In April 2004, both myself and my partner Tanya Karim were asked to speak at a seminar titled “Year/s of Water/s” in Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in the US. Everyone else speaking in that seminar were world renowned leaders in the field and it was truly extraordinary that two BUET graduates were speaking alongside them. The day before the seminar we were also asked to act as jurors in a joint Masters Studio between MIT and RISD. During the discussion, Tanya and myself took a prominent part in the deliberations. At the end of which, Tanya was ‘captured’ by the Masters Studio of RISD to review their work.
As I was still sitting around talking with the Head of the Department, a student came up to me asked where I had studied. His inquisitiveness probably came from hearing me speak at the jury. I replied that I studied in Bangladesh. He quickly responded by saying, ‘No, no; what I meant was, where did you do your higher studies?’. At this point, the Head of the Department cut me off, smiled and replied to him, ‘That too, also in Bangladesh! And that is why you were listening to him today. If we had trained him here, he may not have had the things to offer us, as he had today.’
My reason for this prelude was simple. It was that day I realized, the true potential of my alma mater. We sometimes underestimate the true greatness of some of the leading institutions of our country and their ability to perform on the world stage. I have been invited to speak in Yale, Columbia, RISD (USA), Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University, CEPT (India), WCA (Pakistan), NUS (Singapore), Architecture School at La Défense (Paris), IUAV (Venice) and School of Architecture (Tokyo). I also presented 2 papers in UIA in Istanbul in 2005, and presented a Design Project in the UIA Conference in Tokyo. I was also the first Bangladeshi speaker as one of the special panel of speakers in ARCASIA in Busan, Korea and the first Bangladeshi juror for the India ARCASIA Awards held in Indonesia. Looking back at all this, I see a BUET success story. My Undergraduate Degree and my Masters Degree are both from Department of Architecture of BUET (my Masters Research Paper has been recently published from Germany). I received the prestigious ‘Habibur Rahman Award’ in my Undergrad and the ‘Ahsanur Rahman Gold Medal’ in my Masters. I went on to first teach in the Department of Architecture of BUET and later as a Visiting Faculty to University of Asia Pacific, BRAC University, North South University, Stamford University in Bangladesh and as a Masters Studio Guide in IUAV in Italy.
It was the Department of Architecture of BUET, that gave birth to me as an architect, a thinker and a teacher of architecture. It is there where I first flourished and taught. The Department of Architecture of BUET not only had an array of extremely influential teachers but its coexistence in the city with other institutions like the Dhaka University and the Fine Arts Institute, Charukola, makes it truly special. It is the presence of these 3 institutions that has had tremendous bearing on my growth as an architect, thinker and an educator. This situation of coexistence has not changed. I strongly feel that the students of BUET can truly perform on the world stage if they are able to draw the resources from not only this trinity but also other institutions that have come into existence.
It is only then that the future generations of architects from the Department of Architecture of BUET will have an ‘original thought’ to offer to the world. It is this strength of ‘originality’ that we should strive for, rather than the illusion that a foreign university will ‘better’ us greatly. Rather, the exploration and exploitation of our local resources will give us the edge to stand out and be heard. I look back at my teachers not only with tremendous respect but also with great admiration because as I have travelled throughout the world and visited many universities, I have realized that some of my teachers were no less great educators in comparison with any institution in the world. It is also here that, the Department of Architecture of BUET can claim the great right to success, because one of its finest teachers Professor Shamsul Wares remains not only a product of the Department of Architecture of BUET but is the torch bearers of Modern Architectural education in our country.
The Department of Architecture of BUET continues to strive to be the leading Architecture Schools of Bangladesh and I feel will have the daunting task of staying ahead. Probably, the inclusion of more professionals into its studios and courses and also exposing their students to the architects of the country who are presenting and speaking internationally, could be the call of the time. Moreover, publishing its works and also the achievements of the architects that this department has produced (both in the professional and the academic world) will only go on to commend and expose the achievements of this institution. When Maqsood Sinha went on to receive the esteemed ‘Environment Excellence Award’ for his model of Waste Management Project, it was a glorious day, not only for all architects, but also the Department of Architecture of BUET; for it showed that the Department was not only capable of creating great architects but also great persons that could be big enough to take up the problems of a city and offer something to society. It is also that the many leading architects of the country have never needed any other degree other than the one provided by the Department of Architecture of BUET. It will be through the celebration of these ‘BUET PRODUCTS’ that the Department of Architecture of BUET can claim to be outstanding School of Architecture by world standards.