Architecture doesn't exist in a vacuum. David is taking his activism to the kiln communities of Pakistan, and changing the world one brick at a time
Architect, Architecture Initiative
Part 1: 2012 Part 2: 2016
It’s difficult to find another entry to Rising Stars 2019 written with as much energy as Muneeb David’s – an aspect of his character that also shone through in his colleague and referee Janita Han Cresswell’s recommendation: ‘Muneeb’s passion for working with young people and for effecting change is contagious.’ Currently an architect at Architecture Initiative, David describes himself as a passionate humanitarian, youth activist and tutor and it was these elements of his submission that drew the strong support of the judges for his inclusion in this year’s cohort.
David was born in Lahore, Pakistan. He arrived in Britain aged 12, going on to study at the University of Kent and Oxford Brookes. As an immigrant he found the societal disparities he experienced were eye-opening, contributing to a personal desire to help others that is evident in almost everything he applies himself to.
In practice, David is working on two major education–residential developments, both public–private schemes funded by constructing much-needed housing (40 per cent of it affordable) on the surplus land. Within this field, he is also contributing to a government pilot scheme assessing the potential of surplus education sites and land, typically for residential development, and has carried out around 80 feasibility studies. He has also acted as a design advisor to Oxford Brookes University.
However, it is David’s work outside of his regular UK architectural ambit that particularly impressed the judges. Bringing ethical activism to the building supply chain, he is running a project that provides education to disadvantaged children in Pakistan’s often-exploited brick-kiln communities. So far, his organisation has enabled 50 children to go to school. He is also planning to buy the country’s first industrial brick machine (with funding from Hult Prize) to help end slavery in kiln communities, as well as designing a new church/community hall/school for a challenging £15,000.
David is involved in youth work in the UK too. He has tutored at undergraduate level and was the founder of a local youth group, where he now volunteers. Its remit is to advocate values that transcend school curriculums, engaging young people with weekly workshops debating topics such as entrepreneurship, ethics and sustainability. He writes in his submission: ‘From my experience, a little encouragement can bring great transformation, therefore, I am passionate about mentoring and guiding young people to seek life-changing opportunities and tackle world issues.’
‘An effusive thought-leader,’ commented referee Han Cresswell. ‘Spend ten minutes with Muneeb and he will quickly immerse you in his Latourian concerns: youth, education, systemic poverty, progressive architecture and politics. He lives out his talk with integrity.’ Judge Louise Wyman summarised: ‘We need people who are practising in different ways.’ ‘He’s doing good stuff,’ added Sarah Prichard.
Which existing building or place would you most like to tackle?
Although I relish the opportunity to engage in any type of design, I have a personal interest in the educational landscape. I am in the process of trying to work with the Department for International Development, which has built 1,389 schools in Pakistan, an effort totalling £107 million. However, a recent UCL study demonstrates that, owing to poor construction, 783 of them have been closed, affecting 115,000 students. With Pakistani ethnicity, local know-how and experience of education projects I would like to help redress this.