The Karachi Urban Lab (KUL) was set up in 2016 in a context where data production on the ‘urban’ in Pakistan remains top-down and largely technocratic. The KUL fills a ‘gap’ in data/knowledge production from the ground up and in a critically oriented way. Karachi - Pakistan’s largest city - serves as a backdrop for not only generating a variety of data concerning urbanization in Pakistan, but also as a means for investigating and understanding the complex challenges of urban planning, affordable housing, infrastructural development, and climate change. The KUL’s core expertise is in urban planning, architecture, anthropology, human geography, GIS, design, and media fields, and it is housed in the Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts (SSLA) at IBA.


The KUL’s mission is to act as an interdisciplinary, collaborative platform of research, teaching, mentoring, and advocacy, and an environment that is safe for people from all backgrounds to join and thrive; KUL has mentored early career female researchers; worked with community activists and people from minority communities. KUL provides opportunities for networking across social sciences, physical sciences, and medical sciences, as well as across geographies locally and globally, holding events and generating diverse forms of data/knowledge around the urgent urban issues and associated politics of our times.

Research Scope

The KUL’s research covers diverse issues: from the challenges of land displacement, urban violence, affordable housing, and public transport to the impact of global warming on cities and infrastructural challenges (water, housing, land, health). Some of KUL’s methodological approaches are:

  • Qualitative and quantitative.
  • Historical and critical approaches for understanding the taken-for-granted power structures that shape urban planning/policy in Pakistan.
  • Legal documents/case laws.
  • Diverse visualization methods: GIS mapping, 3-D and thermal modelling, morphological modelling, photography, soundscapes.
  • Established indicators: surface temperatures, ambient temperatures, heat index, built up density, land cover, and vegetation indices; demographic datasets; data from utilities/corporations; community-based data; informal economies.
  • Experimental indicators: working with epidemiologists/medical community to understand the impact of heat on the human body.
  • Partnerships with government and non-governmental organizations.

KUL’s research output and advocacy are informed by a multidisciplinary and critical approach. The KUL work and research output are supported by grants.