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Tahmida Afroze

Tahmida Afroze is the Senior Associate Architect of Abashan Upodeshta, an architecture practice closely associated with Bengal Foundation. She has shared her experience in designing the facilities for Bengal Classical Music Festival, held at Abahani Grounds, Dhanmondi. This interview sheds light on the many challenges faced by the organizers.

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Thank you for your time. Please share your experience as the architect of Bengal Classical Music Festival 2017 held at Abahani Grounds, Dhanmondi.

Bengal Foundation has been hosting the classical music festival at the same venue – the Army Stadium – since 2012. Over the years we had perfected the layout of the facilities at that venue but last year presented a problem because it was a challenge to come up with a completely new infrastructure plan within a very short time. I have to say the effort was worthwhile as the festival was very well received; one of the important considerations was that the venue was more accessible to the public. The size, access points and locality of Abahani Grounds was entirely different, and it demanded a new level of thinking. It is not just enough to ensure that spaces are functional. It is far more important to give the audience a memorable and rich experience.

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What are the challenges you faced due to the change of the venue? From a design point of view, would you say the facilities were better at Abahani Grounds, compared to the Army Stadium?

Abahani Grounds provided us an enormous scope in terms of positioning the facilities in the best possible way. The only thing we missed was the surrounding gallery. The best part of Abahani Grounds was that it is surrounded by lovely greenery. The second issue was having enough toilets for the audience, as there were none available on or close to the grounds. We built a toilet block from scratch with all modern amenities, something that was well received by the attendants. Furthermore, The Chairman of Bengal Foundation was very keen to have a structure resembling a gallery which would help the audience to recreate the experience of a stadium, thus we built a 150 ft long gallery. We wanted to exploit the opportunities presented by the large grounds and make an interesting architectural statement while maintaining the ambience and the festive mood. That was the hardest part!

How do you think Bengal holds such a big event with such great efficiency, each year?

It’s about good teamwork, precise direction and strong leadership but most of all it’s about the shared vision we wish to achieve. Many agencies have to work together – my office, the Foundation’s design, content, AV, facilities and IT teams, Bengal Express, ICE Media, Blues Communications, partners and external stakeholders, the core management team, etc. In light of the serious limitations that tested our capacity last year, I believe it is not just efficiency but our good intention and love for what we do that made it possible to finish everything on time.

How long did it take to finish everything after getting the permission?

We received permission to use the grounds in mid-November. Redesigning started right after; planning and detailed design took about a month. We probably moved in a week before the event, for construction. Blues Communications did their part of the structural set up of the periphery walls, the stage with the lights and sound, the audience area, the food court, while we worked simultaneously on the pavilions, the audience gallery the bathroom facilities and laying the extensive walkway.

Would you like to share some words about the festival with our readers?

My experience was very fulfilling last year. We worked with Bengal Foundation in a similar event called Bengal Cultural Festival in Sylhet last February. That really helped us in terms of idea generation and improvisation. As an architect it is important to be able to connect with people and understand them better. I appreciate the human connection that such large-scale people-centered events make possible. I want to thank the audience of Bengal Classical Music Festival for their enthusiasm and cooperation. Without them we would not have been here today.

 

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