Shortlisted Entries 2020

BiodiverCity : Pond-centric Urbanism for Increasing Livability in Rajshahi City

Md Mashuk Ul Alam
BUET  (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology), Department of Architecture | Bangladesh

Rajshahi is a metropolitan city in Bangladesh and a major urban, commercial and educational center at the northern part of the country. It has a colorific history of more than 300 years with co-existence of different caste and creed, culture and belief that created its own historical environment. Ponds are the eminent morphological feature of Rajshahi City and the most important urban natural resource. They were excavated time to time in response to the physical, socio-economical, environmental and metaphysical need of water for the growing city and its increasing population. Humans are drawn to the microclimate created by ponds as a result of environmental behavior towards waterbodies. This sense of place on and around the pond outsetted city’s urban morphology with Pond-centric ‘Mohalla’ or neighborhood and structured its urban culture as well. 

Originally cities start to form by resorting to proximate natural elements such as rivers, hill tracks, seashore, etc. from where the prevailing needs can be fulfilled and a living environment is created. But with turbulent interference of industrialization and alienation, the natural identity of most cities has come to decay or extinction. This primal and perpetual conflict between the dispersal of human civilization and nature is a by- product of urbanization and is felt in every other growing city like Rajshahi. Due to the advent of various alternatives to surface water and hydrology, the ponds were isolated from the infrastructure or urban fabric. The lack of conscious augmentation to adapt with the progressing social norms and cultures intercepted them socially from human life simultaneously. They were filled up, abandoned, disused, encroached, left as negative spaces with stagnant toxic water or unused dump yards and started causing environmental degradation, consequently coming to a conflicting position with the socio-spatial connection to the city. As the initiatives to save the ponds taken by the responsible agencies are limited to beautification of the infrastructure around them, they have turned into the horns of dilemma. 

Historically the relationship between the pond and the city is linked by two variables, Social Parameter and Physical Framework. The recurring disparities between spatial interdependence and socio-cultural qualities on different scales and aspects of these variables, engender the conflict. In this project the Study and analysis of interrelation of these variables identify and reinstate the inherent connection between the city and the ponds through existing matrix. Application of proper responsive decisions to the existing matrix formulates the design matrix that can be used as a manual to guide the redesign of any pond by the authorities or individuals. Then the implication of these guidelines is demonstrated through design models on different scales. The Project recognizes the ponds as an admissible part of the city environment and urban design by converting its underlying potential into environmental gain and contribution to socio-cultural upbringing. It focuses on the conservation of living historical environment by deriving an intrinsic pond-centric urbanism and to achieve quality of life through the sense of livability among the inhabitants, all embedded in a title BiodiverCity.