City Landmarks – Max Denso Hall

The Karachi Walla has never been inside Max Denso Hall. I have been looking for an excuse for so long. The area around Max Denso Hall is a personal favorite. There’s a host of buildings in the area which are testimony to yesteryear craftsmen which made Bunder road a much celebrated public space. We of course have not experienced that in our life time but there’s hope. The hope comes in the shape of Heritage Foundation Pakistan which through public private partnership has launched a campaign to restore heritage sites across Karachi in their former glory starting with Max Denso Hall Library which has remained out of public sphere for a long time now.

Marriot Road in Market Quarters, one behind Max Denso Hall is a busy thoroughfare. This is where you can experience Karachi’s maddening crowd at its worst. You have to fight for space with people, carts, bikes and other vehicles. One cannot take a brief moment to appreciate architectural wonders on both sides of the street. Therefore it is such a welcome news that there is a possibility of Marriott road being declared as a pedestrian zone. Fingers crossed! Max Denso Hall stands at the beginning of fork where Marriot road splits off Bunder and Napier Road.

Max Denso hall was built by British as a recreational space for natives. It was named after Max Denso who chaired Karachi Chamber of Commerce in early 1870s. James Strachan, who else, was the architect and the project was completed in 1886 and it used local gizri stone. The building included a library and a reading room on the ground floor and a hall on first floor. There is a clock on the top of the side facing Jehangir Kothari building.

We arrive there around noon. We find several students cleaning dust and pamphlets pasted on the walls of the hall. Someone tells me that Heritage Foundation has somehow organized dangling electric wires that could have been a hazard for volunteers. We find a small opening and go inside. The building mainly consists of two halls, one on ground and the other on first floor which is connected with a staircase. There is a small corridor on ground floor which has huge doors opening on Bunder road. There is another small staircase leading to a small room which has a clock tower facing towards Bunder road. The clock and machinery is long gone and there’s just a hole there now. You can get a view of Jehangir Kothari building and Bunder road from there. Turn back and you will find opening to the rooftop which offers great views of surrounding area. We stand there mesmerized with the view. There is ample time to absorb the rustic beauty of this city that we call home. One just wonders what it would have looked like in its glory.

The event is in full swing downstairs. I hear notable speakers. They speak of a promising beginnings which will bring buildings such as Max Denso Hall back in public sphere. They have taken the first step which is generating awareness and bringing students and volunteers to engage and celebrate heritage. Let’s hope that the movement gets momentum and more people join. The activity will go on for months, each Sunday. Join them. This will be a rewarding experience.


Categories: City Landmarks

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2 Comments on “City Landmarks – Max Denso Hall”

  1. S Zafar Iqbal
    April 18, 2019 at 9:52 pm #

    Thank you Karachiwalla for giving us a virtual tour of the building and the history of Denso Hall. As someone from Karachi, but not a resident anymore, I very much appreciate your effort to bring old Karachi to our attention. You are recording the history in transition, and keeping the memory of old Karachi alive. Kudos to you for all your efforts.

    Looking at these pictures it saddens one to see how our cultural and architectural heritage is being heartlessly neglected. And we are losing an important part of our history to such neglect. It is sad.

    Thank you for keeping the history alive.

    S Zafar Iqbal

  2. Ubaid Ibrahim
    December 17, 2020 at 8:56 pm #

    Hi there. I am currently pursuing a thesis on the adaptive reuse of this building. I was wondering if I could use these photos as a montage, and also if you knew any sources to procure the techincal drawings of this building, which includes floor plans, facades, and detailing etc.

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