|Name:||Rafi, Shadman Sharar|
|Studio Master:||Saimum Kabir (Asst. Prof.), Sumaya Islam, Nandita Barai|
|University:||American International University- Bangladesh|
The story of Idrakpur fort goes back to the era of mighty Mughal empire. It was emperor Akbar who decided to build a layer of defense around Dhaka city – a shield against the Portuguese and Mogh pirates. Mir Jumla II, the Subhadar of Bengal was given this great responsibility by the emperor himself. Thus started the glorifying journey of the Idrakpur fort.
To protect Lalbagh fort, 3 forts were built – the Idrakpur fort, Sonakanda fort and Hajiganj fort. The constructions were completed during 1650-1660 AD. Back then the river had a different course and the forts were situated on the bank of the river. The Idrakpur fort was originally built at a strategic point on the junction of the river Ichhamat and the Meghna. It wasn’t a king-queen dwelling happy peasant land rather a military defense line. One could imagine it like soldiers marching towards war, canons booming loud, horses neighing and clashes of swords. However, the river Ichhamati has now dried up and leaving the fort fending on a silted up area. At present, it is hardly possible to apprehend that the fort was once beside the River Ichamati, as it is now located some way from the river, which flows about 1.6 km to the north. This once river fort is also under pressure of eventual urbanization.
This Mughal fort was built with brick. The fort was quadrangular in size runs from north to south comprising a wider open area surrounded by wall with bastions at the angles. The most unique feature of the fort is the circular drum – a raised platform used for mounting the canon.
So, that was the history. Let’s come to the current scenario. The Idrakpur fort was declared a protected monument under the A.M.P. Act (Act VII of 1904) in 1909. But a number of Govt. buildings including the Munshiganj central jail, NSI office and staff quarter were built inside the fort premise . Even if it sounds ridiculous, but the residence of Munshiganj’s District Commissioner was built on top of the fort. However, recently the site has been handed over to the Dept. of Archaeology, GoB for its conservation purpose. All the later built structures have been removed by the archaeology dept. as soon as they got their authority. They have also discovered some astonishing factoids about the fort construction after preliminary excavation. Along with the preservation of the structure, the dept is also planning to make a museum on the site. But there are urban challenges too. The fort is the center point of the crowd and chaos of the Munshiganj town. In course of time urban growth of Munshiganj town has occurred surrounding this fort area. Many public buildings, administrative offices and informal settlement surrounding the fort area have jammed the whole flow and the once magnificent Mughal fort has lost its appeal. The maps and images of the existing situation shows, there is also pressing threat from adjacent informal settlements along the southern side of the fort . The existing approach road next to it basically being misused. Local hawkers, rent a car service, rickshaw garage etc have taken over it. The problems are therefore clearly visible. It needs a clean-up.
As a strategy, a peripheral road has been proposed . It will free up the existing approach road to be designed as pedestrian plaza connecting all the public and civic facilities in the area. The remaining watershed on the east side of the fort are extended upto south to recreate a moat , a common feature of a fort. The adjacent school functions on the north and east side of the fort premise are reorganized to open up the visual and physical obstruction created by them.
The redevelopment proposal has two goals – firstly, conservation of the archaeological value of Idrakpur fort and secondly, redevelopment of surrounding urban areas as a civic place for the Munshiganj town. In addition to that a visitor center has been proposed to facilitate the local and international tourist.
In the proposed design there are several access points – all leads to the fort. To enhance the panoramic experience of this historic edifice, pathways are designed around this structure. The pedestrian spine along the north south axis is the central one connecting the fort with (at the same time buffering from) the adjacent urban functions and open areas . This plaza is made accessible for all and designed with green spaces, sitting areas and gradually stepped down along the edge of the water to offer the magnificent view of the fort . Inside the fort, Mugul landscapes are restored which leads to the circular drum and a small museum. The museum is a new proposal to be constructed inside the high wall of the jail area for indoor display of archaeological ruins discovered from the site . On top of the drum, there will be an open display of the excavated site. The journey ends at the hidden chamber located underneath the drum.
The proposal for the visitor center includes information center, seminar hall, accommodation and food court areas. This visitor center is proposed to be located at the southeast corner of the area close to the intercity bus stops.
The whole purpose of the project is to make a better place that bears the rich history and modern civic facilities for the people of Munshiganj. Conservation of the Idrakpur fort through adaptive reuse remains in the center of all these activities. What will be the outcome? Like Bilbao, it has the potential to boost the socio-economic life of Munshiganj. The possibility of the project in this regard is quite unimaginable.
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