PWD took up the project upon the prime minister’s instruction
The now iconic Teacher-Student Centre, popularly known as TSC on the Dhaka University (DU) campus, is facing an uncertain future.
The twentieth century establishment - a universally admired centre in relation to the country’s student politics and cultural life - will soon be demolished to be rebuilt into a modern structure ahead of the university’s birth centenary celebrations in 2021.
The Public Works Department (PWD) of the government came up with the move after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s call on September 2 to modernize Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), TSC and Shahbagh’s Public Library.
The premier on the day said a plan for many institutions, including DMCH, had already been formulated but the design for the TSC had not been completed yet.
She also said that she had already directed the authorities concerned to prepare its design in a proper manner as she wanted to rebuild the centre as a modern one.
Architects are confused whether they will break down the existing TSC building and rebuild it, or construct new buildings at the back keeping the front structure the same, said a top DU official.
The Greek architect, planner and theoretician Constantinos Apostolos Doxiadis (1913-1975) designed TSC during the early 1960s and later the TSC building was built as part of the so-called Decade of Development (between 1958 and 1968) of the then Pakistani military government of General Ayub Khan.
Worried DU authorities
When asked whether the existing main TSC building would be demolished completely, a concerned spokesperson of DU could not confirm it.
Executive Engineer (civil) of DU, Md Abdul Mannan told this newspaper: “When the government officials of PWD met with us [university officials], they told us that it is a full-fledged project, not the renovation of TSC. The TSC complex may be rebuilt into a multi-storeyed building with modern facilities and an aesthetic outlook.”
“We submitted our requisitions, as sought by PWD in the last meeting with them. We have not been notified about the progress of the plan yet, but they told us they are working on it,” he added.
The PWD told the DU authorities that the project was under the direct concern of the prime minister and they were following her instructions, Abdul Mannan said.
He went on: “After finalizing the plan and taking approval from the premier, they will approach the university to start the construction works. As I heard from the media, the Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, Ashraful Alam, said they would oversee the work.”
The acting Director of the TSC, Syed Ali Akbar, is also in the dark about the demolition of the existing TSC building.
He said: “We held a meeting on October 18 with the PWD officials where our vice-chancellor was also present. We handed over our requisition list only. We are yet to know of the full plan.”
How will the new TSC complex be?
The TSC director provided the list of requisite facilities to the engineering department of the university and the department handed it to the PWD.
The new facility will include rehearsal rooms for cultural activities, a gymnasium, rooms with modern facilities for TSC-based socio-cultural groups, indoor games room, separate cafeteria, teachers’ lounge, three basements for vehicle parking, guest house and more, said Acting Director Syed Ali Akbar.
“There will be three auditoriums, one will accommodate 1,500 people while the other two will be constructed with the capacity of 300 each,” the acting TSC director added.
He said, the entrance would be from the rear near the Bangladesh National Cadet Corps contingent office. The construction work may be started from the back where now the swimming pool is situated.
The new swimming pool may be established on the second or third floor of the new complex, he said.
“The full establishment may expand up to the Atomic Energy Centre boundary. We are not sure about how many floors there will be in the new complex. Our engineering section is not involved with the designing or construction work, moreover the PWD will do as per the prime minister’s instruction,” he continued.
PWD decides to demolish the 20th century establishment fully
Md Mahabubur Rahman, executive engineer of PWD Dhaka Circle-4, confirmed that the entire existing TSC establishment would be demolished and the new complex would be built instead.
"The architects told us that they have prepared the design but it has not reached us yet. They have set the probable date of submission on Monday," he said on Saturday.
Previously, the architects were supposed to submit the design on November 30, which was then postponed to December 10 as they were busy with their architects’ forum election.
The PWD will start working on the plan after getting approval of the prime minister, he added.
Complete with artificial facilities, lacking touch of life
Eminent educationist and Professor Emeritus of Dhaka University’s English department Serajul Islam Choudhury expressed grave concern regarding wrecking the old TSC establishment.
“It should not be done. We have seen the building being built in front of our eyes,” he said.
“The TSC is not an arena of entertainment. Though it has become so, but in the past the main attraction of the TSC was the cultural programs to develop students’ extra-curricular activities as well as intellect coordinated by the central students’ union.”
“There has always been a field, free space in TSC. But according to the new plan, TSC will lose the touch of life as well as nature. The artificialness will grab the cultural freeness,” the professor feared.
He continued: “Only the development of structures cannot take the university ahead, cultural development is also necessary.”
“Already the metro rail line has snatched the lifelines of the TSC area. These plans will make the university area over-crowded, whereas the students need open spaces for thinking freely as well as developing creativity,” Prof Serajul also said.
He suggested not breaking the existing structure, rather the TSC area can be expanded taking the area of Atomic Energy Centre which is situated behind TSC, since the centre had been transferred to its headquarters at Savar.
When asked why the university authorities concerned were in the dark regarding the plan, the noted educationist said: “[Maybe they are not sharing the plan] because they do not want to make the higher authorities unhappy or they have any personal interest behind the construction plan.”
“As per the autonomy of the university, the entire construction work should have been done by the university itself where PWD can help only,” Prof Choudhury remarked.