Q&A with Pakistani Exchange Student Saram Maqbool

Three-year cultural exchange between the BAC Design Studies Program and Pakistani Students and Faculty

Saram Maqbool standing in front of 320 Newbury Street, Boston

Saram Maqbool standing in front of 320 Newbury Street, Boston ; Photo Courtesy of Saram Maqbool

Saram Maqbool, student at National College of Arts (NCA)-Rawalpindi, Pakistan, spent the Fall 2014 semester at the Boston Architectural College as the first stage of a three-year partnership made possible by a grant from the Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy, Islamabad, Pakistan. The grant was awarded to the BAC and the Historic Preservation program to develop the historic preservation curriculum at NCA-Rawalpindi.

Saram joined the BAC's Design Studies program, specifically the Historic Preservation program, along with fellow NCA-Rawalpindi student, Mahum Sagheer, and Architecture faculty member, Ali Ahmed Shah. In this Q&A, Saram describes his experience exploring Boston through a historic preservation lens in his own words.

1.) What was your favorite part of studying in Boston? 

From a heritage point of view, Boston provides a huge amount of data, for there are so many examples of conservation and adaptive reuse. This large quantity of examples was the best part of studying subjects related to historic preservation and conservation in Boston. The sheer number of case studies and precedents provided me with an amazing amount of knowledge.

2.) What was your favorite part of studying at the BAC?

The BAC is much like NCA in some respects, and very different in others. The hands-on nature of many courses help students learn a lot more in a lot less time. I loved the fact that our courses were not only theory-based, but also had a number of field trips and practical applications for us to work on. This practical application is something that helps students more successfully learn and understand concepts.

In addition, throughout my time there, the BAC made me feel like I belonged. The instructors were immensely helpful every step of the way and so were the students we got a chance to work with. The BAC left nothing for us to be desired, and provided everything we could've possibly needed to make our stay very productive and pleasant.

3.) From your time here, what is your understanding of how America and Pakistan approach historic preservation differently?

As far as historic preservation is concerned, America is light years ahead of us, which is the most important thing I have taken away from this experience. Pakistan has a much older history than America, and yet we do not seem to try as hard to preserve it. We have our national historic sites and monuments, but Boston even preserves the seemingly insignificant structures and areas because everything has a history associated with it one way or another. The system through which the whole process of conservation and preservation goes in Boston is something I never even thought of, and would love to see introduced in Pakistan as well.

4.) What's next for you? And how has your experience at the BAC shaped your future plans?

Right now, I'm getting ready for my thesis. Before this experience, I was almost sure that my thesis would be geared toward designing in the urban context, but the courses at the BAC have made me start thinking otherwise. Now, I may give my thesis on adaptive reuse and preservation, because I would like to see my city incorporate its historic structures and districts with modern design as well.