And the winner is … an organiser himself!: Design competition gaffe stalls Dhaka civic centre work

Dhaka North City Corporation’s plan to erect a 20-storey civic centre has turned into a fiasco as the winner of the design contest for the structure is none other than a member of the very committee that held the competition.

Obaidur Masum Senior
Published : 21 July 2022, 06:15 PM
Updated : 21 July 2022, 06:24 PM

The city corporation tasked the Institute of Architects Bangladesh, or IAB, with making the building plan. As the IAB delayed the submission of the plan, the city corporation served reminders before finding out about the gaffe.

Now the runners-up’s design will be used to build the structure, or a fresh competition will be held.

A civic centre is a place where the citizens can hold meetings, entertainment programmes, play sports and avail government services. The city corporation chose the site in Gulshan 2 where the DNCC Market is sited now for the civic centre, the first of its kind in Bangladesh.

The DNCC Market is marked as a “hazardous” building after it caught a devastating fire. The city corporation has also planned another project worth Tk 10 billion to build a 30-storey DNCC Tower next to the proposed civic centre.

The plan that won the first prize before being cancelled in a contest for the design of Dhaka North City Corporation's civic centre.

The project funding will come from selling municipal bonds, also the first of its kind in Bangladesh. The authorities are preparing to release the bond on the capital market soon.

“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t received the drawing for the building yet. Initially, they [architects’ institute] provided us with one, then cancelled it saying it was manipulated. Now we can’t even start the project,” said Mayor Md Atiqul Islam.

“The DNCC could have earned a lot of money if it planned to construct a market and allocate shops to traders,” Mayor Atiqul said at the awards ceremony last year. “But we thought about making a civic centre where people from all ages can come and enjoy.”

The city corporation had signed a contract with the IAB to choose a design through an open competition for the structure that would be uncommon in the country.

The juries scrutinised submissions from as many as 39 architects and architecture firms for the competition titled ‘Dhaka North Civic Centre and DNCC Tower Centre at Gulshan’ and chose a winner.

The winner was awarded on Dec 15, 2021, and it was announced the two buildings would be constructed following his design.

Mayor Atiqul said at the Dec 15 programme that Sthapotik, an architecture firm, won the job in a competition. Sharif Uddin Ahammed is the CEO and chief architect of the company.

The plan that won the second prize in a contest for the design of Dhaka North City Corporation's civic centre.

The trouble started when other architects pointed out that Sharif had taken part in the competition despite being a member of the organising committee of the competition, which is a breach of the rules.

In an investigation, IAB found evidence that Sharif indeed manipulated the competition with his knowledge as an insider. It cancelled the award on Jun 11.

He will not be allowed to sign any design in the next five years, said IAB President Mobasher Hossain.  

“As a member of the organising committee, Sharif was present in many of the meetings and got the information about the competition beforehand. This is something like a question paper leak. He did this intentionally. Our disciplinary committee complained against him as he violated the rules."

When asked why the disciplinary action was taken six months after the result was out, Mobasher said the issue was not reported on the day the result was announced. The disciplinary committee of the institute started the investigation after a complaint was filed. It also held 14 meetings and hearings and finally recommended nullifying Sharif’s design.

“Those who were placed second and third have done it correctly and their designs are fine. Now it’s the decision of the DNCC whether they want to use the second or third design or go for a fresh competition,” he said.

Sharif said he explained his position on the complaint to the IAB. “I think there has been a misunderstanding,” he said, declining to comment further.

The runners-up were a team of three architects, led by Shah Fuad Md Cyrus. The probe committee recommended declaring them the winners.