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Architecture continues to change with time

Shihab Sarkar | Published: November 14, 2019 21:35:31


In the past, few of the emergent building owners would bother about architectural designs of their structures. They were seen being dependent wholly on their contractors in this regard. Many used to go further by mixing their own fanciful ideas with the designs. As a result, what would emerge as a roofed and walled structure had the remotest link to the pure definition of a residential or office building. As a general view, lots of people are unaware of the existence of the profession of architects. They go straight to the contractors; while some with an educated background and living in the urban areas are found resorting to architectures and engineers. However, the scene is changing. In many upscale areas in Dhaka and other metropolises, buildings are increasingly being raised on the designs conceived by architects. Even the interiors of a residential building are the outcome of a plan, especially that related to the rooms' locations and the space between them. They are also planned by professional architects.

Coming to Dhaka, it is said around seventy per cent of its buildings are constructed without any consultation with people having creativity, and the necessary expertise obtained from a recognised institution. Town planning is concerned with the spatial beauty of a city; the discipline of architecture relates to the proposed individual buildings, and helps the building owners enhance their aesthetic value. In Asia, South Asia to be precise, a significant percentage of the buildings in the cities are constructed without any advice of architects. Exceptions are there, like Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou; and also Kuala Lumpur and a number of other cities. Many would feel like comparing these modern and post-modern cities with the concrete jungles of Dhaka, Kolkata, Delhi or even Mumbai and Karachi and parts of Bangkok.

Against this medley of concrete structures, Dhaka hosted the 50th pageant-filled colloquium of Asian architects. It's an active forum of architects and is widely known as Arcasia Forum. The term Arcasia stands for the Architects Regional Council Asia. Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB) organised the event this year, participated by 21 representatives from the member-countries. Apart from a new executive committee and office bearers, the event encompassed a large variety of serious and lighter veined programmes. A total of five venues in Dhaka hosted the events of the 50-year-old Arcasia, this year it's called Arcasia Forum 2020, from November 06-11. The main programmes, however, were held on November 03-04. The theme of the current year's Arcasia forum (1969-2019) was 'Architecture in a Changing Landscape'.

The instinct to create carved-out stone and concrete installations dates back to ancient times. In the modern-day world, the garden atop Marina Bay Hotel Roof Garden in Singapore or the Dubai Rotating Tower or the incredibly tall Burj Khalifa in the same city captivates awe-struck viewers. So do the Sydney Opera or the Glass Pyramid in Paris. In the pre-Christ period, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramid of Giza, Cairo, or the colossal statue on the Rhodes Island would keep spectators mesmerisesd in the similar way. With the arrival of the medieval period, more man-made structures were added to the list of architectural wonders. In fact, the whole civilised world began being landmarked by scores of then unthought-of structures. Beginning from urban settlements in the wilderness to underground catacombs, from memorials to amphitheatres and libraries and universities, many spectacular creations were found dotting far-flung continents. Art galleries with early masterpieces were also not excluded. The other monuments included palaces, light-houses, monasteries, hilltop temples etc.

After cave paintings, architectural installations are considered one of man's earliest proofs of creative expression. Thus when the modern man becomes veritably speechless viewing the large ancient stone circles in Scotland, the remnants of the ruins of Mohenjodaro or the Machu Picchu in Peru, Petronas Twin Tower of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, they are overcome with the similar amazement. We wonder at human's apparently limitless capacity to play with their imagination. Otherwise, what could have driven man to carve out Buddha's images on the rocky surfaces of a mountain or build the massive statue of 'Christ the Redeemer' on a hill in Rio de Janeiro? The Tajmahal has no utility except its aesthetic appeal. In fact, it contains the grave of Mumtaj Mahal, the beloved wife of the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. But who can deny the ethereal beauty of the white marbled Taj on the bank of Yamuna in full moon?

With the invention of new construction devices, the nature of architectural sites has also been changing. The Eiffel Tower, Constructed from 1887 to 1889, in Paris has long entered the list of modern architectural milestones along with new-generation airports, monuments, esplanades, supermarkets etc. In the 21st century underwater highways, undersea tunnels, floating undersea tunnels and their likes continue to amaze humans. Man continues to build them. A few of them are so iconoclastic in concept and construction that many would feel inclined to call them being at the near-climactic point of their imagination. The trend began in earnest in the 1960s. The ultramodern Parliament House located in the midst a sprawling venue called Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, then known as Second Capital in erstwhile East Pakistan, is still fresh in look and consummately bold in vision. Conceived by the legendary American architect Louis Kahn, its work started in 1961. A few works that followed in the later decades elsewhere in the world were apparently influenced by Kahn, especially in the context of new types of facilities providing space and letting in natural light. What had added to the uniqueness of the extraordinary edifice built in Dhaka were also the creative uses of water pools --- and, above all, the surrounding belt of nature. In the Dhaka of the 1960s, a number of highly experimental structures were built. They included the Education Extension Centre behind the Teachers Training College and the Home Economics College at Nilkhet. 

A completely new era has dawned on the world's architecture in the present century. Newer structures are coming up across the world as decades wear on, and the number of the major works comes to around 25. These and the other smaller ones are found in countries irrespective of economic status. A startling aspect featuring many poorer countries is their architects being busy building avant-garde architectural monuments. Creative talent and genius cannot be confined to national boundaries. The 21st century finds architects innovating newer mediums and construction techniques which they employ in their creations. In this context, connoisseurs keep showering their praise on Cineroleum --- a theatre opened in London. Then there is the Muzeum Susch in Switzerland; the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque in Dhaka. The later work is called a poetic essay on how natural light can be used to maximum benefit. Besides, the Teshima Art Museum, Tokyo, Beijing National Stadium, Vasconcelos Library and Botanical Garden in Mexico City, Mexico are considered some of the great architectural sites of the present century. Moreover, the Grand Park, Bordeaux, France and the Tate Modern, London, have enriched the list.

Mankind is passing a time that sees changes in architectural concepts. Like in the previous times, the emphasis on space remains fully in place in the current century as well. Bangladeshi architects are no exception. When it comes to concepts, they try to pick the one that assimilates the globally acclaimed bold themes with the humble indigenous forms --- with special stress on the changes in climate and the adaptation. True to its theme this year, the Arcasia Forum 2020's architect-participants, most of them highly creative and young, showcased their exhibits at an outdoor exhibition of graphic work at the sprawling venue in front of Louis Kahn's Jatiya Sangsad (JS) Bhaban. They have earned warm plaudits quite deservedly.

 

shihabskr@ymail.com

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