Sadequl Arefin Saif | CONTEXT

For much of the past, the world has lived under the impression of false hopes and shaky equilibrium. It took us a pandemic to expose us to our own consciences and the malpractices in the society. Amid the omnipresent threat of the pandemic, juggling between anxieties and hopes, we somehow managed to keep us afloat by familiarizing ourselves with norms of remote working and confined livelihood. In times of such global crisis, focusing on the present is only justified. However, as we bid 2020 goodbye, perhaps with a sense of relief, we reflect on the joys, accomplishments, challenges and unredeemable losses the year had to offer.

COVID outbreak and key initiatives by IAB

With almost every country adopting aggressive non-therapeutic measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, Bangladesh in South Asia has followed the same trend; however, there has been a significant amount of debate as to whether measures have been adopted adequately and implemented efficiently. Like most of the other disciplines, the architecture profession is getting pummeled by the uncertainty impacting individual practitioners, firms, and the community at large. Early on as the pandemic raged, Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB) initiated an effort to urgently produce a handbook of Design Guideline for Isolation Center in order to help architects and healthcare professionals to quickly set up or transform an existing facility into an isolation center. Furthermore, in absence of any support from the government, IAB has mobilized the ‘Emergency Finance Scheme’ by collecting donations from the affluent architects and channeling them to the affected practitioners of the fraternity.

Demise of Architect Bashirul Haq

We had just started to dissolve the traumas that the new normal has caused, the demise of Architect Bashirul Haq (04 April 2020), one of the most respected architects of Bangladesh, and a beloved mentor to many has shaken the fraternity to the core. His works are the inception of “local” knowledge that gracefully aligned with the Bengal’s geographic ambience, suggesting a deep narrative of critical regionalism through the language of brick, green, light, air, and tactility.

Further Read: HERE  

Architecture schools moved online

The exponential surge in infection and death has recalibrated everything from life to work and play. We accepted life under the omnipresent threat of disease as ordinary and continued to thrive in it by familiarizing ourselves with the norms of digital learning in no time. Particularly in Architectural pedagogy, compensating for the lack of a physical classrooms to conduct design studios sounded bleak at best. Although online learning is a technical solution which fully does not compensate for the lack of physical classes from the ends of both teachers and students, the unprecedented closure acted as a catalyst for the educational institutes to search for innovations and remodel their code of conduct whatsoever. Towards the beginning of July, over 20 Architectural Institutes of the country resumed their academic activities, some of them fully, while others partially by retrofitting different aspects of traditional pedagogical aspects to address the emerging challenges.

IAB-BIP seminars on Dhaka’s future

IAB and BIP jointly hosted online seminars between the days of 25th September till 12th October on topics like: Planning and Architecture of Developing Human-centric Settlements. Seminars as such on Dhaka’s future is an example of bridging the gap with other disciplines in order to holistically work towards ensuring the well-being of people and the built environment.

Event details: HERE

Architects’ reflection on DAP 

Institute of Architects Bangladesh organized a Press Conference on “Detailed Area Plan (Draft): Expectations & Reality” at IAB Centre, Agargoan on Tuesday, 24 November 2020. Around 40 journalists from all the leading print and electronic media attended the press conference.

Former IAB President Ar. Jalal Ahmed, Immediate Past President of IAB Ar. Kazi Golam Nasir, Past President of IAB Ar. Dr. Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, IAB Vice President (International Relations) Ar. Ehsan Khan, IAB Secretary (Environment & Urbanization) Ar. Dr. Farida Nilufar, IAB Fellow Ar. Iqbal Habib, IAB Fellow Ar. Ishtiaque Zahir Titas, IAB Fellow Ar. Marina Tabassum along with IAB executive council members and reputed journalists from different print & electronic media were present at the event. The panel presented 14 specific points from DAP Draft where scope of significant improvement is required:  1. Planning Process;  2. Contradictions with Other Laws Related to City Development; 3. Density Zoning; 4. Block Development; 5. Mixed Used Development; 6. Water Bodies; 7. Heritage; 8. Road Width; 9. Transfer of Development Rights (TDR); 10. Legalizing Illegal Structure; 11. Low-income Housing; 12. Parking; 13. Transit-Oriented Development (TOD); 14. Governance. The other acclaimed members of the panel further weighted into the matter as well. (Source: Official Facebook page of IAB)

Another webinar on ‘Detailed Area Plan for Dhaka (2016-35)’ was organized by BUET Alumni in association with Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB), Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB) and Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) on 29th October 2020.

Proposed Building Height Restriction Map for Dhaka. Source: Dhaka Detail Area Plan 2016-2035 (DRAFT) , Vol 1

IAB election

The IAB 2020 Election for the 24th Executive Council was held on 4th December 2020. On the 4th of December 2020, IAB has successfully completed this year’s online election for 24th Executive Council and 10th Chattagram Chapter of Institute of Architects Bangladesh amid the pandemic situation. With unrivaled enthusiasm, 779 votes were casted against 875 voters, which is an 89.03% turnout. This year,  a total of 19 candidates ran for the IAB election of the 24th Executive Council.

24th Executive Committee , Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB) -2020 © Reesham Shahab Tirtho

Ar. Marina Tabassum in world’s top 50 thinkers’ list

In July, Prospect, a monthly British general-interest magazine has selected Marina Tabassum, Aga Khan Award winner, Principal of Marina Tabassum Architects (MTA) and Director of Academic Program at the Bengal Institute of Architecture, Landscape and Settlement, to be in its list of top 50 thinkers around the world in times of Covid-19. Marina’s contribution in creating buildings in tune with their natural environments and embracing the design challenges posed by the environment has earned her this recognition, the magazine said. Later in December, she was conferred with the honorary doctorate from the Department of Architecture of the Technical University of Munich in the recognition of her independent and sustainable architectural works of significant societal value.

The entire laudatory speech and the video of the award ceremony can be read and viewed HERE

Ongoing tension around the demolition drive of TSC and KRS

Kamalapur Railway Station post construction picture | Photo Daniel Dunham

The ongoing debate on the potential demolition of Dhaka University Teacher- Student Centre (TSC) and Kamalapur Railway Station (KRS) in Dhaka raised tension between the concerned authorities and the diligent society of the country, who simply wants to treat its cultural endowments with utmost respect. The false comprehension that historically significant buildings as such may obstacle the progress and modernization of the country has thoroughly been criticized. Over the years, TSC has become part of a national narrative. Many of the pivotal student movements took shape around this historic urban node. If we fail to revisit the plans of taking down such iconic heritages, we, as nation will not be able to redeem ourselves from these national tragedies to keep coming back. Institutes of Architects Bangladesh has also taken steps like appealing to the Presidents of UIA, ARCASIA, and CAA to seek for solidarity to save these buildings.

An art piece on Kamalapur Rail Station by Architect Bin Sayeed Bakhti: