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Please tell us about your background. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
I grew up in the bustling city of Dhaka in Bangladesh. The city and the lives of people has been a major influence for me from the beginning of my design education. I am blessed with a wonderful family that supported me to complete my bachelor’s degree in architecture from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. After graduation I worked in the design industry of Bangladesh for two years, dealing with issues of architecture and sustainability, and finally had the motivation to return to school in 2016 when I was accepted to UBC. I felt that UBC would be the right place to explore my enthusiasm for urban design, with the formal urban growth and unique landscape of Vancouver as an exciting setting.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE URBAN DESIGN?
The reason I chose urban design is directly related to my life and background. I grew up in a city with the highest urban density in the world and a country that has the landscape of a river delta. The vulnerability of both the city and the landscape in terms of climate change creates a complex relationship between architecture, landscape architecture and environmental design in Bangladesh. This complexity inspired me early in my design education to look into issues of urbanism and environment, finally pushing me towards the field of urban design. I believe urban design can offer a holistic approach towards resilient living for the future. By “living” I mean the existence of people, societies, landscapes and the possible relationships among them. Urban design has the potential to force a certain kind of lifestyle upon people, a lifestyle that is inspired from a framework that strengthens our ground as we face future climatic issues.
WHAT HAS MADE YOUR TIME AT UBC THE MOST MEMORABLE?
My experience at UBC has been wonderful, both academically and otherwise. Academically, throughout the whole time I have experienced the practice of critical thinking and discussion among students and faculty regarding issues of urbanism, environment, landscapes and so on. The most memorable experience has been to have an opportunity to discuss, debate and learn through this process. Being at UBC has also enabled me to work as a teaching assistant which allowed me to interact with students and peers from different disciplines and backgrounds. In addition, I have worked as a research assistant in a project that involved understanding of informal cities and communities. The unique diversity in culture and perspectives that I encountered through the MUD program, the TA and RA work, all have been extraordinarily rich.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THAT IS MOST VALUABLE?
My understanding of urban design has been leveraged to a great extent after I enrolled into the program. The context in which I used to practice before is very different from how it is done here across North America. For me the most valuable learning was to acknowledge how some indicators and principles of urban design remain constant across global boundaries and how some need to be modified or retrofitted. I think the urban design experience here at UBC has enabled me to have a better understanding of the design challenges and to prioritize them based on shifting scales and context.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE OR VALUABLE NON-ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE STUDYING URBAN DESIGN AT UBC?
The most valuable non-academic experience studying urban design at UBC has to be my interactions with my colleagues in the Urban Design Studio. We are a team of fourteen with backgrounds in architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and urban planning. Apart from the academic interdisciplinary manner, members in our team come from different parts of the world with their unique rich culture and understanding of urbanism. We have people from Australia, Canada, China, India, Iran, Mongolia and Mexico. Knowing them personally and being in an intense design studio program with them has been overwhelming.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
I find inspiration in the strength that the ever struggling people of Bangladesh carry in their hearts. Bangladesh has a long history of oppression, war and genocide and is now struggling hard with its uncontrollable population and urban growth. On top of that it is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to global climate change. Even after all of that, the people never seem to give up, they are fighting against poverty and climate change with smiles on their faces. Their aspiration towards survival gives me the strength to practice urban design as a means of changing the socio- economic paradigm of Bangladesh.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
My immediate future plan is to explore the urban design practices in Vancouver more to gain a deeper understanding and refined knowledge. I want to discover the opportunities to implement my learning at UBC. Long term, I hope to work in research that focuses on global climate change issues and looks for innovation of materials and technologies for city building. I believe I have certain responsibilities towards the future of my country and the world and I want to find ways to contribute to a positive change for a sustainable future of our cities.