The Sixteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2014
Berkeley Prize 2014

Tazrin Islam - Bio

Dhaka- the most densely populated city of the world holds above 1.5 million citizens. I am one of them. By birth I am part of the maddening crowd, traffic jam and soaring concrete structures of the city. I have been part of its fraternity, festivals, revolts and processions. I have been part of its changing cityscape for the last two decades.

When I was a child, I could see the purple flowers of water hyacinths in the lake at the back of my house. In lazy afternoons, I remember gazing idly at the water from my rooftop. Boats sailed on the water; local fairs were set on the waterside. To meet the demand of land for the growing metropolis the water channel was narrowed. Gradually there were no purple flowers to admire anymore. Slums on stilts stood on black water. A narrow stream carried the sewage and sludge of the city. I stopped looking for the flowers and never looked back. We always heard new roads will be built along the canal. It will be revived. But no one actually believed it will ever happen in this city of mismanagement. But 7 years ago, the project really started. The canal was revived and people again walked along its banks, admired the iconic bridges over the water, vehicle rushed pass the newly constructed roads. After the completion of the project in 2013 a lot of praises as well as criticism were going on. As a student of architecture I have become a critical analyzer now. But I enjoyed the fact that I can again gaze at this new look of the lake from my rooftop in idle afternoons. For the sixteenth annual Berkeley prize essay competition I chose to tell this story. I have been a part of this story, but to analyze it using architectural method and ideas was really fascinating. I walked for hours in the roads, took photos and tried to understand the social impact that architecture can bring. For the competition, the architecture itself is not the priority. Rather the priority is users from the society to whom the architecture is dedicated.

I have been lucky to have my schooling in one of the best schools of the country Viqarunnisa Noon School. The enlightening environment and teachers we had there, taught me to dream and dream bigger. My habit of writing had been encouraged by my school teachers. But the parents of Dhaka never felt this city to be a place for kids. Other than school I was hardly let loose to stroll in the roads all by myself. To me Dhaka was a city of traffic jam, noise, water clogged rainy days. Dhaka annoyed my parents and all the older people I saw around.

My current life is entirely entwined with department of Architecture, BUET. Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology is considered the best university for technological studies in Bangladesh. I intended to start here as an engineering student but after a visit to the department of Architecture; I felt that I belonged here. The second phase of my life started. This was the time to break all rules, set new grammars of life. The known world revealed an unknown meaning. Objects split themselves into elements of geometry- lines, dots, shapes. We searched the streets of Dhaka for all possible materials and tools. My relation with Dhaka changed as I entered university and came out in the streets. We searched every nook and corner of the city for material stores, carpenters, metal workshops, probable sites, religious buildings for assignments, parks to study landscape, schools-museums- auditoriums to prepare study reports. During urban design studio we worked with the new and old part of the city. Architecture made me look for every possible variety of life that Dhaka offered. And Dhaka surely offers a huge variety.

To me studying in architecture seems fascinating. The world I see in bare eyes has changed its meaning. We search for refinement, we search for betterment. Architecture allowed me to look beyond the visible, question the reason for every error. We conjure a design solution in our mind and try to turn it into a reality. Berkeley Essay competition added a new dimension in my search. It asked to give priority to the user group to whom architecture is dedicated. This competition certainly added a new perspective to my learning.

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Ms. Tazrin Islam, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka Bangladesh
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