Given that a network of parks and open spaces within and in close proximity to urban areas is very critical to providing healthy habitats for humans, wildlife and plants, the authorities concerned have planned to transform the site of 200-year old Dhaka Central Jail into an amusement park for the city’s residents.
The Home Ministry on Tuesday selected a design to this end.
A seven-member jury board selected the design by architect Abdur Rashid and his team through a competition at Shilpokala Academy. The prize was announced by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
Twenty eight eminent architects and design organisations participated in the competition, while a total of 34 drawings were submitted by the participants.
The ministry gave prizes to the top five teams including the winning one, while two other teams received honourable mentions.
Director General of Prisons Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed them to take measures to transform the jail site into a recreational spot for residents of old Dhaka after its activities had been shifted to two central jails – one at Keraniganj in Dhaka and the other at Kashimpur in Gazipur — on the outskirts of Dhaka.
He said they had divided the entire site into three zones: A, B and C, following the premier’s instruction.
The architects who took part in the competition drew designs as per instructions set by the authorities, according to the official.
Iftekhar said they already showed the design to the prime minister and she asked them to implement the project as soon as possible. “The plans for Zone C will be implemented by September-October next year,” he added.
The authorities said the prison will be redesigned as a museum under the new design, with a multi-purpose hall, convention centre, cineplex, restaurant, swimming pool, parking lots, and bank in Zone A, which spans 3.5 acres. Zone B, which is a 1.4 decimal area, will have book stores, flower stores and parking lots. Zone C will feature museums of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and four national leaders — AHM Qamaruzzaman, Tajuddin Ahmed, Syed Nazrul Islam and Captain Muhammad Mansur Ali.
Addressing the programme, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the implementation of the design would give Old Dhaka a much-needed facelift and make its residents proud.
“The government decided to transform Old Central Jail into an attractive historic site and tourist spot so that new generations can to learn about our great leaders who had been imprisoned there,” he added.
“Not only had the great leaders of our Liberation War been imprisoned there, but those who sacrificed their lives for our mother tongue and fought against the British colonial rule had been confined to the jail,” he also said.
The jury board recommended that archeological artifacts, if recovered during digging in the prison grounds, be preserved in the proposed museum. It also suggested declaring the area a heritage site.
Mughal Subadar Ibrahim Khan built a fort at present Chawk Bazar, which later became the residence of Naib Nazim of Dhaka. A criminal ward was built inside the fort in 1788 during the rule of East India Company that was later converted into the jail. The jail was built on 36.76 acres of land.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the four national leaders had been imprisoned in the jail during the Language Movement in 1952, Six-point Movement in 1966, and the Liberation War in 1971.