A JOURNEY THROUGH ARCHITECTURE IN BANGLADESH (1947-2017) THE LEGACY OF MUZHARUL ISLAM
February 5-8, 2016 | curated by Aurélien Lemonier | Dhaka Art Summit
How to present the challenges that contemporary architecture faces in Bangladesh? The fluvial landscape of the Ganges Delta and the Brahmaputra could be a starting point. The incredible paradoxes of the country’s economic development could be another. Bangladesh is just as much concerned by the climatic changes of today as it is by the consequences of globalisation that followed the decolonisation of the Indian sub-continent and the subsequent struggle to build an independent nation.
Muzharul Islam (1923-2012) was an architect who would pursue, from as early as the 1950s, a “humanist modernity” in Bangladesh’s architecture. The producer of public edifices of great quality, his commitment made him a prominent cultural figure in the country. For instance, it was he who called upon Louis Kahn to construct the Dhaka parliament building, rather than accept the commission himself. However, Islam’s achievements are not limited to simply enabling the construction of this masterpiece of modern architecture. A group of intellectuals emerged from Islam’s initiative, bringing forth in the 1980s the millenary culture of Bengal in order to contribute to the emergence of a new architecture for the country. All creative fields were summoned to partake in the reconstruction of a continuous cultural consciousness that had been affected by Partition. The “archaeology” of Bengali monuments (Buddhist, Mughal and modern), undertaken by architects, is synchronous to the regionalist theories that develop in Europe, the United States and India.
For the last fifteen years, as Bangladesh has been taking part in the free market economy, a third generation of architects is now trying to redefine the terms of contemporaneity. As the urbanism of large cities demands new housing strategies, the concepts of sustainable and responsible development require the creation of new modes of action. An exhibition on the Bangladesh contemporary architecture scene would precisely respond to these ambitions: the identification and diffusion of architectural endeavours that are of great formal quality, as well as the work of the “Bengal school” which explores strategies of responsible development, through a social, economic and environmental scope.