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Muzharul Islam singly formed the first generation of contemporary architects and laid the basis of a profession and an intellectual discipline that seems to engage a large group of conscientious architects today and this is where the significant thrust of thoughtful production will lie in the future.
Architectural strategies in Bangladesh are largely influenced by the global politico-economic conditions of today and propositions are shaped by an Euro-centric language.
But, within, the overbearing presence of the tendency just cited, there is a maturing, committed trend that encompasses an investigative architecture. The central thrust of this group is to evoke the myth and poesis of the land within the tension of archaicness and comtemporaneity, and global and local pressures.
With the paralysis of Bengali architectural sensibility in the last 100 years or so, it has become morally imperative and culturally urgent that a significant portion of contemporary architecture in Bangladesh become “archaeological”: to excavate from the historical layers of contradictory and imposed ideologies a more “place-responsive” architecture. The archaeological inquiry is not in the sense of uncovering fossils, nor is it in the sense of a trip to exotica, but rather with the objective of restituting cultural archetypes that still have deep existential significance, and that will be a beginning point for fresh trajectories.
Many works of practicing architects now employing culturally syncretistic devices, mark the tentative beginning of restituting cultural archetypes that still have deep existential significance. The Martyrs’ Memorial, Independence Monument are some example where attempts to fuse Western modernity with local traditions or the development of distinct styles are clearly visible.
The BARC building with its unique use of brick even in major structural members, takes available materials and construction techniques to greater lengths and suggests unforeseen potential for what has always appeared to be limited resources and conventions. This is a clear example that indicates the architects are now proficient in the idiom of abstract geometric configuration creatively to confront Bengali sun and rain, the ambience of light and shade and the sensitiveness of use.
Interestingly, it is some of the work of much younger architects, which takes the “archaeological” exploration of evocative types and complex formation to a new level of discourse. For example, the S.O.S. Youth Village at Dhaka and Hermann Gmeiner Social Centre at Khulna both indicates a tentative beginning in this new direction. While the former is located on an urban site and the latter on a rural one, both the projects engage in similar strategies: fragmentation of volumes instead of a single, cubic monolith, and the resulting creation of contained exterior spaces. The permeability of the space, as in the uthan (courtyard) of traditional spatial organization, forms a link with the public realm and allows pavilion-like settings for the individual volumes. Both projects are convincing responses to their geophysical location: the Dhaka project is consciously articulated, in its relationship to the street and in its formal “impurity,” to play its (sub)urban role, and the Khulna project makes a most sensitive interjection in the idyllic Bengali landscape. Again, both the projects employ contemporary constructional means to form their specific roofscapes of remembered shapes. While these emerging architectural events promise a new water-shed in evolving a “place-evocative” architectural strategy within contemporary conditions.
The necessity for multi-level constructions due to scarcity of land makes the application of new technology unavoidable. The innate qualities of exposed building materials is understood and exploited in many buildings. The range of finish materials has been widened to include various surface finishes and use of colours, interior designs, wood paneling, marble cladding, wall fabrics; surface finish has also become very popular. Architects have started to design higher buildings as the demand for more commercial spaces is ever increasing with the emergence and growth of the nation. Growing economic activities in the country is symbolized by the rising commercial towers in metropolitan areas. In these modern high-rise blocks too, architect’s skill confronts the needs and limitations of the indigenous architecture and national identity.
The architectural expressions of a number of commercial buildings are praiseworthy. Perceptible changes in content and context of new buildings made them responsive to new concepts, technology, materials and quality workmanship. Bashundhara City, Plaza AR etc. are examples of shopping complex expressed by endorsing “all integrated facilities within one roof”. They are carefully designed attempt to meet present day needs and aspirations with its highly equipped and developed performance. With highly functional design mingled with the contemporary aesthetics.
The generation of young architects in Bangladesh who are eager to engage in an internal and transnational dialogue about the future are shouldering greater professional and social responsibility for the better living environment.
CONTEMPORARY RENOWNED ARCHITECT/ARCHITECTURAL FIRMS IN BANGLADESH
source: Worldview cites
Vistaara Architects Pvt. Ltd.
Vistaara Architects is one of Dhaka’s busiest architectural offices. Founded in 1994 by Mustapha Khalid, Mohammed Foyez Ullah, and Shahzia Islam. Vistaara’s work includes a wide variety of residential projects, offices, hotel and commercial facilities, and various scales of industrial and institutional projects. Their on of the ouststanding piece of work is Bashundhara City, a shopping/entertainment center which is the largest built structure in the country;recent works nearing completion are the five-star Westin Dhaka hotel; and PICL Bhaban, a 20-story office building at the heart of downtown Dhaka. Their computer models and renderings were featured in a North American publication on digital architecture (1999). The same year Vistaara Architects won a national design competition for their climate-responsive design for a 20-story tower for Peoples Insurance’s corporate office (PICL Bhaban). In 1998, Vistaara Architects also won an Institute of Architects Bangladesh Design Award and a Jury Citation for their ‘Ruparup’ residential project. The works of the firm have been published and exhibited in ARCASIA Forum 12 held at Dhaka in December 2003.
Was founded by Marina Tabassum and Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury in 1995.URBANA’s projects have been published internationally and have received several awards. In 1997, URBANA won a national competition for the design of the Independence Monument in Dhaka, and was subsequently commissioned for the project, which incorporates a museum, multimedia theatre and other ancillary facilities (presently under construction). The focus of the project is a 50-meter high tower composed of stacked glass panels.
A5 ARCHITECTS’ RESIDENCE
The small 1200 sq. ft. apartment is conceived as a pavilion, generously open with un-partitioned spaces that flow into another. In the spirit of traditional spatial layout, the different spaces come together around an open court. The court is a space where one is in communion with nature and celebrates the falling of rain, an overwhelming event in the tropical monsoon climate. The court also acts as a deep sink, constantly drawing a draught of air. The sitting area overlooks the court and when the glass shutters are moved aside, the room becomes a veranda. The main construction and finish materials used in this project are recycled. All bricks, exposed and untreated, have been collected from old structures that are being demolished in Old Dhaka to make way for new buildings.
LIBERATION MONUMENT AT SUHRAWARDY UDYAN
As one of Dhaka’s major green areas, and the center of a contemporary cultural sphere, the Suhrawardy Udyan occupies a significant position in the urban context the city. It is It is also the site from where Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave his historic speech declaring the struggle for independence, and where the Pakistani forces surrendered after the war of Independence in 1971. The project, now under construction, was won in competition in 1997. The project includes a master plan and designs for a museum, multi-media projection theater, amphitheater and other ancillary facilities in addition to the focus of the project, the monument itself. The focal point in the experience of the space is the monument: a Tower of Light made of stacked glass sheets.
SHATOTTO: ARCHITECTURE FOR GREEN LIVING
Shatotto intends to unearth the lost history and heritage of Bengal and recreate the missing link of its urban and rural culture. Shatotto also tries to bridge the gaps between architectural values and the current crisis of a responsible architecture, in order to generate conversation among people, communities and nature for a healthy society. Muhammad Rafiq Azam is the principal architect of Shatotto established this firm in 1995. His many awards in both art and architectural work include the J.K. Cement International Award, the Institute of Architects Bangladesh Design Award, first prize in the Mimar International Design Competition, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Gold Medal.
UTTARA, DHAKA, 2001
Considering the climate, shades have been created in a contemporary manner to protect the building from sun and rain, and at the same time, to enjoy the dramatic sun, rain and wind with the varying moods of the different seasons and days. One of the important features of this project is the window that is a transformation of “khirkee,” a traditional feature of old Dhaka buildings. The purpose of the “khirkee” was to symbolically create an “eye,” particularly for the children through which they could see the world outside.
CENTER FOR THE REHABILITATION OF THE DISABLED HOSPITAL
MIRPUR, DHAKA, 2003
UTTAM KUMAR SAHA
In addition to his training as an architect Uttam Kumar Saha has a background in photography and singing. Saha worked with Bashirul Haque and Consociates Ltd, until starting his own practice in 1988 as Nandan Architects, Engineers and Planners. He is a founding member of Chetana Study Group, member of the Executive Committee of the Insitute of Architects Bangladesh (1990-93, 93-95), and has participated in a number of architectural juries and seminars. Saha’s work has appeared in a number of publications including A+D Magazine, A+D SAARC Architecture Issue, Mimar, and Marg Publication. He cites the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect Muzharul Islam, Louis I. Kahn’s work in Dhaka and, above all, Rabindranath Tagore, as inspirations in his work. He credits Rabindranath Tagore especially for having sown a sense of beauty and truth in him.
The basic intention was to create something simple in plan yet rich as a living environment. The project frees the structures from the usual image of apartments and creates livable spaces, each of which with its unique individuality. Yet each of them has been set in unison with the others. The entire project grows from the central open plaza, which holds the essence of “priyo prangan,” meaning “a community space.”
ENAMUL KARIM NIRJHAR
Nirjhar began his career as a graphic designer with the establishment of his firm SYSTEM in Dhaka in 1986. Later, after graduating in Architecture in 1995, he founded System Architects. He has held a number of solo exhibitions in different media, in addition to participating in exhibitions outside the country, particularly in photography and painting.
HEAD OFFICE COMPLEX OF BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO BANGLADESH
RESIDENCE FOR AZIZ AL-MAHMOOD
NAHAS AHMED KHALIL
Born in 1958. Currently in private practice. He is one of the few architects who are particularly interested in indigenous building materials and their application in present context. He takes great care for the ambient environment while designing.
A RESIDENCE IN A VILLAGE NANDINA, 2004
This house for the architect’s father is set in a village, and caters to the client’s wishes that the building be two-storied, and that it appear to be sitting on a green grassy slope. The users are the client, his extended family, and his urban-based children who yearn to soak up all the nature they can during their periodic visits to the house. The portico, which overlooks the pond and the northern view extending out over paddy-fields, becomes the center of life for the short times that the family is united there.
TANYA KARIM N.R. KHAN & ASSOCIATES
The partnership of Tanya Karim and Nurur Rahman Khan began in 1991 with the intention of spearheading new contemporary architectural thinking in Bangladesh. Winners of numerous awards both in their academic and professional careers, the partnership continues to attempt to shape the architectural development of Dhaka in the city with their bold and probing ideas, and with their abiding interest in “situated contemporariness.” The inquiring nature of their work has made their office popular among young professionals wanting to play a greater role in the larger architectural exploration of the city and its future. The office is also the recipient of the respected Institute of Architects Bangladesh award.
RESIDENCE FOR ANISUL HAQ’ DHAKA, 2001
SAIF UL HAQUE
Saif Ul Haque (b.1958) is an architect practicing in Dhaka. He was a partner at Diagram Architects from 1984 until 1997, when he established his own practice. His built works include the BRAC Training Center at Faridpur (1992), Banchte Shekha Training Center at Jessore (1994), Camp House for an Archaeological Team at Bogra (1996) and Govindo Gunalanker Hostel at Chittagong (1999), all in Bangladesh. He is also involved in research related to architecture, and directed the documentation of Bangladesh’s architectural heritage for the Chetana Research Society, which led to a major exhibition on architecture entitled Pundranagar to Sherebanglanagar held in Dhaka in 1997, and a book of the same name. He co-curated the exhibition Sherebanglanagar: Louis I. Kahn and the Making of a Capital Complex, and co-authored a book on the subject in 2002.
GOVINDO GUNALANKER HOSTEL
A hostel for students of Buddhist faith. The site, shared with an existing Buddhist temple, is adjacent to the University of Chittagong. The existing temple is part of the site-planning and is the focus of the entry into the complex. The design intention was to create a place that acknowledges the architectural regional traditions, in particular early Buddhist monastic architecture. Arrangement of rooms around an open-air court, the use of brick as the main construction material, and the employment of overhangs for shading from the sun as well as protection from the rain are a few of the ideas employed to achieve the design’s intention.
BANCHTE SHEKHA TRAINING CENTER
Born in 1954, Ahsan was partner and later principal of the architectural firm C.A.P.E. (Consulting Architects Planners and Engineers), 1980-1997 and member of the Executive Committee of Institute of Architects Bangladesh, 1993-95, and 1997. He was a key founder member of CHETANA Architecture Research Society (1983). Selected architectural works include: Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman’s Mausoleum at Sherebanglanagar, Dhaka; Manarat International School, Dhaka; S.O.S. Youth Village at Mirpur, Dhaka; Hermann Gmeiner School at Mirpur, Dhaka; S.O.S. Children’s Village and College at Bogra. Raziul Ahsan died in a car accident in December 1997.
Hermann Gmeiner School S.O.S. Youth Village
IAB DESIGN AWARD
source: Colors of Bangladesh website
IAB instituted “IAB Design Award” for every alternate year beginning from 1996 to give recognition and to honour the creative excellence of Architects of Bangladesh.
Category: Residential Building
Consultant : Vistaara Architects Pvt. Ltd.
Architects : Mustapha Khalid, Md. Foyezullah, Shahzia Islam
The housing complex based on a group of four units per floor has achieved a strong formal character by the careful interplay of spacious corner balconies. These balconies also demonstrate a possible interpretation and expression of urban dwelling character appropriate for our tropical hot humid climate.
The Cube Architects Own residence at Gulshan
Consultant: CAD Ltd.
Architects: B K S Inan & Sayeda Sultana
The attempt to accommodate the Various residential Character of spaces within a cube raises questions at two level, firstly, the legitimacy of a predetermined form to serve an end and secondly, whether or not the elemental objective of creating appropriate spaces has been fulfilled. On the first question there are endless examples of predetermined form in architecture all through the ages. Design of an architect’s own house is determined by the architect in all aspects and offers an all the more interesting case study. The solution stands our through its form, functional and aesthetic design excellence.
Category: Institutional Building
Camphouse for French Archaeological Mission at Mohasthangargh Bogra
Consultant: Diagram Architects
Architect : Saif Ul Haque, Salma Parvin Khan
This single storied brick building is an example of intelligently laid out rooms clustered around two courtyards, for a team of French Archaeologists, using the single abode as a place of work and living. The building has been sensitively located at an elevation lower to its immediate surroundings, so as not to visually intrude on the ruins of Mahastangargh. The designers achieved a right degree of separation between the working areas around the working court and the living areas around the living court, just enough to ensure privacy, yet not removed too much for comfort making for very satisfied users. While the working court is a functional extension of the workplace, the contradiction of privacy and rooms opening out onto the court has been creatively handled by the use of the contextual brickwork “Jali”. These Jalis placed across open to sky light wells between the covered walkway and the rooms, allows for good ventilation and natural light, as well. The use of brick with its variations of use, the controlled use of colour on the metal doors and windows, the clear expression of the structural concrete, the sensitive detailing at the joints, the comfortably scaled indoor-outdoor spaces, all contribute towards a simple but strong compact theme. An element, that is essential for good architecture.
Office: Syngenta (Bd) Ltd., Lalmatia
Consultant : Environmates
Architect : Taimur Islam, Homaira Zaman
An ordinary residential building has been dexterously converted into an well-integrated building with a simple well-proportioned four-storied exterior, housing two extremely different uses. Once inside, one feels that the office on the upper floors and the school on the lower ones, retain their individual identities and exclusive ground spaces and entrance spaces. Structural clarity, a welcome restraint in the use of materials, careful detailing, a good understanding of the techniques of modulating spaces permeate through both the sections, setting a strong single theme. Yet with sensitive selection of different floor and finish materials, along with the common use of as-cast concrete and brick, a balanced ambience has been achieved for each of the two different uses. Of special note is the very successful introduction of natural light into the building, using different but appropriate for the each use. The use of glass intermediate walls to allows light through in the office spaces. The introduction of a “court-like” open lobby going deep inside, making even the classrooms with no outside contact almost pleasant and acceptable.
Special Category: Environmental Conservation
Lake Side Development at Dhanmondi
Consultant : Vitti Sthapati Brindo Ltd.
Architect : Iqbal Habib Ehsan Khan, Ishtiaque Jahir
Dhanmondi Lake Development project is unique in respect of its expanse, scope and relevance for Dhaka and the country, and as such it should be judged in a separate category under Urban and Environmental Conservation. Some important features of the project:
- Improved the traffic circulation in the project area.
- Prevented and removed encroachment on public land and water resources.
- Restored and improved environmental qualities, of land and water bodies in the project area.
- Created open spaces and physical amenities for recreation and leisure of the public.
- Created a vast architectural setting with integration of waterfront open spaces and promenades, as a roadmap for other developments.
Images are to be updated soon.
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