|Name:||Fuad Hasan Tanvir|
|Studio:||Studio X (Thesis)|
|Studio Master:||Hasan Ahmed Chowdury, Irfat Alam|
|University:||American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB)|
Bengal delta is enriched with natural heritage made up of vast mangrove forests, longest beach, and mighty rivers. The land had no significant tangible evidence of the built-heritage of ancient Bengal until the discovery of the Mahasthangarh ruins in Bogra district in 1931. Later on, the Paharpur Monastery, the Kantajew Temple in the district of Dinajpur and their renovation witnessed the faint evolution of the archeological richness of the land. Nateshwar, a village in Munshiganj, not far from Dhaka, is the most recent in this series of discovery of new sites. The place was once part of a vast area called Bikrampur, noted for being the birthplace of Atish Dipankar (980-1053), the legendary preacher, philosopher and academic.
This project aims to propose an integration of old (ruins) and new (museum). These types of design explorations are crucial to the cultural heritage scenario in Bangladesh. The design successfully negotiates the site’s conditions and has been able to utilize the site’s potential to a considerable extent. The concept of maintaining the strong axis between the ruins and the new building enables for a far more apparent connection between past and present – Editor.
| Notes from the student |
Vikrampur is an important designation in the early history of Bengal. The remains of an estimated 1,000-year-old temple and city have been found in Munshiganj District’s Vikrampur, one of the oldest archaeological sites in Bangladesh. The archaeological site of Nateshwar in Vikrampur has the potential to become a center of Buddhist culture in South Asia, and earn its place as a world heritage site. At present, Vikrampur is located in the Munshiganj district. The recently excavated Nateshwar archaeological site bears witness to the Bengal region’s thousand-year-old history, with its pyramid-shaped stupas, wide walkways, mandaps and households. Ranging from biological remains of flora and fauna to terracotta, metal and stone artifacts and unique architecture, the archaeological findings at Nateshwar paint the picture of an ancient civilization that once dwelled in the country we now call home. For a long period of time, people had been discovering architectural remains, sculptures and other ancient objects from here. Archaeologists discovered parts of ancient architecture by exposing 344 square meters at Nateshwar (Natesvar) duel.
It is believed that the monastery was related to Atish Dipankar Srigyan, a child prodigy like the Lord Buddha, who was born in Vikrampur region during the regime of King Dharmapala (820 AD). Some of the important findings in the excavation were a massive octagonal stupa, a pair of stupas with a four-meter wide wall which was the first of their kinds in the history of the country’s archaeological excavations, discoveries of two roads, a 2.75 meters wide wall to the site’s southeast side speak of a rich urban area of a bygone era and, and some important relics including ash pits, and pottery items.
Vikrampur itself is a historic locale of Bengal, a South Asian region known for its rich literary and cultural heritage. It is considered the oldest capital of Bengal since the Vedic Period. Archaeologists from both Bangladesh and China have expressed hope that these finds would reveal many hitherto unrevealed sides of Atish Dipankar life as well as shedding light on the advent and decline of Buddhism in this region. It is said that some 8,000 students and professors came to the Buddhism education center in Vikrampur from as far as China, Tibet, Nepal and Thailand during the period and Atish Dipankar was the Chancellor of the center.
The city and temple at the known Buddhist site with its strong links to ancient Buddhist scholar Atish Dipankar, makes archaeologists from both Bangladesh and China hopeful that further investigations will shed light on Atish Dipankar’s life and the history of Buddhism in the region. Archaeology is not about things. Or rather, it is not about the objects that we excavate in and of themselves. When a site is excavated and objects are collected and cataloged, the real work of an archaeologist begins, namely putting all the pieces of the puzzle together and figuring out what life was like in the past. A museum can preserve the evidence points to a ‘rich civilization’ in ancient Vikrampur. Historical remains are best to be preserved in their own origin so that visitors get to connect to the history of that place in a better way. This project intends to fulfill this requirement.
Objectives of the project:
The thought was to create spaces that reflect the ancient Buddhist architecture, and the philosophy of Buddha while narrating the story of his life. At the same time, the form has been derived from the symmetrical approach of the ancient Buddhist Monasteries of Bengal. The new form has been developed by tracing the ancient Buddhist monastery-which we can find in the Paharpur or Maynamoti Bihara. The new museum has been placed with the same axis with the old Bihara-to create a dialogue between the old and the new; to create a continuous story of the ancient ruined with its resource, which will be kept in the museum. The voids have been created to keep up the essence of “nothingness” which connects us to the spirit of Buddha. The water body, the greeneries, the rise and fall of the levels are spatial representations of the places where Buddha used to meditate and seek his ultimate meaning of life by staying close to nature.
The master plan preserves the existing ruins and the future excavation site has also been kept untouched. There is a river in the west which is the site force that complements the master plan. The existing pond on the site has also been kept as it was. The entire master plan is intended to create the co-existence of the human-made elements with the natural elements in the site rather than superimposing the one over another. The main entry is from the east which has the information center and in the west, there is the museum gallery, cafe and accommodation. The accommodation wing has a dormitory, kitchen. It accommodates 2 archaeologists and 1 museum manager. There are 3 rooms for the visitors of the archaeology department. The research wing lies in the north. It has a laboratory for the archaeologists, an office for archaeologists, an admin office, a seminar room, and an office for the Agrashar Vikrampur Foundation.
| Image Gallery |
CONTEXT contributing editor: Md Tarek Morad, Architect & Assistant Professor.