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Monday 15 January 13:53

Virtual Reality Studio in Dhaka creates playground for community - a Global Sustainable Futures webinar

News: Apr 28, 2021

Since the 1990’s, architectural students at Chalmers have had the opportunity to apply for a master course called “Reality Studio”, which has included every year a several weeks long field trip to East Africa, and in recent years most often to Kisumu in Kenya. However, as the pandemic made travelling impossible, the organisers have had to re-define the course. As a result, the most recent team of students have been working virtually with five different places around the world: in addition to Kisumu also in Buenos Aires, Pretoria, Beirut and Dhaka.

The Reality Studio collaboration with Dhaka was the topic for the Global Sustainable Futures webinar on 20 April. Emilio Da Cruz Brandao, Director of the master’s programme ’Architecture and Planning Beyond Sustainability’ and three students from Chalmers – Sara Eidenvall, Sofia Samuelsson and Dominika Komisarczyk – presented and discussed the challenges and outcome with Mahmuda Alam from POCAA, an informal professional network in Dhaka.

Rickshaw parking at Dhaka

“This year our theme was ‘Cross-Cultural Collaborations: Extreme Environments during Pandemics’ and as the field trips had to be virtual, it allowed us to work with a diversity of partners”, Emilio Brandao explained. POCAA is the Platform for Community Action and Architecture and the Reality Studio students joined a project for affordable housing in Gabtoli, a neighbourhood in Dhaka.

“We need to be present near to people and make ourselves useful. When we have a common image of our dream, people work together to achieve it”, Mahmuda Alam said.

”What we are doing now is to develop formats for people to identify challenges, as architects. The Reality Studio students came as a pool of experts”.

POCAA and the students also collaborated with other local NGOs and many others. The student group helped with the development of challenges and dreams, ‘Living between houses in Gabtoli’.

“As students we thought about how we can design something more useful and valuable for children, for example, a dream playgorund. POCAA helped us understand the outcome of the zoom workshops, and the playground turned into a building site”, Sofia Samuelsson said.

Last month, Bangladesh celebrated its 50 years anniversary of independence. At that time, in 1971, the capital city Dhaka was a peaceful town of about a million inhabitants. Since then, the city has been rapidly growing with an estimated population of about 20 million people, adding about 1,000 citizens every day.

“People live in unimaginable conditions. Everything is insufficient”, said Mahmuda Alam and added that POCAA looks for citywide solutions and thinks about how to proceed with the challenges and how to continue the collaboration – with a new group of students.
“The handing over process from our students is important”, Emilio Brandao said. Reality Studio will continue its work – next year with a new group of students.

Link to the students’ exhibition.

Short facts

Subject: Reality Studio: Co-creating Change Makers
Speakers: Emilio da Cruz Brandao, Chalmers; Mahmuda Alam, POCAA, Dhaka
Date: 22 April 2021

Picture: Rickshaw parking at Dhaka.
Photo by Nasir Khan Saikat, Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 2.0


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