In a remarkable fusion of nature and architecture, Khulna University unveiled its new cafeteria earlier this year featuring a canopy constructed entirely from Nipa Palm, locally known as "Golpata."
The visionary behind this eco-friendly initiative was Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mahmud Hossain, a Professor of Forestry and Wood Technology Discipline at the university, renowned for his extensive research on the Sundarbans.
However, the inauguration of the cafeteria has reignited interest in this traditional building material.
"This cafeteria, adorned with vibrant greenery, seamlessly merges the essence of rural Bangla with urban infrastructure. Its unique design has captivated all who have seen it," Dr. Mahmud Hossain shared his enthusiasm.
"We are committed to enhancing the university's infrastructure aesthetically to align with changing times. Also, we have plans for more unique and exceptional designs in the future," he added.
The cafeteria's design was entrusted to the Head of the Architecture Department, Sheikh Sirajul Hakim and Assistant Professor Azharul Islam. They claim that Khulna University's cafeteria, spanning 5,400 square feet, is the largest Golpata infrastructure in the country.
Moreover, its natural construction keeps temperatures 4 to 5 degrees Celsius cooler than conventional concrete structures during scorching summer months. Notably, the cafeteria's open design, free from any fencing, invites ample light and ventilation.
Its striking triangular front and back further enhance its visual appeal.
Taking a stroll around the cafeteria, one is transported to a rural setting, with lush foliage in the background, bamboo on one side, and a picturesque lotus pond on the opposite, carefully tended to.
Sirajul Hakim explained, "the area where the cafeteria stands was previously unused. We designed it with utmost consideration of its surroundings, crafting a rustic atmosphere that harmonises with the natural environment."
Speaking to students, it was evident that the cafeteria has generated considerable buzz on campus since its unveiling.
Student Shariful Islam enthused, "our cafeteria is truly exceptional, and the Golpata canopy is the star attraction. Students often capture its beauty in selfies, and share them on social media."
Both current students and outsiders have been engaged in extensive discussions about this innovative cafeteria, which is leaving a lasting impression.
Kadrul Huda Dalton, sharing four images of the cafeteria on Facebook, wrote, "Once, rural cottages adorned with Golpata were a common sight. While these cottages symbolised the lower-class, they were aesthetically top-class, allowing light and air to filter through and play. The KU cafeteria exemplifies the beauty that Golpata can create. Truly remarkable! A Golpata-made café—a touch of rural life in the city."
According to sources within the Forest Department, Golpata is more abundant along the coasts of South Asian countries, with the Sundarbans in Bangladesh being a natural habitat for its growth.
The Bawali community, known for collecting betel leaves in the forest, also harvests Golpata. This year, permission was granted to collect 90,000 quintals of Golpata in the Khulna region of the Sundarbans, during the lean season.
In Dakop Kalabagi village, near the Sundarbans, Golpata canopies still adorn a few houses. Moreover, nearly every nest built within shrimp farming enclosures in Khulna, Bagerhat, and Satkhira districts features a Golpata canopy.
Bawali Nirmal Sana shared, "my family has been collecting Golpata leaves from the Sundarbans for generations. While there was once significant demand, these leaves are now primarily used for constructing temporary homes in fishing sites and kitchens in some households."
He explained that Golpata canopies, once built, last for two to three years before requiring replacement. The unique structure of Golpata effectively shields occupants from the sun's heat, ensuring a cooler interior even during the hottest summers.