School of Thought in 2021

Envisioning a Multidisciplinary and Collaborative Design School in Bangladesh
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Designer(s) : Md Yafiz Siddiqui

University : Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

Tutor(s) : Dr. Khandaker Shabbir Ahmed, Maherul Kader

With the emergence of contemporary and futuristic demands, design practices worldwide are questioning the boundaries between art, design, and technology every day. Much like in the early years of Modernism, designers today are faced with their own set of challenges such as density, climate change, economy, and above all, the complexity of the 21st-century man’s motivation and behaviour. Contemporary architecture broadly follows a crisis-response model, and owing to the multiplicity of today’s crises, this results in an idiosyncratic representation of similar building types. Since memory and identity of a place are rarely prioritized in mainstream practice, the architecture of the 21st century evokes a feeling of general placelessness in the mind of an observer. To overcome this global mono-culture, this project explores the potential of a borderless design school by proposing connections across the disciplines of art, design, technology, and the humanities. It aims to establish a collaborative learning environment to revive issues of culture, context, history, and identity in future design practices. To pursue this vision, lessons have been extracted from architectural history, theory, case studies, and activity mapping on the site. The resulting proposal is a radical vision of a post-contemporary design school that transcends outdated dialectics like traditional-modern, past-future, and so on.

What does the future design school look like? This project imagines a design school as a borderless and shapeshifting entity that encompasses an entire educational district comprising three different universities. To achieve this, the Urban Acupuncture strategy is chosen. The universities, which have instigated major national events in history, are given common grounds for interaction, discourse, and idea sharing by establishing independent Points of Interaction or POI networks throughout the campuses. The sites are studied and analyzed to identify existing activity hotspots and adjacent left-over spaces where the new POIs are placed. The network is inserted, grown, and infused within the site in phases. Intervention points are treated as pilot projects and testing grounds to determine what works and what does not.
The wave of district-wide collaboration starts from 8 multidisciplinary labs and studios on the BUET campus where architecture and engineering students would come together to innovate. In the next phase, the network would gradually spread all over the district. The design of each POI is derived through a Combinatorial Design Matrix that identifies different contextual parameters in each site and applies different design components accordingly. Each POI is made up of a central conversational space that would encourage transformative discourse and interaction among students of different backgrounds. Different functional volumes are attached to the central volume as catalysts. Functional spaces include augmented exhibition spaces, flexible classrooms, used books library, makeshift movie theatres, collapsible lecture halls, local artisan’s workshop and display, discourse galleries, etc. The central space is enveloped with a Hyper-surface that has various features such as vertical farming, digital canvas, sound barrier, multi-sensory relaxation, etc.

Once the POI network is fully effective, the activities will spill over from each point and engage the general people of the district as well. Thus, the design school’s borders will be further broken to encourage public engagement and exchange in design exercises. The network will be gradually embedded within the site and interconnected by pedestrian walkways, cycle tracks, etc. The Combinatorial Design Matrix will serve as a means to keep the cyclical design and experimentation process running. It will work as a set of guidelines for future designers and users to add, modify or dispose of any point in the network following the same principle. This matrix represents the new design model that is developed through this research, that goes beyond the contemporary utilitarian design parameters and involves issues of cultural and behavioural transformation in design. The matrix itself can also be modified and further sensitized.