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How to build a city: modelling summertime Dhaka in 16 easy steps

  1. take a cardboard box with base of roughly 300 square kilometres. secure only one of the edges with tape.

  2. remove any lingering hint of a breeze or the dwindling freshness of late spring. burn the piles of fallen leaves to a crisp.

  3. leave the smoke.

  4. start building. any stack of cards will work as walls. matchsticks too. construct them halfway only. at any given point at least 1 in 4 structures should be skeletal, either in the process of being broken down or rebuilt.

  5. leave little to no space to breathe.

  6. work on the roads now. you don’t have to do much but do it repeatedly. every summer, hammer them open just in time for the monsoon floods so the tar will never set. footpaths/overbridges are optional; no one will use them.

  7. pour plastic waste around the edges for a pop of colour.

  8. start adding people. made from toothpicks, flammable. in bunches around the corners, along the borders, until the weight starts pushing at the box. optional: draw on faces, remembering the heat. everyone is exhausted and just slightly apocalyptic.

  9. (traffic can be simulated using breadcrumbs and superglue.)

  10. make it so that an earthquake would kill 300 000, apprx. for best results, ignite the matches.

  11. fill the box with water. the floods will come and go. if the city falls apart, that’s part of the process. add a lid to brew humidity, let the car fumes coagulate.

  12. the sun should not be within reach, but should feel like it is.

  13. get creative! add a new airport (under construction), mall (abandoned project), metro railway (just opened!). begin development in the area meant for drainage (sewers are futile—it’s too late now). great for a summer swim.

  14. or substitute with lakes that are barely lakes, rather molten landfills. the sun should bring the odor to a boil.

  15. (at this point, the box should be spilling haphazardly outwards and possibly ablaze.)

  16. decorate with a coat of dust and a simmering sense of restlessness.

Editors: Leila W., Erika Y.

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