Rooted in a century old tradition and brought to modernity by great Master Muzharul Islam, Bangladesh’s contemporary architecture has grown to one of the most vibrant and relevant movements worldwide and it is obvious that we all can learn from its architectonical approach.
Today’s architectural debate is conducted by a generation of architects who are influenced by the ideas of Muzharul Islam, the Chetana Study Group and the work of Louis Kahn. In recent decades they have formed an independent architecture scene that carries the societal and architectural concerns of their predecessors forwards in a contemporary way. Even though the protagonists of the movement define individual focal points with their spatial statements, they are acutely interconnected as a community in a lively professional and academic exchange. Again and again, it is this loose group who, despite dynamic global pressures, collectively stand up for architectural values and for an awareness of Bengali culture. Architects like Bahirul Haque, Uttam Kumar Saha, Saif Ul Haque, Nahas Khalil, Kashef Chowdhury, Ehsan Khan, Marina Tabassum, Salauddin Ahmed and many more have designed a variety of buildings that cover the needs of rural and urban population as well. To metion a few, the Friendship Centre in Gaibandha, the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque in Dhaka, the Arcadia Amphybious School near Savar, the Teknaf National Park Visitor Centred, Prism Cyclon Shelters in Cox’ Bazar or the Loom Shed for Amber Denim in Gazipur and many more buildings can be seen as masterpieces of contemporary architecture.
After the partition of Britisch India – like in other tropical countries– late modernism began to flurish in the 1950ies under the tropical sun and in Bengal a specific form of tropical modernism started to grow. It was through the efforts of great Master Muzharul Islam that Bengal saw the beginning of modern architecture. Islams Institute of Fine Arts in the early 1950ies is the first modern building in the Delta. His designs for the Chittagong University, for the Jahangirnagar University, the National Archives and many more can be credited for starting Bangladesh's renaissance in contemporary architecture.
Muzharul Islam was the one who suggested the famous Louis I Kahn to be the architect of the new capitol complex in Sherebanglanagar. lslam also invited architect Stanley Tigerman and Paul Rudolph to join him in Bangladesh.
Besides the work of Muzharul Islam, Louis I.Kahn, Stanley Tigerman and Paul Rudolph, the Delta has to offer other highlights of the 1960ies and 70ies designed by foreign architects like Richard Neutra, Constantin A. Doxidadis, Richard Vrooman, Bob Boughey, or Daniel Dunham.
During the British rule, numerous architectures were created which merged style elements imported from Europe with local forms. In addition to stately country houses or Mansions, representative urban architecture such as the Curson Hall or the Ahsan Manzil building was created in Dhaka or Chittagong. Derived from the traditional Bengali hut, the building type of “bungalow” with its typical veranda was exported worldwide during that time.
The Ganges Delta and the region of present-day Bangladesh is an enormous wealth of pre-colonial building eras, ranging from the Buddhist Pala dynasty (8th-12th century) to the Islamic period of the Sultans and the Mogul period (16th-18th century). In addition to a rural building tradition formed from untreated materials, a unique brick and terracotta tradition has developed over the centuries in the Delta under the influence of a wide variety of cultures. The ruins of Buddhist monasteries in Mahasthangarh, the mosques of the Mughal period in Bagerhat or the Hindu temple in Kantanagar are impressive witnesses of this development.