Rafiq Azam: "A collective fight from macro to micro level by the whole human race is the only way to save this blue Planet"

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8416 Last modified by the author on 28/03/2017 - 17:22
Rafiq Azam:

Rafiq Azam, principal architect of Shatotto Architecture for green living, is world-renowned but based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He draws his inspiration from the lush landscape and the architectural heritage of the Bengal Delta. Made of local and simple materials, his buildings are designed with a focus on green living. Rafiq Azam therefore contributes to green the city.
He was there at MIPIM, where he shared, during the conference organised on the 16th of March by Green Planet Architects and Construction21 with Eiffage and Climate-KIC on the topic "Cities against climate change: what actionable solutions?", his solutions for building a more sustainable city. Discover his thoughts about the relation between architects and climate change by reading his interview.

  • What is the role of Architect in fighting climate change within cities?

I believe Architect is the person, a front liner seeing the climate change very closely. Also architects are engaged with intervening into spaces, creating, re-creating new spaces. So it is important for architects to understand the core cause which changing the climate and what problems are revealing because of climate change. As many agree the six degree of the heat increase will destroy this earth most probably.

As record says in 2080 the heat increase for Bangladesh probably will be 2 degree Celsius. Basically, heat increase, as we see is having cascading impact on every climate issues resulting devastating impact on human life.

In this circumstances, it is very clear that the fight against climate within cities by architects is a drop in the ocean. In this case a wholestic collective fight from macro to micro level by the whole human race is the only way we can save this blue Planet. Of course architects role as leader is almost obvious which suppose to initiate the fight against the climate change and cause of the climate change. As leader of the fight, architects role in the city design is multifaceted. When design itself is a small part compare to the whole approach to city architecture. From one building to every building to non-building the challenge is to allow the whole mother nature integral part of architecture. Complimentary and balanced in between each other in order to reduce carbon foot print. The reintroduction of sustainable culture through knowledge based responsible architecture where human and nature relation re-instead as it needs to be. It is something like as Jalaluddind Rumee, a twelve century philosopher says, “Act like a tree, drop the dead leaves.”

  • Many cities declare they need to reinvent themselves and/or build on themselves. What are your thoughts on the current evaluation of cities and how do you contribute to this transformation?

The terminology “Reinvention” is very positive. But when it is associated with “Themselves” it is connotative. It raises few questions also. Since the climate change issue is purely global and mostly created by industrial society, it needs cooperation amongst countries with level of responsibilities. If a developed country starts re-inventing themselves by reducing Fossil Fuel and carbon generation, they may build on “Themselves” but what will happen to countries who damaged the climate minimum like Bangladesh rather suffering for the damage done by the industrially developed countries? I think the countries have responsibility to create opportunities to re-instead the damaged countries suffering not for their own fault. At this stage, I strongly feel we need lots of cooperation and sharing, mobilization of resources as necessary. This is almost impossible for a country ensuring their climate safety only by themselves, collective resolution is a must. 

  • Dhaka is directly affected by climate change, what solutions can buildings, districts and the whole city implement to improve resilience and the well-being of the population at the same time? 

It is true Dhaka one of the prevailing densely populated city of the world additionally suffering by climate change phenomenon. But this truth travel to Bangladesh and capital city Dhaka through an unfortunate means. As per record Bangladesh is one of the least contributor in the climate change phenomenon suffering the most.

Bangladesh is producing only 0.4 metric ton (MT) of carbon per capita whereas USA generating17 MT and UK 7.1 MT. Apart from theory of globalization, we failed to achieve the goal of globalization, the truth is this entire planet was globalized in terms of climate from the beginning. That’s why carbon travels without VISA. Heat, pollution and bad acts of human race also travels without any barrier. So, the solution for Dhaka building problem is not embedded in Dhaka. It actually all over the world. For Dhaka solution we need to start working in many cities simultaneously, particularly on pre- resolved criterion. So, it is a collective effort which will not solve the problem of Dhaka only but simultaneously solve many other cities problem like Mumbai, Kolkata, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Yangon to Miami.

Now most important things is "what resolved criteria we all should work on?" In fact this issue is not a very big deal, the big deal is we all need to practice and perform accordingly. It is, if I philosophize as architect Glenn Murcutt says, “Survival by co-operation not survival of the fittest” So, the challenge of the Dhaka architects are immense, particular and global understanding the context of Bangladesh in the context of the world, understanding the total hydrology of the country and context of Dhaka as deep as possible for initiating an architectural move. Understanding the history, the archeology, anthropology, collective psychology, sociology, comprehensive landscape, materiality, the sun and wind path and so on. Here I would like to reveal the poetry of Bangladesh as an example.

"Bangladesh is the largest delta on earth, having more than fifty major river channels along with more than twelve hundred water strips carrying water from the Himalayas on North in an intricate pattern through Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal on the South. The abundance of water and its deep relationship with people makes Bangladesh a country of poetry. Poetry reveals further when monsoon comes. During monsoon it invades two third of the country’s land depicting water as the major element of landscape. When water recedes, it leaves a fine layer of alluvial soil and the entire landscape transformed into large patches of paddy fields dancing with the winds.

So, Dhaka supposed to be a city of hydrology, a city of conurbation under the sun interacting with the winds, transforming with the fluidity of the alluvial soil resulting sap green to viridian green towards a sustainable poetic city.

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