Defacing the distinct features of architectural works | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 11, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 11, 2007

DU Defies Building Rules and Codes-IV

Defacing the distinct features of architectural works

The library (top) and NIPA buildings at the Dhaka University.Photo: STAR

In spite of public outcry, the Dhaka University (DU) authorities continue to spoil the beauty of some landmark architectural works on the campus disregarding their significance.
Though leading architects and academics expressed concern following erection of a pedestal on the rooftop of the DU central library building for installing a transmission tower, the authorities have never paid heed to their concern.
The DU authorities have made a 5-year contract with two private mobile telephone companies renting out the rooftop of the library building to erect the transmission tower, according to high officials of the university.
Experts expressed frustrations over what they termed thoughtless move of the university authorities to rent out the rooftop of the landmark work designed by architect Muzharul Islam, who pioneered a distinct trend of architecture in Bangladesh.
The work is different from colonial style of architecture and bears the reflections of aspirations, suitability and aestheticism of an independent country, they said.
Another unique architectural work, National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA) building on the campus, also done by Muzharul Islam, has been a subject to mindless disfigurement of its original architectural features with arbitrary alteration and interventions, alleged the architects.
They said that caging with iron grill and stupid modification of the building have spoilt its openness provided in the original architectural design.
Conservationist architect Abu Sayeed M Ahmed said the Curzon Hall, SM Hall, FH Hall and Dhaka Medical College building on the campus are all edifices that bear testimony to an architectural trend with a blend of colonial and Islamic influence.
"The blend of two styles developed a new form of majestic local architecture in this part of Bengal," he said. "This form of architecture was in practice until 1950s."
Architect Muzharul Islam set the trend for modern architecture in Bangladesh through his works like DU library building, NIPA building and Fine Arts Institute, featuring keen considerations for the local climate, building materials, nature and context.
He introduced the use of exposed brick and cross ventilation in the plan of fine arts building. The vaulted roof of the library building was aimed at minimising penetration of excessive heat, and perforated screen was meant to let in plenty of air and protect from the building from direct ray of the sun, architect Abu Sayeed said.
"Arbitrary and indiscrete alteration and defacement of such buildings by the DU authorities are not only unfortunate but also shocking," he noted.
Architectural Review published from London ran a feature in April 1960 on the DU library building in appreciation of the workmanship.
Chief Architect of the Department of Architecture ASM Ismail said the DU library building is unique because of its graceful façade and elevation with a beautiful ramp.
"The grand architectural features in the building's ground floor have all been mindlessly disfigured with iron fencing and arbitrary partitions," he said.
Ismail said NIPA building is one of the best buildings in the country.
President of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB) Mubasshar Hussain said the DU library building is an outstanding example of modern architecture. This is a foremost example in the study of modern architecture in Bangladesh and one of the pioneering works of architecture accomplished in Pakistan period (during 1953-54).
Hussain said that the DU should have removed the distorting structure on the rooftop of the building. The university authorities have grossly deformed the original layout of the building's ground floor that had an airy open space and ramp, he said. “It was a canopy-like and aesthetically beautiful open space with a majestic height.”
But the DU authorities have altered the original design of the building. They have encaged and despoiled its entire open lobby with iron grill and partitions.
Following erection of the pedestal on the rooftop of the library building, IAB wrote to the DU authorities in February, but the authorities have not responded.
Prof Nazrul Islam, honorary chairman of the Centre for Urban Studies (CUS), said, "It is unfortunate that distortion of architecturally significant buildings occur at an institution like Dhaka University. They should have taken the leadership for conservation of significant architectural works and heritage of the country."
"No alteration can be done to any building without permission of the architect concerned," said Islam, who is a member of government's Urban Development Committee.
Vice-chancellor of Dhaka University SMA Faiz said, "We have not yet cancelled the contract with the telephone companies. We are making an assessment of possible radiation impact because of the transmission tower, which is expected to facilitate better network service for the mobile phone users."

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