|Studio Master:||Ashik Vaskor, Ajmeri Nusrat Shoma, Md Sariful Islam|
Shakharibazar is a very unique site of historic Dhaka. The area has been a sanctuary of a specific ethnic (business) community for more than three centuries . The mixed use, narrow buildings of Shakharibazar presents a very interesting urban fabric. Like other historic quarters, Shakharibazar is also going through the process of transformation. New buildings are rapidly replacing the old structures. A survey shows that there were more than 95 old buildings on Shakharibazar band in 2003. But at present in 2016 only 55 old buildings are observed in this area. Recently government has declared this area as a heritage site, however local tension over this decision has been strongly felt. Local people are still demolishing the old buildings in order to make a new one.
Apart from many socio-political issues ‘building economics’ seems to be one of the major challenges for preserving historical buildings in Shakharibazar. Landowners are more interested in rebuilding on the site for better return. With the increased land value, the existing way of using the old structures is seemingly unprofitable. Many of these Century old buildings are structurally vulnerable as well.
The site has a potential to become a tourist spot because many buildings in Shakharibazar represents the architectural history of Dhaka. Old Dhaka itself is an important tourist destination. Historical edifices like Ahsan Manjil, Lalbagh fort, Ruplal houses, Tara mosque, Armenian Church etc are the evidences of Mughal and colonial architecture that are frequently visited by many local and foreign tourists.
Shop house is the generic archetype of existing urban fabric of Shakharibazar. Ground floor is occupied by the shops with workshop at rear side of the houses. The other floors of the multistoried buildings are rental spaces partly used for commercial and residential purposes. Numbers of house owners who running their business here are living in new Dhaka to avail better urban services and amenities. The existing old buildings are often accused as inhabitable, dark and shabby and structurally vulnerable and thus economically less viable.
The project aims to regenerate the rentable part of selected historic buildings into a functionally, economically and culturally viable place. Taking references from successful examples around the world, the old structures are designed to be transformed into touristic/public functions like exhibition space, hostel for tourist, café etc. Existing shops at the ground floor and living area for local inhabitants will remain unchanged. Effort has also given to make urban pocket space to allow interaction between the tourist and the local people.
A win-win policy is, therefore, required that best informs the interest of local landowners as well as preserve the rich building tradition of Dhaka. Measures should be taken to preserve remaining historical structures through local participation for safeguarding community interest.
With this insight, the following project proposed a metamorphosis of Shakharibazar where historic buildings are transformed into economically viable alternatives while keeping its architectural and archeological value intact.
In order to regenerate the urban fabric of Shakharibazar six generic archetypes are identified: 1. the Path or Goli ; 2. Open space in between buildings; 3. Building with shankha shop; 4. Two buildings with a goli in between 5. The narrowest building.
1.The path or Goli
The main access road is a narrow path which have a highest width of 19 feet . This path is used for the people as a shortcut from Islampur to Laksmibazar. It saves about 10 to 15 minutes of time. A large numbers of passerby prefer this road for movement. When rickshaw enters on this road it creates blockage. There is an alternative rickshaw route from Laksmibazar to Islampur. This road is thus proposed as a pedestrian path so that only people can walk on this. And hard surface of the road are downgraded to semi-paved surface in order to make it permeable to storm water.
2.Open space in between buildings
In 2013 holding no. 14 was demolished by the local owner while attempting to construct a new building. But the construction work was stopped by the city authority and the land is vacant now. So, effort has given to make use of that open space by providing some temporary functions or activities. On day time there will be some food vendors on that open space for tourist and local people. The local people can hangout with friends and family at night. Tourists can join them and enjoy the street life. The adjacent buildings which connect with that open space are transformed into public functions like movie, exhibition, library, workshop etc. Also this open space can be used for exhibition.
3. Building with Shankha shop
This typology represents the original pattern of Shankhari house. The upper floor’s rental spaces, which has residential use currently, are rearranged to make it suitable for tourist hostel, thus keep the change optimum. The existing shop on the ground floor will remain unchanged. Some related functions like cafe, reception, exhibition spaces where the handmade shankha can be exhibited are also proposed.
4. Two buildings with a goli in between
On the existing road there are some small food shops like tea stall, small restaurant etc though it lacks sitting place where people can sit and eat those foods. Even within this dense urban fabric small unsed open spaces are found. Such underused leftover spaces are designed to function as an activity enclave equipped with urban furnitures and functions.
5. The narrowest building
Once the narrowest building (holding no: 12) was a temple and later people started to live on this building. But it is very difficult to live on this building because the maximum width of the building is 6 feet .The proposal suggests reconversion of this building into a temple again.
 Maher Niger, Preserving Urban Roots: The Case of Shakhari Bazaar, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nakhara: Journal of Environmental Design and Planning, Vol 9, 2013.
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