DHAKA CITY | NEIGHBORHOOD UPGRADING PROJECT

DHAKA (BANGLADESH)

Client: The World Bank
Date: 2018
Status: Completed
Program: Improvement scheme for public spaces and buildings in Dhaka South.
Scope: Urban design scheme, including strategic approach and design criteria, and proposals for more than 50 pilot projects.

In the context of a rapidly growing mega-city like Dhaka, the aim was to provide a general urban vision for the improvement of public spaces in Dhaka, supported by a set of criteria and translated into more than 50 pilot projects. This project takes a careful look on how to improve the conditions to create more livable places, making public space more comfortable, attractive, safe, accessible and walkable. But also to keep building lively places, where mixed-use and combined programs ensure a rich and healthy 24/7 urban life.

When exploring Zones 1-5 in Dhaka South and identifying possible sub-projects, the main principle was to connect the interventions in coherent networks (or neighborhoods) of urban nodes and corridors instead of producing isolated improvements. Each urban node is a public space or a facility that could act as a driver for urban change. Those nodes can have different characters and use: community centers, markets, playgrounds, parks, water surfaces, and other singular spaces. Connecting corridors are selected streets or roads that will receive streetscape improvements like adding vegetation, integrating drainage and improving walkability, accessibility, and comfort. The resulting networks allow the interventions to become more visible and meaningful, providing a generalized and noticeable improvement in the urban experience for people living or moving in the area.

The four selected clusters or neighborhoods were Kamrangirchar, Lalbagh, Naya Bazar-Sutrapur and Khilgaon-Bashabo.

GENERAL DESIGN CRITERIA

We focused on different criteria for the development of the Urban Design Scheme:

  • Considering the intensity of urban activity and the diversity of uses as key aspects to ensure the progressive development of a safer and more inclusive city.
  • Mobility and accessibility, making public spaces more accessible and visible, easier to move to and from.
  • Increasing personal safety and security regarding traffic, crime or natural disasters.
  • The inclusion of stakeholders or social groups that are less visible under the significant pressures that affect urban development.
  • Supporting citizen involvement and driving behavioral change in order to achieve meaningful, impactful and durable transformations.
  • Adding community services or infrastructures (public toilets, waste management, playgrounds, urban furniture) in order to support activities and increase the general quality of life in Dhaka.
  • Integrating nature in the city and rethinking urban metabolism in order to achieve environmental sustainability and resilience.
  • Improving the efficiency in the collection, use, and management of resources like energy and drinking water.

These principles were translated into specific Design Guidelines and applied to the development of an Urban Design Scheme with differentiated proposals for streets, open spaces, and public buildings:

COMFORTABLE STREETS

At this project scale, the main challenge for the streets of Dhaka is improving their comfort and accessibility, especially for pedestrians, which most intensely suffer the current conditions. The “Comfortable Streets” approach seeks to improve climatic aspects, accessibility, safety, and walkability. Depending on their current situation, some streets will be newly developed or improved in certain aspects like pavements, sewage system, lighting or shading. The proposed sub-projects also improve stormwater management and absorption, re-naturalize the urban environment by adding vegetation and add shading for improved comfort.

NATURAL OPEN SPACES

The scarce open spaces in Dhaka are one of the most valuable assets of the city. The “Natural Open Projects” approach treats them as opportunities to reintroduce nature in the city, improving aspects like resilience through water management, air quality, general attractiveness and quality of life. The different sub-projects aim to improve the playgrounds, ponds and other open spaces, also opening and connecting these locations to their surroundings for better integration with the rest of the city.

ACTIVE BUILDINGS

In the very dense urban center of Dhaka, there is a clear need for public facilities that enable the cultural, social and institutional life of the city as “urban catalysts”. Active Buildings are new urban typology defined by the mix of uses, the sustainable design, the creation of open floors and the integration with urban services and public spaces. This series of sub-projects proposes refurbishing or developing public buildings, increasing their comfort through bioclimatic principles, opening and connecting their spaces, integrating urban services and managing resources in a sustainable way.

Related links:

Rethinking Public Spaces in Dhaka: Urban Design Scheme
Being a Pedestrian in Dhaka
5 things you can do in Dhaka’s Public Spaces