City of an Architect
Sarah Z H
A publication ceremony of the book 'City of an Architect' was held on February 11 at the Asiatic Society Auditorium in Nimtali. The 370 page book on Dhaka's historic and important architectural heritage was unveiled by the Minister, Ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs Mr. Abul Kalam Azad, MP. It was followed by a lively discussion on the book and the need for to be aware of the treasure trove of architecture that this city possesses. The panellists in the discussion were Prof. Nazrul Islam (UGC), Prof. Sharif U Ahmed (DU), and Prof. Harun Ur Rashid (NSU). They also emphasised on the need for projecting correct history of the city and these examples to be preserved for posterity.
The book authored by Mahbubur Rahman, Professor of Architecture at the North South University, and published by the Delvistaa Foundation, used no photograph but used 162 sketches,of historic buildings of Dhaka, done by the architecture students of the North South University and the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, and a few by the author himself which adds a rare quality to this book. Written for readers both old school and contemporary, laymen and professionals alike,the book reads like a novel, describes the heritage of this city from an inquisitive architect's point of view who love this city and its architecture. It also challenges the authenticity of many existing myths and some unknown facts about the city, and tries to unearth the beauty and the context. The discussant praised the excellent English and fluid language used in the book that is sure to keep a reader engaged, and said that this was a book praiseworthy for its many abilities to spellbind a reader and make him fall in love with the Architect's city that is Dhaka.
In a befitting backdrop of the Nimtali Deuri, the first building that survives from the colonial era in the city, people from all walks of life who want to learn more about their beloved city, gathered on the occasion of this launch,a production of Delvistaa that took the author 30 years of study to grasp. He has been for several years documenting old historic buildings, by involving colleagues and students, and have organised several events related to architectural conservation to make people aware of the value and utility of the traditional architecture. Part of this book was indeed serialised in Star Campus during 2008-09, and received mixed reviews.
At the same time, an exhibition of 80 selected sketches that were used in the book has been running since February 5. The exhibition, inaugurated by National Award winner eminent sculptor Prof. Hamiduzzaman Khan, went on till February 13, drawing a large crowd everyday. The beautifully composed book with an attractive cover is available at the Ekushey Boi Mela through its distributor Troyee.
Architects, historians and others present during the event opined that a Heritage Council should be formed, under government patronisation if not by it as suggested by the author who had another book on architectural heritage conservation published last year by UNESCO. He also suggested that architects should learn about the history of their own soil, and also the social and cultural aspects of a society that profoundly affect its architecture. He considered his enormous effort as a gift to the citizens of Dhaka who are celebrating the fourth centenary of the city being a capital, the first time of such four other occasions.
According to urban expert and art critic Prof. Islam, the book is neither a history book, nor a travelogue or book of serious architectural theory. But it is all those as the author, an architectural academician, activist and writer, who went deep into history, described all architectural examples from an enthusiastic explorer/traveller's point of view, and still dwelt with analytic criticism of every style and type of building that found a place in it. He compared the myths and facts and then came up with his own thoughts. This book divided into 117 different episodes, does not forget to mention some selected examples of modern architecture as well.
According to the Minister, Bangladesh is wrongly portrayed as a poor country despite the fact that it has a rich culture and architecture that it should be proud of, and the responsibility is on the younger generation to read books and know themselves.