Kabul Polytechnic: First Visit

19 May 2007 / 29 Saur 1386

Debra Frey of GIAI is a friend of Ustad Homa, one of the Architecture professors at Kabul Polytechnic University. When Debra relayed to Homa that the Kansas State team and was considering revising the curriculum at Kabul University, she asked if anyone was willing to come help the Architecture Department at Kabul Polytechnic revise their curriculum as well. I said I was willing, and pleased to have an invitation to the Polytechnic because I did not quite know how to approach this other university.
KPU Cafeteria


Kabul University had been established by Nadir Shah in 1932, and in the 1960s it began to receive assistance from various American universities. Therefore in the 1970s, when the Soviets began to play a much larger role in Afghanistan, they helped build Kabul Polytechnic University (KPU), which operates more on the Soviet model.

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The mural on the gymnasium at the end of the (currently dry) axial fountain at KPU. The book in the middle has a Pashto phrase written across it which translates roughly as ‘knowledge is light.’


There are several paths from the main axis northward to the main classroom buildings. One path is covered by trees, which shades the walk. It is lovely.

Main classroom building, KPU main classroom building facade, KPU

The main classroom building, as you can see, is high modernist style. This is the west elevation; therefore it has both vertical and horizontal sunshades forming a decorative grille pattern. On the left side you can see that the north elevation is all glass.

KPU corridor KPU corridor

The corridors face an interior courtyard, and all but the west-facing corridors are flooded with daylight. The effect is fantastic, but appallingly cold in winter.

2 brise-soleils

The west-facing corridors are shaded by brise-soleils, which reflect indirect light. If Wurster Hall had been build like this, I would not have been such an opponent of Modernist architecture. Here I can see the intentions realized.

top of stairwell Stairwell
Stairwell stairwell

The stairwells are fabulous. I have no idea about the seismic strength of this glass-and-concrete wonder, but even with years of neglected maintenance it is a delightful place to be. Needless to say, Ustad Homa and her boss, Abdul Haq Wardak, talked me into giving weekly lectures here on urban policy as a volunteer. Rather than the 12 students I have at Kabul University, here I lecture to about fifty.

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