Canvas Gallery, told Images that they did not receive any submissions for two categories and the submissions for the other two categories were not of a high enough standard, she and other members of her jury blamed the Rs. 5,000 submission fees, stating it is was far too hefty for a young, struggling artist.


After the Art, Design and Architecture prizes were presented, three final awards were handed out- Lifetime Achievement Awards for Gulzar Haider and Salima Hashmi, and a “Socially Responsive Award” that went to advertising agency BBDO Pakistan for their project bringing awareness to the issue of civilian death by drones. 

Unfortunately, the entire ceremony was conducted purely in English, despite the fact that there were people in the venue who perhaps would have been more comfortable making their acceptance speeches in Urdu. 


[however] it is not an accessible platform, specially for young artists and designers.