Urban Morphology of Dhaka City: Spatial Dynamics of Growing City and the Urban Core

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Urban Morphology of Dhaka City: Spatial Dynamics of Growing City and the Urban Core

Prof. Dr. Farida Nilufar
Department of Architecture, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) Email: faridanilufar@yahoo.com

[Paper presented on the International Seminar on The History, Heritage and Urban Issues of Capital Dhaka, on the occasion of the Celebration of 400 years of the Capital Dhaka, Organized by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, 17-19 February 2010. Accepted for Publication of Asiatic Society on the Celebration of 400 years of the Capital Dhaka, Organized by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Accepted in June 2010]

ABSTRACT: The fundamental morphological characteristics of Dhaka city is described here from a historical perspective. Since its establishment, Dhaka represents domination of an organic spatial character in general. Here in Dhaka, two dominant urban patterns are conspicuous within the successive stages of growth; they are the historical core or 'old Dhaka' and the later development towards the north, known as 'new Dhaka'. Besides, a few planned additions are also featured in this city. Thus, this study identifies that four major spatial patterns are co-existent in Dhaka; they are indigenous and informal developments; colonial and planned interventions. The essential morphological characteristics of these patterns, which are prevalent in Dhaka, are described here. Major discussion concentrates on the global spatial structure of the organic city and investigates the dynamics of its growth and the characteristics of morphological transformations through the ages. It analyzes the axial maps of Dhaka and determines from ‘integration’ analysis [based on the method of Space Syntax as developed in UCL, London, 1984] that the spatial structure of the organic city has been shaping an urban core which coincides with the functional centers of the city in different historical stages. Thus the spatial dynamics of Dhaka and its core corresponds to a social history which remains as the underlying force behind the spontaneous formation of its morphological structure. .

1. Introduction:
The city of Dhaka has arisen more or less spontaneously over four hundred years. In the history, the evolution of Dhaka as a town goes back to the 16th century. With the passage of time the entire city grew in a natural way, although it has some parts which have been deliberately created in the recent past by the designers, albeit in a fragmented way. Its different phases have developed and structured at different historical stages based on the vigour of that particular period of development. Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, has grown from a small Hindu trading centre to a metropolis. Its antiquity can be traced back to 7th century A.D.; however, Dhaka rose to prominence only after it became the capital of Bengal[1] during the Mughal rule under the Muslims in 1610 A.D. For a long period of its growth Dhaka was confined within the medieval Mughal core. An early impetus in the growth of a 'new town' outside the historic city, however, started in around 1764[2]. In spite of that only after 1906, on the declaration of Dhaka as the capital of the province of East Bengal and Assam, a spectacular development of the city has been manifested in the Ramna green belt outside the historic core in the newer part of Dhaka. Historian Bradely-Birt noted that "a modern city has begun to rise". [Bradely-Birt, 1975: 261] This drift of development was impeded several times due to different political and economic reasons. However, after the independence of Bangladesh new Dhaka has experienced a phenomenal growth.

Within the successive stages of growth, two dominant urban patterns are conspicuous in Dhaka; they are the historical core or 'old Dhaka' and the later development towards the north, known as 'new Dhaka'. The historic kernel of old Dhaka retains the traditional features it has inherited from the past. The natural...
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