Around 200 years ago, Rasulbagh Shishu Park was originally a family graveyard owned by a family of ink traders. The graveyard was eventually abandoned and questions arose about ownership of the area, sparking infighting over the matter. In 1984, the conflicts became overly violent and the City Corporation intervened, establishing Rasulbagh Shishu Park in its place and opening it to the public. The initiative acted as a temporary band-aid fix towards the conflicts, but eventually failed as a lack of proper care left the park in shambles and occupied by vagrants and miscreants. Within the park, the grass had all but withered away, the walls were cracked and covered with graffiti, and the trees were malnourished. There was an abandoned three-story building along the western edge of the park and a still-active mosque in the southeast corner. Locals had to walk through the park to access the mosque and would frequently use the open field for rituals and religious activities when the interior was full. Since there were no proper walkways, undamaged seats, or ground covers, many people including children and the elderly had to pray on the coarse dirt. The narrow alleyways and open drains also caused the park and access roads to flood with sewage water during heavy rains, which made traversal difficult and unhygienic. Additionally, despite being called a “Shishu Park”, meaning “Children’s Park”, the park neither had any games/sports apparatus nor was it a safe location for children to play. The park was frequently misused for indecent activities which deterred families from visiting with their children. Fortunately, the locals were actively involved in trying to prevent misuse, but there was only so much they could do with their limited resources. The goals of the project were two-staged. The first stage was to do with the park itself while the second stage revolved around the surrounding community and social aspects. During the first stage, the goals were to renovate the entire area and improve accessibility, usability, functionality, and aesthetics. The second stage focused more on enhancing community engagement and ensuring proper maintenance and upkeep for the foreseeable future. Before construction and renovation could begin, the first course of action was to share ideas and concerns with the locals. The team conducted meetings with many of the community’s elders, Imams (senior figures in the mosque), and youth to collect feedback before holding a public hearing in the park to present the plans to the entire community for approval. Once the design was finalized and approved by all concerned parties, the renovations began with the removal of the north wall. With the barrier removed, the north road was incorporated into the park and remade into an elevated promenade directly accessible by all attached alleys, granting easier access from that side. Ramps were added to the southwest entrance for wheelchair users and rainwater collection trenches were dug around the park and covered with RCC slabs to form peripheral walkways. These trenches are connected to an underground reservoir that stores collected rainwater for filtration and future use. The elevated promenade also houses a temporary sewage hold that funnels wastewater into the city drain, which combined with the aqua trenches provided an effective solution to waterlogging in the Rasulbagh area. The previously abandoned building was thoroughly renovated and repurposed into a multi-functional building. The ground floor contains the filter room which houses the new filtration system. The upper floors contain a gym, community hall, and space for a coffee shop with roof access. A public tap yard located on the ground floor of the renovated building serves as the primary distribution point for the collected water and is of course free of charge. The park’s new design heavily emphasizes maintaining a healthy and clean environment, so waste/recycling bins are available to encourage that. The mosque also received renovations but only to the exterior in the form of a facelift. A space for ablutions was added adjacent to it for convenience and numerous decorative oblations were placed around the park. The park now boasts a proper open field for sports, a children’s playground, a pavilion, a 500ft walkway, a public plaza for people to rest, a library, a gymnasium, a community hall, and public restrooms. Numerous measures have been implemented to aid in the park’s maintenance and upkeep. Stored rainwater is also used via the underground piping for irrigation, providing a hands-free approach for maintaining onsite flora. The public facilities including the gym and community hall provide a source of income which is managed by a committee of locals headed by the nationally elected counselor of the ward. With around 15-20 members, four of whom are from each of the four residential units with a direct line of sight to the park, this committee is the primary group for park management and is responsible for hiring all manner of maintenance crew and organizing public events to promote community engagement. This paves the way for a bright future for this park and its local environment by putting responsibility into the hands of those who value it most and by providing work opportunities and strengthening the already tight-knit bond between its community members. The park has become a truly welcoming and family-friendly space that fulfills multiple roles to the benefit of its community.
Architect Rafiq Azam is a renowned Bangladeshi architect who has been in practice for over 30 years and has developed a distinct style of his own. His architecture is a harmonious blend of tradition, nature, and mysticism. Nature’s tiniest elements are poetically adorned in his buildings. A house, according to him, is not only a place for humans to live but also a place for butterflies and birds to nest. Rafiq’s mastery of light and shadow, water, and the air is influenced by mysticism, as mentioned by Lalon and Tagore. His maneuvers in “green architecture” appear to be an inspiring process of energy gain rather than a mere mechanism of energy saving.
SHATOTTO architecture for green living, vows its voyage with the intent to unearth the lost history and heritage of Bengal and recreate the missing link of its urban and rural culture. Such expedition supplements its endeavor to institute a connection of local culture and its significance with the world culture of architecture.
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