This is a piece of our heritage, and should be preserved
The Public Works Department (PWD) authorities have confirmed that the Teacher Students Centre (TSC) at the University of Dhaka will go under demolition and have a modern complex built in its place.
Since then, mixed reactions have been seen among the students of the university and some of the teachers as well. Many have expressed their anxiety about losing this iconic structure which is, in many ways, synonymous with the history of our country. Some have welcomed the decision as a step towards development and a solution to some other issues.
The most commonly stated problem for many years has been the huge number of outsiders entering the campus, especially in the TSC area. This is indeed a problem that requires immediate attention. But is demolishing and rebuilding TSC the only solution to this problem? The answer is no because there are many other crucial reasons behind this.
The University of Dhaka does not have a properly marked area as its campus. The rapid access of the outsiders as well as heavy vehicles can never be controlled in this condition. But only if we take a look at one of our neighbouring campuses we will notice where we lack. The BUET campus has barricades to stop heavy vehicles at all times. This also limits the outsiders to some extent. Thus they have a properly maintained campus.
A common argument against setting restricting boundaries of the University of Dhaka campus is that it is situated at one of the busiest points of the city and has crucial connecting roads. This cannot be entirely ignored, considering the ever-growing traffic jam of the capital. But measures similar to the ones taken by the BUET authorities should be considered with urgency. That way the excessive load of traffic inside the campus area can be controlled to a certain level.
Rejecting these development works entirely will not be a wise thing to do. Change and development are inevitable and necessary. But one of the pillars of sustainable and sincere development must be heritage. Be it of a nation or an institute. One of the primary concerns of modern architecture around the world is to preserve historic and significant structures in the best possible way. Whenever this issue is raised people often refer to how Oxford University has maintained its age-old architectural identity to this day by building new facilities in their traditional designs.
Although the referred task is difficult, it is not impossible. But many counter this reference by saying “not fit for our overpopulated and underdeveloped country” and surely we culturally differ from Oxford University. Students, artists, politicians, etc. from all over the country considers TSC as a hub for cultural and political activities. As a student of the university, I believe that these activities enrich us and are a significant part of our identity as a university. A shining new complex with many probable restrictions will hamper the tradition of openness at the University of Dhaka.
If we take a look next door we will find inspiring examples. Recently in Kolkata, they have declared many of their century-old restaurants and diners as national heritage. This is one of the many steps they have taken to preserve their rich and unique cultural identity. The neon-lit streets, buildings dating back to the British Empire, and the sculptures and monuments are what the world knows and celebrates Kolkata for. How well have they preserved it!
One may ask what value they bring. The answer is the number of tourists attracted by these sites and the massive economic activities that encircle them. This only indicates that we all need to accomplish such things is the good will to preserve the things that showcase our identity as a nation. In this case, an institute.
The most sincere step towards solving this problem would be reforming TSC by keeping its original structure and design as it is, keeping this marvellous piece of architecture, and the heritage along with it.
Rafsan Ahmed is a freelance contributor, Dhaka Tribune.