NUT Dhaka 2019

NUT Dhaka Session – Between the rural and urban was conducted and carried out in collaboration with Bengal Institute of Architecture, Landscape and Settlements. The programme consisted of a field excursion to the Bongshi River and the city Savar, outside of Dhaka, followed by two days research work at Bengal Institute in Dhaka. The project is funded by the Swedish Institute.

In Bangladesh, a country with a landscape dominated by the delta, a population of approximately 164 million and a capital rapidly approaching 18 million, many of the most crucial issues of our time are being put to the test. Dhaka’s extensive urbanisation is directly linked to global warming, as demonstrated by the country’s increasingly violent monsoon rains and rising sea levels that are devouring its delta and coastal strips. At the same time, Bangladesh is a country rich in diversity and culture. Being in the frontline of global change is leading to a rapid and dynamic development in its architecture and culture. 

NUT Dhaka Sessions 2019 sought to investigate the connections between rurality and planetary urbanisation. In what ways can we see traces of planetary urbanisation in the rural landscapes of Bangladesh? And how can these rural landscapes survive alongside the ever-expanding mega city of Dhaka? 

The relevance of these questions extends beyond Dhaka and Bangladesh, being pertinent to growing cities on a global scale. What kind of a relationship between the rural and the urban is desirable? And how can we activate these questions?

Identifying symbiotic strategies to prevent the negative development of Savar.

The NUT Dhaka session 2019 created a transdisciplinary methodology for the purpose of identifying local challenges within global parameters. In our analysis of Savar and its main sustainability challenges, the programme came up with five themes for a sustainable future. The themes consider the area’s environmental, site-specific, social and cultural characteristics. The themes have enabled the programme to develop various interconnected strategies to stop Savar being devoured by Dhaka and succumbing to its dense urban structure.

Photo: Suvra Kanti Das

The themes

1. Between locality and planetary urbanisation: 
Investigate the connections between rurality and planetary urbanisation: in what ways can we see traces of planetary urbanisation in the rural landscapes of Bangladesh? Can these rural landscapes survive alongside the ever-expanding mega city of Dhaka?
2. Regenerative Savar:
Today the city of Savar is experiencing dramatic urban growth reminiscent of when Dhaka began its own accelerated growth in the 70s. Can Savar avoid the same fate? What kind of design and policy thinking is needed to develop a regenerative Savar?
3. Thinking about the delta:
What kind of knowledge has been and continues to be produced in the delta landscape? In what ways do we see an architecture of metamorphosis in the delta? Do we see an architecture and use of space that adapts and transforms along with the transformation of the delta?
4. Elements of land and water:
What are the ecological characteristics of these landscapes and waterscapes? Why is it necessary to document them and incorporate them into spatial design?
5. The scales of hinterlands: 
Mapping and developing the different scales of hinterlands in relation to Savar and its surrounding delta landscapes: can we provide a wider way of thinking that disconnects from the centrum-periphery way of imagining and designing space?

By applying a situated analysis and recording Savar’s local characteristics and systems according to the five themes, the project produced several outcomes, ranging from the importance of a local culture and local knowledge production that are closely related to the river system to waste management as a potential source of energy and educational campaigns that target local decision-makers and citizens.