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     Volume 4 Issue 43 | April 22, 2005 |

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Building for Future

Mustafa Zaman

It was only in 2002 that the Department of Architecture of BRAC University was established. Three years later, the prospect for its future seems to be shining at its brightest. On the opening day of the two-week-long exhibition, three floors of the Standard Tower that house the faculty is dressed in festivity. Designs had been laid out on the floors, which make you hesitate while shifting your feet. Plan-sheets, cardboard models and pattern-like exercises -- both two and tree dimensional -- make up the exhibits that address ideas relating to form and structure. The students are busy giving directions to the visitors, leading them from one room to the other where different projects are ready to take one by surprise. Amidst the well-conceived designs, the students were not the only source of youthful energy, the models for their dynamism and novelty reflected their creators' vive.

Any architecture faculty is a hub where creativity meets functionality. The faculty of BRAC University is no exception. The designs are proof of that. Faria Tasnin, a third year student, testifies that they draw their inspiration from varied sources. "We study works by major architects, the major iconic achievements that dot the planet. During study, the students are given assignments to replicate residential houses by major modern architects like Frank Lloyd Write, Le Corbusier and Peter Eisenman. Even the works by major Bangladeshi exponents are replicated and studied," says Faria.

Any miniaturised building gives out a kind of mystic delight. This very effect gets even augmented when precision comes into play. At the show, most creative models draw their inspiration from many sources. Modernism, as usual, is unavoidable for any learner as functionality and form are still the mainstay in the architectural vocabulary. But the display of replicas of Ahsan Manzil as well as buildings dating back to the European Renaissance reveals a strong sensitivity to the past.

In different stages students go through different exercises. The show encapsulates most of their assignments that they had to do last year. The project of cultural centre was the work of the students of third year. "The exhibition is one way of appraising our works as well as getting feedback," believes Faria. "We are supposed to organise this exhibition once every year. However, since 2002, we have managed to do it thrice," relates Fuad H Mallik, Chairman of the faculty.

These are "school projects" that even tackle issues concerning urban development while embracing a wide range of subjects. From railway station, to pedestrian walkway, to urban planning, the exhibits touch upon everything relating to modern living. One of the most interesting aspects of these works lies in the fact that the very location of the faculty has been given a thought in one particular project. One of the participants, Samira Islam, a fourth year student, had on display the plans for rearranging their own area, which she terms as a mixed one. "The Cancer Centre doesn't fit into the scene. We have shown that for a hospital you need to have a surrounding suitable for the patients," she emphasised. Her project incorporates a community centre, supermarket, gymnasium and a food court to address the needs of the locality.

Aother project by fourth year students is the Benarashi Pallee at Mirpur. "On the CRP proposed land we have designed a vast area of low-cost housing with the view to relocate the weavers. The project comprises all -- their workplace, health and educational facilities as well as banks, post office and even basic training centres," says Samira.

As for the creative zeal that had poured out in the students' efforts to build resort or community centres, railway stations or plain exercises in constructing and deconstructing forms, the "Exhibition 2005" at Standard Tower in Banani provides an opportunity to recognise new talents.

The members of the faculty display both their resolve and experimental inclination by devising a new way of communicating their message. For them a colourful paper-cube become substitute for the conventional leaflet. "We try to keep in touch with the world. There are programmes that we designed to expose the students to present-day development and ideas. Both the famous and the young architects of Dhaka are often invited to deliver talks," says Fuad Mallick. On April 12, the faculty even arranged for a day-long discussion meeting with the parents of their recruits to "bring to light the objectives and philosophies behind architecture as well as education in this field."

The show began on April 7 and continued till April 21. Those who went to look at it came back with a renewed hope in designing and building with responsibility and style. This country surely is in dire need of both.

Photo: Imran H Khan

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