Are plans to demolish Dhaka University’s TSC justified?
Last December, ahead of Dhaka University's birth centenary celebrations in 2021, the news that its iconic Teacher-Student Centre (TSC) will be demolished to be rebuilt into a modern structure came as a shock to many. The Public Works Development (PWD) came up with the decision after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked the authorities concerned to modernise Dhaka Medical College Hospital, TSC and public library.
Famed Greek architect Constantinos Apostolos Doxiadis (1913-1975) designed the TSC in the early 1960s. The architecture of the establishment is unique—Doxiadis had rural Bangladeshi huts in mind when he was designing it; as a result, TSC bears our architectural heritage as well.
To plain eyes, the TSC may seem like a place only for casual conversation and entertainment. However, its significance lies beyond that. It is a free space where people can indulge in intellectual discourse. Co-curricular clubs of the university operate from there. Moreover, various cultural programmes with Dhaka University students and people from all over the country are organised from the TSC all year round.
Like many other architectural landmarks of Dhaka city that have stood the test of time, the TSC has witnessed the spirit and determination of the youth who played a significant role in Bangladesh's independence. Every corner of the TSC has a story to tell. This cultural, social and political hub for commoners and members of the Dhaka University family alike is under the threat of destruction now. The revolutions that sparked inside the TSC, the historical events, emotions and memories associated with it are all being neglected in the name of development.
It is true that everything withers with time, and development is necessary. The TSC we have now may eventually be inadequate for the 40,000 students and teachers of Dhaka University. However, does that truly justify tearing apart the historic establishment?
According to the PWD authorities, the new plan for the TSC was due on December 10, 2020, but it is yet to be submitted. The plan includes a new auditorium, a gymnasium, a new swimming pool and a parking lot, among other things. To many in the Dhaka University family, it seems like the philosophy that had driven the construction of the TSC is completely missing from the new structure. The TSC has been around for so long that anything else in its place, no matter how new or fancy it may be, will not be enough to compensate for the loss. It is also home to many artists and cultural activists of Dhaka. Amidst the chaotic life of this city, many come to the TSC to spend time and reminisce on their youth. Former students of Dhaka University, including noted teachers and intellectuals, have expressed their displeasure regarding the move to modernise the TSC. Something as cherished as this place must be preserved from the pangs of urbanisation.
Development does not mean that we have to destroy the old structure of the TSC, as it has a special history and unique significance. The TSC is an architectural icon not only inside the Dhaka University campus, but also in the broader cityscape of Dhaka. Although our capital city is over 400 years old, we do not have many monuments or establishments that embody the cultural heritage of Bangladesh. The authorities concerned should keep that in mind when they start sprouting fancy words like "modernisation" as justification for replacing such an integral monument. Sustainable development is what we should aim for, not simply bulldozing our way through the past.
The authors are respectively: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology graduate from Dhaka University, Vice President candidate in the DUCSU Elections 2019. email@example.com; student at Department of Economics, Dhaka University and freelance blogger. firstname.lastname@example.org.