The HKS’ Dallas Design Fellowship team created a concept to reverse the Buriganga’s toxic course, proposing a cleaner, alternative future for the City of Dhaka’s river ecosystem, its local economy and people.
DR/EDGE is an innovative example of a circular economy design on an urban scale. Not only is the river’s waste, sludge and silt material being reused, recycled and remade into bricks, the existing brick kiln factory is reimagined and adapted as a waste collecting apparatus, housing, and community gathering spaces.
In Dhaka and the surrounding region, brick making is one of the most prominent industries, producing 3.5 billion bricks annually and employing a half million people. But it is also one of its biggest polluters and impediments to river flow.
The production of bricks and the challenges that face the city have a real and tangible impact on people and the river. The HKS design team gauged its design response through the eyes of stakeholders at each end of the brickmaking economy.
As it currently exists in Dhaka, the brick making process is one directional. At the same time, the river is laced with trash and silt, both considered undesirable and worthless. HKS proposes to leverage these undesirables, capturing the sediment to replace topsoil and collecting the waste to be used in a modern Waste-to-Energy process. This reimagined system is a springboard to imagine a performative apparatus that captures raw material and serves as the foundation for programmatic layers atop and creates new landscapes for human occupation.
DR/EDGE operates in two intertwined modes: as an industrial machine that sustainably remakes the regional brickmaking industry; and a civic framework that creates new environments for community members to thrive.
DR/EDGE’s geometry scrapes garbage from the river and utilizes eddies that trap silt during monsoon season. When the water recedes, the kiln owners are left with free raw material, improving the system’s economics and incentivising future investment. The Waste-to-Energy plant sits atop the base structure, providing employment opportunities for workers during the wet season when brickmaking goes on hiatus.
Silt and garbage also replace existing unsustainable inputs, silt in place of topsoil taken from productive farmland; Waste-to-Energy in place of coal, and reduce air and water pollution, affecting a positive environmental change on a local and regional scale.
As an urban intervention, DR/EDGE is a series of performative edges that flip the problems of flow, pollution and encroachment into opportunities. But more than that, HKS created spaces for community to happen. The once-polluted river now becomes accessible and active, repairing the relationship between water and community, turning an endangered wetland into a testament to sustainability.
The introduction of civic programming and housing set in motion a transformation from seasonal migrant work to permanent, stable and secure communities. These reimagined societies can exist on a more equitable footing with factory owners, with fellow Dhakaites and with the Buriganga River itself.
We realized that our intervention has to be a bottom-up approach, with direct benefits to the local community and its citizens,” “While considering the broad global applications, we focused on specific responses which not only tackles a problem but is intrinsically tied to the local economy.
HKS Design Fellowship team members Fleming, Kam and Nautiyal.
While the DR/EDGE concept is intimately tailored to Dhaka and its culture, HKS’ ambitions are to tease out strategies that are broadly applicable in places that face similar challenges.