The DU authorities are planning to build a multi-storey building in place of the current TSC building
Leading architects and a section of civil society have dedicated themselves to finding an alternative to the demolition of the iconic Teacher Student Centre (TSC) at Dhaka University.
The TSC is an invaluable part of Bangladesh’s cultural heritage and among the modern architectural landmarks of the country. The building was originally designed by a Greek architect and built in the 1960s.
The DU authorities are planning to build a multi-storey building in place of the current TSC. The decision has sparked widespread criticism from various quarters.
The Constantinos Apostolou Doxiadis archives, the firm that represents the architect who designed TSC, also expressed deep concern over the potential destruction of an architectural masterpiece.
Why demolish when you can develop?
Architects and civil society members have suggested that the authorities incorporate the existing buildings in the new design instead of demolishing them.
As an example, they cited the recent plans of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIMA). The institute had planned to demolish the red-brick student dormitories designed by Louis Kahn, who was also the architect of Bangladesh’s National Parliament complex in the early 1960s.
On January 1, the IIMA scrapped the demolition plan and began looking at alternatives in order to preserve the buildings.
Professor Zainab Faruqui Ali, chairperson of the department of architecture at Brac University, said: “The DU TSC holds more than just architectural significance. It has a central part in Bangladesh’s political and cultural history.
“A team of architects are developing proposals and plans on alternatives to the demolition. The plan on the TSC will include how the landmark can be kept intact,” she said.
An online poll is being conducted in partnership with Dhaka Tribune and Bangla Tribune to gauge public opinion on possible alternatives, added the professor.
Mubasshar Hossain, president of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB), said development must continue but not at the cost of destroying historic landmarks.
“We must find alternatives that keep the existing structure, while also being environment and climate friendly. A team of architects is almost at the final stage of designing some proposals, where the original structure will be kept intact,” he said.
The IAB president added that the architect community was trying to hold a meeting with the DU authorities to present their proposals.
“The authorities may also hold a design competition to find alternatives to the demolition plan,” he suggested.
He also said discussions with civil society were underway and their opinions would be taken into consideration.
Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam of Dhaka University said: “The TSC is the heart of the cultural and political history of Bangladesh and it must be kept in place.”
Veteran historian Professor Muntassir Mamoon agreed with the DU authorities’ argument that the university needed infrastructural development to accommodate a higher number of students and teachers, but he said the ultimate agenda should not be a demolition plan.
“We are in favour of development, but not by demolishing our heritage. The authorities have enough space in the Dhaka University area to implement the new plan, but the TSC must remain as it is now,” he added.
TSC demolition plan
TSC - a universally admired centre in relation to the country’s student politics and cultural life - will be rebuilt into a modern structure ahead of the university’s birth centenary celebrations in 2021, according to a government decision.
The Public Works Department (PWD) came up with the demolition plan after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on September 2 called for a modernisation of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), TSC and the Public Library at Shahbagh.
The premier on the day said plans for many institutions, including DMCH, had already been formulated but the design for the TSC had not been completed yet.
She also said she had already directed the authorities concerned to prepare the design in a proper manner, as she wanted to rebuild the centre as a modern one.
On November 29, however, Executive Engineer of the Public Work Department (PWD) Dhaka Circle-4 Md Mahabubur Rahman said the entire existing TSC establishment would be demolished and a new complex would be built as per plans of the authorities.
The Greek architect, planner and theoretician, Constantinos Apostolos Doxiadis (1913-1975), designed the TSC in the early 1960s. Later, the TSC building was built as part of the so-called Decade of Development (between 1958 and 1968) of the then Pakistani military government of General Ayub Khan.
Plans for the demolition of the iconic TSC sparked an outcry among former and current students and teachers of the university after Dhaka Tribune ran a report in this regard.