|X ( Thesis)
|Mohammad Habib Reza (Asst. prof) and Iftekhar Ahmed (Asst. prof)
Culture is what defines a civilization. It helps shape the way of life, affects our outlook on daily life and most importantly creates a sense of one’s identity. It is almost always determined and developed with the help of a certain group’s surroundings.
One of the primary elements that shaped the culture of the Indian Subcontinent and specifically Bengal, is Metal. Crafts using metal have been shaping the lives of the people of Bengal from as early as 3000BC to recent past. From mere utensils to the creation of almighty deities, metal has been used to serve almost all purposes for centuries. Modern life is possible because of the fact that metals exist and we have figured out the ways of using it.
The brass ware industry in Bangladesh is considered as a cottage industry and artisans with high workmanship make brass crafts by hand. Though once a matter representing our golden age of civilization, pride and social identity, unfortunately in the course of time such a cultural heritage with its highly rich aesthetic and creative value, has fallen on the verge of extinction. As a matter of fact only a few in our society, nowadays, are aware of the fact that one of the main centers of such metal crafts of the sub-continent had been on this ground where only a few artisans still have been working to their most to revive this age-old art form.
Dhamrai has been a stable ground for various kinds of handicrafts by incorporating rich cultural values and traditions into the lives of people. It is a home to some of most exquisite talents of Bangladesh who are gifted with immense creativity and knowledge on one of the oldest crafts in the world. However, it’s unfortunate that the city is gradually losing its identity as the creativity and traditions are being drained out and getting replaced by the mechanical ways of life.
The aim of this project is to focus on the present scenario of the metal crafts sector of our country and its constant degradation. It is to offer an interactive platform to connect the universal artists, artisans and art enthusiasts in one thread. It will provide an opportunity to understand not only the craft but also the life of the artisans.
The site is situated at the bank of Bangshi River in Dhamrai. Dhamrai is located about 40 kilometers north west of the capital city of Dhaka; it is located within the coordinates of 90.02 – 90.14E and 23.50 – 24.02E. Dhulivita is the principal distributor road that connect Upazila to the Dhaka-Aricha national highway and which carries a lot of importance for Dhamrai Pourashava. However, during the annual Jagannath Roth Jatra, traffic is prohibited to enter this road due to huge pedestrian and the vehicles are rerouted to the Dhamrai-Kalampur road.
In order to derive program the main focus that was taken into consideration was to figure out the steps that can be taken to promote tourism. The project is theorized to create a bridge between the artisans and art enthusiasts. The idea is not only to uphold the history and traditional culture but also to improve the situation of the people who have been involved with these crafts for generations.
Taking inspiration from the metal casting technique that put Dhamrai in the map, Lost Wax method (Replacement of wax by metal in a mold to create the statue), and the primary goal is to retain the exterior as it is while improving the interior to achieve the best result. The idea is to intervene as little as possible to retain the integrity of the site. This is done by uprooting 3 one-storied commercial blocks while introducing the new function to the area. Along with that it is made sure that the commercial blocks are replaced with more shops to ensure a balance.
Macro interventions and Micro interventions: (1) Ground floors or partial ground floors have to be rented out for public accessibility; (2) In cases where there are single-storied commercial blocks, they can be housed in the ground floors of residential buildings.
Prominent architect Charles Correa had once said, ‘Architecture should always be simultaneously both old and new for it comes into being in the intersection of 3 major forces. The first represents the technology & economics; the second, culture and history and third, the aspiration of people’. Keeping that in mind the author tried to learn as much as possible from what the site and its rich history had to offer and then tried to implement those in the design accordingly.
This resulted a project where the main goal was to do minimum intervention to get the maximum result. In a micro scale this was achieved by using adaptive reuse of the colonial buildings and accommodating the additional functions in them. In a broader scale, this was done by protecting the integrity of the urban morphology and making use of the grey spaces and new zoning principles. All of these aimed towards attracting a larger tourist base to Dhulivita while offering a better quality of life for the inhabitants. Like the lost Wax method of metal casting, the exterior remained as it is while the interior was changed for a better outcome.
Thus, the small part of Dhulivita became more than just a home to the remaining metal artisans. It turned into a Mold Town: a town where the past is the future.
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CONTEXT Contributor: Farasha Zaman | Architect and faculty member at BRAC University