Deyalkotha is the first initiative towards place-making under the Tejgaon flyover in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The flyover was built due to the needs of mobility in the city. However, the neglected underneath spaces led to land misuses such as dumping debris and parking of trucks and cars. The surrounding low income population gave some purposeful meaning to the flyover through their self-generated activities such as cooking, sewing, sleeping, playing, animal husbandry and night schooling as well. However, the space requires some design intervention that may further develop the area as well as help the community through improved amenities. After a detailed ethnographic survey, the project came up with a learning platform using the flyunder wall as playful and learning elements like chalk walls, alphabets, children’s names, photos, maps, the national anthem, flag and height scale. The design was quite challenging in terms of security and safety measures.
Spectacular flyover projects have been placed all over in Dhaka city, resulting from the needs of transportation ease within the city. However, with construction in dense urban areas, empty spaces have resulted and the unclear territory of the flyunder has caused land misuse such as dumping and car abandonment/ parking. In a megacity like Dhaka, where there is a high demand of space, a vast area under the flyover remains barren and the city officials are continuously overlooking their potential. This is high time to rethink the flyovers and how they can facilitate the needs of public space in Dhaka. With this vision, the Tejgaon Flyover site has been initially chosen to restore the existing underutilized spaces by giving them a purposeful meaning. Particularly, this site has been chosen due to the presence of a large number of pavement dwellers in the neighbouring Tejgaon Industrial Area. The underneath road is free from heavy traffic circulation, which creates space to be used by the community. On the other hand, the densely populated Dhaka city often fails to meet the educational and recreational needs of marginalized community. Often, spaces are lacking for carrying out those activities whether it is in their house or in their local area. Considering this, a learning platform has been developed using the underutilized flyunder end wall - for both the disadvantaged children living in the area, who cannot afford to go to a formal school, and the underprivileged men and women workers such as rickshaw pullers, industrial & domestic workers.
A number of factors were considered for the material selection for Deyalkotha based on sites and surroundings. Firstly, Deyalkotha is situated in a poor area and occupies an unrestricted open public space. Therefore, high cost materials (with re-sale value), such as metal and iron objects are hardly used. Secondly, anything built in the area is exposed to the poor surrounding environment and thus requires a material long-wearing and easily maintained. Thirdly, Deyalkotha is yet in its experimental phase and therefore, low cost material was preferred to avoid unnecessary expenses. Looking into all of these criterions, the design team came up with a design made of bamboo and wood, which are locally available, affordable, easy to construct and maintain by local (not site but country specific) laborers and community. A survey was conducted with the local labor force for construction and as none of them had previous experience, laborers were employed from another part of Dhaka city.
The construction of Deyalkotha was completed in different stages. Most of the structural components were prefabricated in an in-house garage next to the Flyover site and later carried to the site for assembly. The surrounding area is occupied by industries and thus lacks rentable space for storing of construction materials. Working on an unrestricted public site for months was another challenging factor. However, the community supported by providing storage in their little spacious shanty houses.
The Deyalkotha team do not have any structural engineer or contractor. No CAD drawing (plan, section, and elevation) has been prepared. With the reference of 3 dimensional models and hand drawn sketches, most of the design decisions and details were taken during execution based on construction techniques and material requirements.