The first of many dance performances in the new central ground space
From Paraa’s perspective, this has been an interesting and intense project, within a set of constraints such as material and human resources, and time. Along the various elements the brief intended to focus on – the two days of lectures, 4 days of design, and in the end, eleven days of construction led by the participants with support from Badshah bhai and his team. It led to the building of a structure and a series of spaces and places for play and interaction. For more information about the project history: www.paraa.org.uk/bamboo.
To switch and reflect quickly, to the ultimate ambition and role of the architect in these projects – to create architecture that is intended to benefit the users; the children of the LEEDO Peace Home, along with the wider public, has been – to some extent, a success. The children danced, jumped, played on the swings, climbed, ran, performed, chatted, watched and engaged with everybody. Everybody had smiling faces and joy was definitely shared. We had over 300 people come to inaugurate the opening. It is always humbling to see and hear what people think.
Our investment in the process – as we will highlight in the upcoming publication (Bamboo Design Build Play) was rigorous and provided an arena for explorations of ideas – especially in aiming to work with a time limitation, the diverse user group and also bamboo. The role of the architect, the potential for design, and the importance of user feedback.
The public opening was hosted by Bhaskar and Tasfia, with all of the children performing. They put on a vivid, colourful and interesting show, along with a short play improvised with the help of Prachyanat, and a series of dance and singing performances by all the children. We were able to have quick reflections and conversations about the experiences and by the end, we danced in to the night, under the clear sky with lots of fun music. We deem that a very good outcome of the project. You are all welcome to visit the project, and also tell us what you think.
A view from the Garden
Some key challenges, upon reflection and feedback were:
- The development of an open brief and participatory methods – creating the scope for design development through model making and relatively ‘unconventional’ methods for Bangladesh context, proved a challenge. This was fully overcome, and from the feedback of the participants, has given them confidence and ability to dare to do architecture.
- The difficulties to fully comprehend the extent of the work being done on the existing site ( LEEDO’s outreach work, their working processes etc ) and also the challenge to keep up with the overload of information. It is always intense, and request for background information and data is always useful.
- Construction during a season that is temperamental (April – Boishak?) ( the heat was unforgiving at times, and the rain not always welcomed! – this definitely created fatigue amongst the team, despite which – there was progress, and so we must commend the participants for working so hard to help realise the project. The main challenge here was having engaged involvement or active leadership as architects. This will be elaborated on in the publication. The main question arises about the architect as a leader, and in a project of 15-20 participants, is there one leader or many? and how can the workshop also focus on the role of the ‘design’ leader? Perhaps a future workshop would incorporate more mentoring in this regard.
- The involvement of the children in feedback and also the design development processes. This was a challenge, and perhaps, we did not do enough. So, although there was plenty of engagement and friendships were developed, there could have been better workshop designs – the importance for us as Paraa in this process was to show that its not so easy to quickly get the information ( the user is not just a data source ) but to develop meaningful interactions and participation if possible.
- The wider engagement with the local community. Although we intended to engage with the local public, the time and resources did not allow for such an activity. However, on the opening day, the public came, enjoyed the space immensely and gave us positive feedback throughout the construction phase. They were intrigued, and we imagine, will make full use of the space too.
- The future programme planning of the space and increasing its impact for the children and the wider public, as it is temporary (two years), this would need to be maximised and a proper strategy implemented. It provides amazing opportunity to expand the scope for creative activities. Which we hope the children and LEEDO will fully utilise.
Although the above is a summary of the main challenges, of course there was daily, gruelling and frustrating challenges ( in retrospect, could have been avoided. ) What we need to reflect on is the impact created by such architecture, and the role of the architect in creating such spaces.
A critical element was the involvement of participants and users in the design and construction process. The methods and tools used, could definitely be improved ( if there was more time and resources available – the ideal scenario always asks for more time and resources ) However, despite the limitations, we have far exceeded the intended outcomes for the brief that we had set, especially in relation to participation. From our experiences we understand the difficulty of engaging and involving in modes of practice that are unfamiliar.
A view from the third platform of the participants and children of the bamboo workshop project
We would like to thank the team at the LEEDO Peace Home, and the EMK Centre for helping us realise this collective project. Without their enthusiasm and support for the process of this project, it would have been impossible to realise. LEEDO’s staff and children kept us all well-fed and supplied with juices and snacks throughout the entire construction period. We are grateful for all the support they continually provide in these adventures that we embark on.
We would like to thank the following for sharing their experiences and providing support: Apu Roy, (SAFE Bangladesh), Construction support team led by Md. Abdul Malek Badshah with Md. Bajlu Miah, Md. Bulbul Mia & Md. Monir Hossen, Farhad Mazhar (UBINIG), Ghorami.Jon, Housing and Building Research Institute, Bangladesh (HBRI), Ismat hossain, (principal architect, SHWO, Senior lecturer, North South University) Jasna apu (master weaver, Mymensingh), Mohammad Abu Sadeque, (Director, HBRI), N. K. Moortuza, (photographer), Nazmul Nayeem, (architect, Team Mritikka and co-owner of Peda Ting Ting), Majeda K. Tumpa, (architect) Rahat M.Niaz, (founder and principal architect, Binyash), Masbha Uddin Rubel (engineer, HBRI ), Suraiya Chowdhury (Senior Designer, Prokritee) and Tarannum Ali (Nibir) for taking these beautiful photos of the opening day.
We would also like to thank all the participants for engaging so intensely in this small project which has made a significant impact already on the lives of the children that currently reside at the LEEDO Peace Home. We would like to extend a special mention to Tasfia Ishrat and Bhaskar Chowdhury whose enthusiasm for the process was beautiful to see, engage with and we hope will continue on.
Finally, we would also like to thank our sponsors Nupami BD, Sajida foundation, Nazmul Haque Khan and Dr. Shams un N Zaman.
We hope you can visit this temporary space, and enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.
Participants presented with their certificates
Children beginning to climb and enjoy the various spaces