<%-- Page Title--%> Architecture <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 158 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

June 11, 2004

<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- 5% Text Table--%>

Forging Ahead While Preserving the Old

Fayza Haq

Kashef Chowdhury, who presented 26 films of 15 minutes duration, on Swiss architecture at the Goethe Institut from 4th to 6th May, talked of how the Bangladeshi builders could learn from the films. Chowdhury said, "Films, books and travels are elements that inspire architects. The film is about the type of problems that city authorities often face regarding making buildings, how architects work within stringent regulations, and how they manage to come up with interesting solutions. From these films one learns how one can come up with various solutions which are interactive with the city, as well as gives back to the city."

Chowdhury points out that the materials used in Bangladesh are sometimes different from those used in Europe. In Switzerland, he gives an example, wood is predominant. "They also use concrete and brick as we do here. In Bangladesh wood cannot be used that much due to seasonal changes," he said.

One objective for making the films was to create an awareness of architecture. In Europe general people are exposed to and are more conversant with films, music and architecture unlike people in this part of the world. Chowdhury however believes that given a chance the Dhakaites, particularly those interested in the art of making buildings, would also appreciate the films. "The films are technical but they have a universal appeal at the same time. There are a good number of people, who are not architects by profession, but are interested in how buildings are made. Besides, since ordinary people have limited access to books on architecture, films can be a good option for them," he adds.

The films give the viewers an opportunity to go beyond the confines of Bangladesh and there they can see beautiful, neat and useful homes, offices and schools. A land owner or a person interested in buying an apartment or building a house would find these films interesting and informative. Through the films, Chowdhury believes, not only can we bring in new ideas from overseas, but export our own culture in arts and architecture abroad. Thus the films prepare a more mature clientele and architects can work with them in a more fruitful way, creating a better-built environment in general.

Asked if he felt that the buildings in Europe are better planned as there the governments are actively involved in urban planning, Chowdhury answered in the affirmative, but the stringent rules don't stop the architects from coming up with creative, beautiful and imaginative constructions. On the River Tames alone, he said, there are 27 approving authorities. There have been instances, he said, where the city authorities have opened up possibilities to relax some of the regulations. Europe, says Chowdhury, has preserved the past and gone ahead with experimentation. "This interesting blend of things gives us in the East something to learn from, as we are not preserving our built heritage. Dhaka city we know today is not what we knew ten years ago. We keep losing our urban centres and land marks; and now we think that change is good, in the sense that we have become modern. A change is good but in a limited way. In Europe we see the possibilities of preserving old, coveted architecture while adding on newly planned buildings," he adds.

Chowdhury then dwells on the need for preservation of old buildings in Bangladesh. Buildings of great architectural values like Nawab Bari, Boro Katra and Rup Lal House are being allowed to decay. The fabric of Old Dhaka is not being preserved as high rise buildings are mushrooming hither and thither. Even the Parliament building has been undergoing changes that are not sympathetic to the original design. In Paharpur the old terracotta relief work have been removed and replaced by replicas. Relics from the monuments of Moinamati are being sold to foreigners in the bazaars in Gulshan and Bonani. Laws and regulations are there, but they are not being enforced. People have to be made aware of how important it is to preserve our heritage along with creating new designs," he says.





(C) Copyright The Daily Star. The Daily Star Internet Edition, is published by The Daily Star