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PART THREE

THE CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE

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1

ARCHITECTURE OF PAKISTAN TIME

In 1947 the partition of British India gave birth to the state named Pakistan and it’s

Eastern Province later became a sovereign state named Bangladesh. This part of

the write up will narrate the architectural achievements in East Pakistan and it’s

history since 1947.

Socio-Cultural and Historical Context of the Post Colonial era

The period between 1947-1971 can be seen to be the period in which the nation,

emerging form the shackles of a 200-year old Colonial domination, takes on the task

of nation-building. Indeed, this is the period of post-Colonial nation-building in the

Indian Sub-Continent. Ironically, for the time being, the political difficulties that being

a part of Pakistan posed a pointlessness for this region. The British rulers freed this

part of Pakistan as a land for the Bengali Muslims under the administration of the

Muslims of the West Pakistan. Therefore, the Bengalis of East Pakistan had started

their struggle for Bengali Nationalism. It had been observed that the emergence of

Bangladesh as an independent sovereign nation had drawn on a notion of linguistic

nationalism soon after the independence from the British rule. Since 1947 the Partition

of British India was a step towards nationhood for Bangladesh. During this phase the

Language Movement of 1952 marked a significant drive towards Bengali nationalism.

Architecture and the Architects during the Post Colonial era

Just after the partition of British India, inventiveness and originality in design was

shunned in the architecture of the eastern part of Pakistan (Hasan, 1968: 92). Although

during British regime army barracks provided the prototype for many different

building types, a new building type developed in this region by the British named

‘Bungalow’ with it’s climatic appropriateness. It is unfortunate that such basic wisdom

was often absent in this land during the Pakistan period (Hasan, 1968: 92). The

building art was impersonalized and had neither any mark of national identity nor the

international style of modern architecture. This was generally because of the absence

of professional education of architects and the deliberate reluctance of the British Colonial rulers to hinder development (Wares, 1984: 71). However, in the later phase,

(left)

Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban,

with the rise of Bengali nationalism concurrence with the direct presence of Western

by Louis Kahn


architects for local projects as well as formal training of architects in the University resulted into a new phase of architecture expressing the Bengali nationalism of brick architecture in modern style.

It was only in the late 1960s that architects started making their presence felt (Banglapedia, 2003:274). The first technical university was established in Dhaka in 1962 where architecture was being taught to local students. Although not yet formally recognized by the Government, architecture has firmly established itself as a profession (Hasan, 1968: 92). Drives were present among the Bengali architects to reflect the emergent national spirit. This was expressed in the struggle to imprint buildings in the International Style with the marks of a newfound national and regional identity. This trend was started by the influence of foreign architects like Louis I. Kahn, Paul Rudolph, Stanley Tigermann, Constantine Doxiadis and Richard Neutra, who worked in this land being employed by the Government with the initiative of leading Bengali architect Muzharul Islam. Muzharul Islam himself was professionally trained and worked for the Government of East Pakistan using a modern vocabulary.

During this period, thus, architecture was persuaded between two extremes. At one end, Western architects produced some outstanding architectural works. On the other, building professionals in Pakistan practiced cheap Islamic clichés. However, a handful of Bengali architects played a pioneering role in the growth of modern architecture during this period. Thereby, two distinct phases are evident in the architecture of East Pakistan since 1947. This following part of the text describes the general aspects of the architectural development during the post-Colonial period in East Pakistan.

Early Phase Legacy of British Style with Impersonalized Desolate Architecture and Professional Vacuum

Due to the unstable political situation in East Pakistan, no firm position could be found at that time in overall cultural development and particularly in architecture. Break of cultural continuity and absence of architects created a void in post-Colonial architecture in Bangladesh. Indeed, the highly developed indigenous building art of Mughals were totally extinct by the end of the British occupation. The legacy that came down to us from the British period is sad. The earliest buildings that were constructed in East Pakistan after the independence of Pakistan followed British tradition. As there was no formal training for architects during Colonial period, during the early stages of Pakistan regime the building construction was in the domain of the surveyors and engineers (Hasan, 1968: 92). Draftsmen trained in Bombay J.J. School of Art and other institutes of Calcutta were engaged in design and drawing. The state emerges as the main client during this period, and the architectural professions is represented, ironically, by the import of the services of foreign architects and also some non-architects from West Pakistan and West, and the development of the Public Works Department as the main builders of the new nation (Banglapedia, 2003:274). So, despite the emergency of the nation, architecture remained a practice that was allied with governance, and the patriotic task, which could have been shared in a more democratic set-up, became bureaucratized and alienated (Azim, 1991; 18).


Just after partition, in absence of local architects, two British architects, Edward Hicks and Ronald McConnel, joined the Government of East Pakistan in 1948 in the Department of ‘Communications, Buildings and Irrigation’ (CB &I). McConnel was already working as a Senior Assistant Architect, and he became the consulting architect at that time. Edward Hicks planned the city and designated the future land use of various areas of Dhaka city in his Master Plan, ‘Dhaka Re-planning’. He distinguished the areas like Motijheel as commercial area, Nawabpur (present Bangabandhu Avenue) as shopping area, and Azimpore and Dhanmondi as residential area. He undertook the architectural design of several projects such as Hotel Shahbag (presently Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University), Newmarket , Azimpore Housing Estate, Rajarbagh Police barrack etc. After his departure in 1959, McConnel was promoted successively to the posts of consulting architect and town planner, government architect, and finally the Chief Architect. During his long nineteen years of service (till November 1971) McConnel designed many important public and private building such as Holy Family Hospital, Vikarunnesa Girls School, Nine­ storeyed Secretariat Building (Banglapedia, 2003:274).

Many of the abovementioned projects by British architects were the first of their kinds in the context of Dhaka and were also large compared to the existing building complexes of that period. They were, to some extent, novel in conception too. However, these expatriate architects seldom took the opportunity to create a socially, culturally, politically and economically congruent and place-sensitive architecture. The architectural design of buildings by these two British architects represented mere approach to creative and imaginative architecture. As a result, their works ended up as a monotonous array of rooms along long corridors with no reflection of modern architecture of the west. In those largely functionally unsuitable buildings, there was no spatial harmony, no attempt to innovate or experiment with climate or materials. For more important buildings a kind of romantic eclecticism was in vogue. Some of these building possessed an antique charm that was cherished by the people of the land where example of truly good architecture were rare (Hasan, 1968: 93). This British tradition of revivalism, must be to a large extent, be responsible for the spate of Islamic Revival in buildings during Pakistan period.

In this paradigm of unimaginative faceless architecture of two British architects, the design of the residences and office buildings built by the private owners reflected the artistic quality of the draftsmen trained from Bombay and Calcutta. Like the institutional buildings, the earlier residences and offices followed simple organization of rooms along a corridor. The common building material was brick, which was plastered and painted into colorful facades. The overall built environment was uninspiring and dull.

One diverse project was constructed at that period just after the Language Movement of 1952 in memory of the martyrs the Shahid Minar, near Dhaka Medical College. As an architectural statement this Shahid Minar was not very overwhelming with it’s five


transparent panels placed on a small platform, approached by a flight of steps. But it’s symbolism was so deep-rooted that it inspired numerous poor replicas throughout the country (Zahiruddin, 1990: 23).

Construction works picked up momentum during the 1960s. Though modernism following the International Style was practiced in the twenties in Europe, modern architecture in Bangladesh was almost unknown till the mid-fifties. In the backdrop of ignorance and indifference towards modern architecture the architectural vocabulary practiced here was identity less. Despite some outstanding exceptions, the so-called PWD buildings dominated this period. The earlier buildings were bland, faceless, impersonalized and institutionalized; no attempt was made to relate them to the context. Examples of this category of buildings are Gulistan Cinema Hall, Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT) building, Banga Bhaban. This phase of architecture can be marked as the reflection of the contradictions of the formation of Pakistan statehood. Between two parts of Pakistan only similarity was the religion- Islam. It was intended


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DIT building, by Thariani


by the rulers to use religion towards aculturization of Bengali nationalism. Therefore, the state-defined needs and architectural forms appeared as revival of Islamic Styles by the meaningless imitation of obsolete forms in inappropriate material.

Immediately after the partition, the important public offices were housed temporarily in schools, residential buildings, etc. Demand was created for other types of new buildings, and also for architects. Gradually, a group emerged professing to be architects. The first generation of Pakistani architects to work in East Pakistan were a group of shrewd businessman who were quick to realize the enormous potential for acquiring quick wealth in this new profession. These sham architects entered the profession to make money and they were eminently successful in their stated objective. But in the process, they have reduced architect’s noble profession to shambles. Devoid of any ethical standards or artistic sensibility, they have adopted unscrupulous methods of job-soliciting; and by producing sub-standard work, they have helped to undermine the prestige of the architectural profession in the public eye. But more importantly they have wrought the visual destruction of our beautiful country. In a brief span of about ten years, the city of Dhaka has been filled with monstrosities which are unrivalled in the whole world in their ugliness (Hasan, 1968: 94).

Most of these sham architects had no training in architecture; those who were trained were caught up in the windfall of the architectural vacuum and lost all professional integrity. The period in the architectural history of East Pakistan saw the indiscriminate mushrooming of profit-making architectural companies. Any person who had the right connections for getting jobs had his own office. The architectural ignorance of some of these firms is pathetically ironic. One name suggests that architecture begins and ends with the plan of the buildings. As is inevitable, their architecture is undistinguished at best, and positively ugly and vulgar otherwise. When they try to be imaginative, their work is so full of blind and understanding imitation that even “eclecticism” becomes too respectable a term to describe that. In a country where mass consciousness of good design was non-existent at that period, they were catering to the ruling taste. The result was dismal. It is regrettable that the government had not taken any steps to check these irresponsible persons.

The Gulistan Cinema Hall (now demolished, and being recostructed in a new plan) is one example of such architecture. One of the earliest modern buildings in Dhaka, it was located at the point where the new city began. The building helped to set the tone for architectural mediocrity in the city. It’s visual inadequacy hardly needs to be pointed out. The visually repulsive and meaningless decoration has been widely emulated in later buildings of sham architects.

One of the earliest public buildings in Dhaka, the Dhaka Improvement Trust building is perhaps the ugliest building in East Pakistan. The Building consists of three stages one stacked upon another, and each unrelated to the other. In the middle stage, huge black columns appear suddenly. The use of the column as an architectural element or even the basis of it’s symbolic significance is completely misunderstood here. No


climatic orientation was followed here in the DIT. The level of detailing was appalling. But it is not surprising, because the sham architects did not usually supply any detail drawings at that period. This unimpressive building was used as the city’s landmark which was designed by a popular architectural firm of Mr. Thariani, who was a diploma architect practicing the profession since 1929 and set up a project office in Dhaka in 1961.

Thariani and Sons was eventually run by the founder’s engineer son. The firm gradually converted it’s Dhaka branch into it’s Head Office to serve an ever-increasing clientele. Unaware of contemporary architectural concepts and practices world-wide, it banked on the taste and fascination of the general laymen towards a temporarily popular architecture by copying form foreign sources which disrespected the local climate, culture, materials and contemporary aesthetic notions. Despite enjoying the rare opportunity of designing hundreds of buildings, it’s works do not show a gradual improvement. The firm was not able to establish a trend; neither could it establish an appropriate environment for the appreciation of architecture and it’s practice. Even so, people were attracted by their use of expensive and excessive materials, surface decorations, and application of bright colors (Hussain, 1984: 62).

During this period, non-Bengali businessmen and industrialists, Adamjee being the principal among them, were having their heyday. Adamjee set up a large jute mill in Siddiraganj, and commissioned Thariani and Sons of Karachi to prepare the Master Plan for Adamjeenagar. Thariani soon established close contacts with non-Bengali industrialists, and such attempts helped him win many government projects as well as private commissions. It has designed about thirty industries all over East Pakistan among which Bengal Steel Works (1963, 1965), Bangladesh Oxygen (1965), Phyzer Pharmaceuticals Laboratory (1967-69, ICI (1967-69), Aero Tea factory (1967), Ordonance factory (1967-70), Alpha Tobacco (1968), Jul Ahmed Jute Mill (1968-70) are famous. In the last decade prior to Independence, indeed, Thariani was the busiest architectural consulting firm designing industries and multi-storeyed buildings in the Motijheel area. The office buildings include BIDC building (1963-64), Amin Court (1964-65), Bawani Chamber (1963-65), Adamjee Court (1964-67) Spenser Building (1966-67), Head Office of Bangladesh Bank (1966-69), Head office of Sonali Bank (1968-69), Sadharan Bima building (1966-69), Jiban Bima building and Elaco building (1969-79). It also designed many other varieties of buildings including more than fifty residences (Wares, 1984: 78).

Besides, Thariani and Sons also built some important buildings, such as the Baitul Mokarram National Mosque (1960-65), Shilpakala Academy (1963), new High Court the Government House, the Victoria Park Memorial, etc, which had been designed in a style erroneously described as ‘Islamic’ or, ‘symbolic Islamic’ architecture. This style appealed to the unsuspecting layman and also to some of the decision-makers. In this way of aculturization of Bengalis dome, arch and mihrab were used invariably as Islamic elements in new buildings. However the attempt to re-establish the Islamic feel


of Mughal tradition in this part of Pakistan after a two hundred year break, incurred many difficult problems in the language of architecture. Here, dome, arch, mihrab were used in Government buildings in an inappropriate way with wrong construction methods and materials. However, all these features are products of other cultures, and the extent of their authenticity as Islamic features is debatable. The basic question as to what exactly is our tradition had not yet been definitively answered. Architecture, here, had felled into a serious crisis of identity. The Race Course area in Ramna with the Curzon Hall, the Old High Court Building, etc, was very pleasant. Although the newly erected buildings had shown some improvement, they were largely unsatisfactory. This university area was systematically destroyed later by the new buildings, like the New High Court building, erected in this area. The new buildings of the Dhaka University including some in the Islamic revival style as for example the Central Mosque, Science Annex Bhavan are not very stimulating. The new buildings adjoining the Curzon Hall with their dissonant architectural character and colors are out of place. The vast majority of buildings in East Pakistan unfortunately fall in this category. As a result the total architectural environment of East Pakistan at that time was insipid.

In recreating the tradition, architects had been confronted with the danger of confusing the vital and the unessential, the real and the sentimental. It seems not of advantage to indulge in a sentimental attitude towards the past. Tradition is not a matter of feeling alone; it is a vital force that can not sustain on falsehood. It is known that the life in the proudest period of Bengali traditional architecture was characterized by the honest and economic use of materials. Why should we deviate from that path of truth? This new revivalism could be marked by a kind of ignorant historicism which quickly betrays the lack of archaeological knowledge of it’s ancestors.

In case of town planning Dhaka proved to be an inadequate and unattractive city. The Motijheel Commercial Area was created from scratch in 1950 for the development of industry and commerce and the demand was felt for prestige office buildings. Indeed, the Motijheel Commercial Area was quite inadequate. Since it was created from scratch, it represented a wonderful opportunity that was missed. The approach taken to the planning of the area was just to divide the area into small plots and to sell them. The activities that go on in a commercial area were not correctly analyzed, and no provision has been made for many basic requirements. For example, strict zoning devoid of mixed use development made the area deserted after office hours; pedestrian circulation was almost impossible in this area. The parking problem was not thought out; the streets had transformed into huge parking lots.

The area lacks any basis for visual organization. In other words, it was not planned

to be one coherent area; it is not one organic entity. This is in large measure due to a lack of functional unity of the area. Today, it looks like the fortuitous confluence of two main streets. The new State Bank building situated at this intersection is another example of bad urban design and weakens this visual node considerably. The streets lack any quality of pleasantness. Most buildings of the Motijheel Commercial


Area are gaudy and megalomaniac. The better buildings are those which are unassuming and strictly functional.

Similarly the Dhanmandi Residential Area was established in 1949, and once again we witness the failure of amateur planners. The area was just divided into plots measuring one third of an acre. Once again the area does not have a focus or anything that holds it together; the feeling of a community is conspicuously absent. There are no playgrounds; the huge central park is not easily accessible from many of the plots. The Dhanmandi lake was situated centrally in this area, but advantage was not taken of this natural feature. Except for the owners of the plots that adjoin the lake, few people are aware of the presence of the lake. The character of the area was very uniform and dull. Visual unity of the whole was lacking; the architecture of the buildings was equally indistinguished. Unfortunately, most of the houses were the monopoly of the draftsmen of the C& B and other Government departments. The less that is said about their work, is the better. Later houses by sham architects display lavish gaudiness.

Latter Phase Implementation of International Style and the Evolution of ‘Bengali Style of Architecture’

As a result of the dishonest practice and lack of wisdom the total architectural environment of East Pakistan at first was insipid. The darker side of the story had been exposed above. On the other side, we had the work of a few conscientious local architects and some foreign architects who tried to give some definition to local architecture with real wisdom and proper professional training. There is no disgrace to state that foreign architects had been responsible for some of our better buildings. They introduced us to the advantages of good detailing in modern architecture.

Moreover, the setting up of the first Architecture Faculty at the East Pakistan University of Engineering and Technology (EPUET) in 1961 was a significant event. With the initiative of International Co-operation Administration (ICA) and United Stated Assistance for International Development (USAID) the Faculty of Architecture was started in the Ahsan Ullah Engineering College and the college was upgraded to university. The curriculum of architectural education in East Pakistan was developed under the guidance and assistance of the Texas A & M University and led by Prof. Richard Vrooman. Professor Vrooman started the Architecture Department with six local students in 1961. By 1964-5 the number of students raised to 68 and four other American teachers joined as faculty members. The first batch of architects graduated in 1966 and among them five bright architects came out. By that time seven teachers, including six Bengali Civil engineers, were trained in Texas A & M, Harvard and Florida University and they took up the responsibility of the Department in 1968. Influence of western education and prevailing architectural style shaped their education. The Department led for the development of the architectural profession in this region and also gave directions to the future development of architecture in Bangladesh.


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With proper professional knowledge, the practice of true and honest expression of architecture started here. Against the practice of Islamic revivalism and use of repulsive identity, honest expressions of architecture evolved here mainly with the work of foreign architects who were trained in Western world. Among early buildings, the Hotel Intercontinental was a good example of efficient planning and neat detailing despite it’s pseudo Islamic facade which does only lip service to tradition. Alongside, some foreign architects had shown ignorance of our climatic condition such as in the Nurses’ Quarters of the Medical College. Some had consistently produced uninspiring work.

Consulting Engineers Pakistan Ltd. established an architectural firm in Dhaka in 1960 named ‘Berger Engineers’ in collaboration with the American firm Luis Berger Inc. They designed mostly the institution buildings in East Pakistan. Several architects working for them and teaching at East Pakistan University of Engineering & Technology (EPUET) designed many institutional buildings up to 1967. An inconsistency can be traced in their work as many of them had little knowledge and experience of the local context, and often, different architects were designing different buildings in the same campus. Nevertheless, their works were comparatively rational and neat. Among the Berger-architects, Robert Bouighy maintained a consistency in architectural vocabulary, technical excellence, and aesthetics in his creation. Concrete frame structures and it’s honest expression through ribbon windows, non-loads bearing partition walls and cantilevered verandas are some examples that

Hotel Intercontinental

Photo: Z.I. Bhuiyan


Kamalapur Railway Station (1961-63), by Robert Bouighy and Daniel Dunham


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characterized Bouighy’s design. An inter-marriage of spatial and structural innovation culminated in his outstanding designs of the BUET Gymnasium building and Kamalapur Railway Station (1961-63). Bouighy and Dunham designed the Railway Station, which is remarkable for the open petal-shaped canopy unifying a number of otherwise disjointed buildings, an innovative expression through architectural forms. Bouighy’s other works are a hostel and the club house of the Mymensingh Agriculture University; Civil Engineering building, three hostels and pavilion of BUET (1963-67); Brothers’ Hostel of Notre Dame College (1963); St. Joseph School, Holy Family Hospital Sisters’ Hostel. These were excellent and stimulating example of contemporary architecture (Wares, 1984: 77).

Spiro, the Italian architect of the Berger group, prepared the Master Plan of Rajshahi University (1961-63). Chief Architect Daniel C Dunham designed the residential accommodations and hospital of the same university; he also prepared the Master Plan of the Agriculture University in Mymensingh (1962-65), and designed it’s residential buildings. Although not an architect, Rolf Kaiser designed the guesthouse, VC’s residence, and club building etc. of the Agriculture University, and Motijheel Co­ operative Bank (1962-63), and Insurance Building (1963-67). Besides, Studio of Film Development Corporation (1962-65) was also designed by British architect Stanly Dukes and two hostels of Mymensigh Agriculture University was designed by Curl Josephson. Moreover, two American architects, Bob Mayer and John Sheef, worked for Berger


group during 1964-66 (Wares, 1984: 76). The works of the Berger group contributed towards creating an interest in architecture among the common people.

During the later part of this period, the country had to face growing Bengali nationalism, which also sought architectural expression. In western world the nonconformist ‘International Style’ had been flourishing since 1920s. Even so, the irresistible wave of International style was totally absent and not accepted in East Pakistan till 1955 by the practicing architects. Nevertheless, in satisfying the compelling need for a vocabulary of local architecture to express the national identity, International style expressed in brick thus emerged as a ‘Bengali style’ of Architecture (Azim, 1991: 18). This phenomenon could perhaps be noted for the first time in the design of Art College and Public Library building (1955) by the pioneer Bengali architect Muzharul Islam who had just graduated from Oregon University of USA. This style was culminated in the design of the National Assembly Building at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar by Louis I. Kahn (1962-80s). As an outcome of the professional endeavor of the local architects with the influence of Western masters, this post-Colonial era can also be marked as the beginning of a new phase of it’s architecture in Bangladesh. Some of our new buildings takes good account of climatic conditions and also provide stimulating spatial experience. Stripped of appliqué decorations have a chthonic quality which identifies them with our soil. A meaningful local architecture started to evolve.

In 1964 Muzharul Islam formed Vastukalabid, the fist local consulting firm. Soon it became a formidable presence in the architectural scene in Bangladesh by designing several noteworthy buildings in the next half a decade. Among these were two new Universities at Chittagong and Jahangirnagar, NIPA Building (now part of the Business Studies Faculty of Dhaka University, 1964-67), Krisi Bhavan at Motijheel (1965), five Polytechnic Institutes in five district towns (with American architect Stanley Tigermann), etc; Architect Islam believed that for a movement in architecture to be appropriate for Bangladesh it should have as model, examples of architectural relations of world-renowned architects, which could provide inspiration and confidence to the local architects. Accordingly, he contributed actively to bringing such famous architects to work in Bangladesh as Luis I. Kahn, Paul Rudolph, and Stanley Tigermann. Also, other famous architects like Constantine Doxiades and Richard Neutra worked with him before 1971. Their involvement and contribution towards the development and orientation of architecture in Bangladesh was one bright side of the 1960s.

Doxiades associates, led by the famous Greek architect-town planner-philosopher, designed several institutional complexes sponsored by the Ford foundation. Doxiades’s projects, like Comilla BARD, College of Home Economics, IER and TSC of Dhaka University, express climatic adaptability and functional versatility in the design of groups of buildings of multiple functions in the same campus, and stress their inter-relationships.


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TSC of Dhaka University

The design of the Polytechnic Institutes show sensitivity to local building materials, and are distinguished for the use of a consistent generic vocabulary. Paul Rudolph was commissioned in 1966 to prepare a master plan and design some important buildings of the Agriculture University in Mymensingh. He designed the academic blocks, staff quarters and the students’ hostel, while Richard Neutra designed the Library building. These projects integrated western formality in a sublime way in architecture and the needs and the contexts of the local setting. The resultant architectonic quality achieved through surface modulation, spatial solutions, and use of available materials and technology a harmonious blending of the indigenous with the contemporary.

The Dhaka University Library and Art College represented isolated efforts to integrate contemporary Western thoughts in architecture. These buildings marked a particular and explicit shift in architecture of East Pakistan. Specially the Art College building is one example of institutional architecture where the architect succeeded in creating a pleasant atmosphere conducive to the educational process. The influence of the modern-day Master Architect Le Corbusier is clearly visible in the design of both these complexes in cubic form, open ground plan, free columns, non-load bearing partition walls, concrete structures, flat roofs, ramps and sun-breakers. Composition of the various parts of the complex, light structures, their structural clarity, and integrated landscapes make these two buildings the first examples of modern architecture in Bangladesh.

To neutralize discontent over the shifting of existing capital from Karachi to Islamabad and to placate the Bengalis’ over growing disparity between the two wings


of the country- was the idea of developing a second capital in Dhaka. Thus the National Assembly Building project was undertaken in 1959 by the central government to appease the nationalistic sentiments of the otherwise exploited eastern wing. The Parliament was to be transferred to East Pakistan and the area named ‘Ayubnagar’ (now renamed as Sher-e-Bangla Nagar) was designed as the second capital. Its commission was given to Luis I. Kahn in 1964 after unsuccessful efforts to engage Master Architects such as Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto. Louis Kahn’s Second Capital is a magnificent work of art and the Assembly Building is the most discussed architectural edifice of the country. The interpretation of our tradition of arcaded brick construction was original; the material was used rationally. The handling of a very large project had been done with consummate art. It’s purity of concept was carried through with a certain force and rigidity. As a building it has had a tremendous influence on the theory and practice of architecture in Bangladesh, and has become a living icon through the strict discipline of modernism it endeavored to blend in with the environment where it is situated.

Like the change of style in monumental and institutional buildings with foreign influences, a major transformation was undertaken in residential buildings in East Pakistan. With respect to planning and organization of formal family and service spaces earlier residences followed simple organization of rooms along a corridor. That style prevailed up to the 1960s which can be considered as a deterioration from British evolution of local building style, called ‘Bungalows’. This was later eliminated in favor of flow of more airy and lighted spaces, the subtlety of which was further enhanced by the introduction of multiple- height spaces. However, concepts of flow of space, cubic form, use of concrete, and climate responsive external elements in residential buildings demonstrate a marked difference with the preceding style. Truly such changes were limited among a few examples like the residence design by Muzharul Islam in Dhanmondi.

Conclusive Comments

It is unfortunate but true that in East Pakistan people had lost the capacity to distinguish good design from bad; cheap gaudiness was mistaken for beauty, indiscriminate imitation of forms identified with our culture on insubstantial ground was surrogated for tradition while honest and true beauty had not been appreciated. The development of a viable regional architecture had started during the later part of East Pakistan era. However, it’s growth was retarded by the absence of mass consciousness of good design. Conceivably the best way to evaluate what happened to architecture fostered by the Pakistani state in Bangladesh is to compare the Second Capital Complex with the PWD buildings built in fifties. Regardless of the quality of architecture, the change of mood is worthy of note. (Azim, 1991: 20) The contradictions of the Pakistani State are drawn in the changing architectural scene: from a passive acceptance of what the state had delineated to be the needs and forms of the people, to a more intense stance, whereby the state take cognizance of an emergent nationalist spirit. Architecturally, this contradiction finds expression in the struggle to imprint buildings in the international mode with the marks of a growing


sense of national and regional identity. Along with Louis I. Kahn, the sincere efforts of some other foreign architects and the newly trained local architects in search for a regional style tried to revive the lost nationalism and also paved the way in determining an architectural vocabulary in this region for the next generation. Indeed, the architecture of the 1960s guided the architects of the next two decades and helped them find an indigenous response to pertaining issues.

An inventory of some key-monuments will perhaps help in understanding the character of the monuments of the time

Azimpure Housing Estate. The Housing project for Govt. employees significantly known as Azimpur colony was the first project of a large scope in Dhaka. It consists of three and four storey walk-ups buildings. All the buildings were mostly of same look. Some were oriented in north-south and some were in east-west. However, the plan of buildings followed typical layout of rooms along a corridor. The open spaces are not carefully thought out. Besides, a high and monotonous wall intervenes in the communication between the passers-by and the residents. Consequently it was an unexciting place to live in with a high rate of social maladies. Unfortunately this project was model for many more colonies that developed in various parts of the province. (Hasan, 1968: 93)

Newmarket. Another important project was Government Newmarket in Azimpur area. The market was designed with limited entrance and an introvert network of circulation. The shops were arrangement in two layers around the courts with plain high wall on the exterior, thereby external display of the merchandise was not possible. It also discouraged through traffic. Thus it stands as an isolated island without any relation with the surrounding streets except the three gates. To many people, it is patterned after the Bazaar of the Middle East (Hasan, 1968: 93), with no scope for cross ventilation .The fish and vegetable annex of the Newmarket was so badly designed that it is almost impossible to do one’s marketing there.

Gulistan Cinema. The Gulistan Cinema hall is one project of Thariani and Sons. It is considered as one of the earliest modern buildings in Dhaka. It was located at the point where the new city began. The building helped to set the tone for architectural mediocrity in the city. It’s visual inadequacy hardly needs to be pointed out. The visually repulsive and meaningless decoration has been widely emulated in later buildings of sham architects.

High Court building. High Court building designed by Chishti Brothers (or according to some by Tajuddin Bhamani) has proved to be one of the worst examples of this firm. The arcade on the first floor may be said to follow a definite style, but on the ground floor a corridor has arbitrarily given a solid appearance with small windows which do not look right with the first floor arcade and make the corridor quite unpleasant. There are four columns at the entrance on the ground floor and eight on the first floor; none of the columns on the ground floor line up with any columns of the first floor. The detailing is extremely crude. The slightly naive porch


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with the map of East Pakistan is but an imitation of the porches of residential houses in Dhaka. The building violates all the basic tenets of good architecture honesty to function, honesty to materials, honesty to climate, etc. These principles were not adopted arbitrarily by the proponents of modern architecture. It has been proven throughout history that a viable architecture must be based on these principles.

Baitul Mukarram National Mosque (1960-65). Baitul Mukarram National Mosque was designed by Thariani and Sons. To make room for this mosque and shop complex the arbitrarily Jinnah Avenue, one of the main arteries of the new city, was blocked. The plan of the mosque complex included shops, offices, libraries and parking areas. The mosque was designed with white color with minimum decoration and cube form without dome which is still unique for a mosque. It was argued by the architect that this mosque was modeled after the ‘Kaaba’. Main building is 99 feet high from the ground level. According to the original plan, main entry was to be on the east. The sahn on the east is 29,000 square feet. Main entry is from the east. Some arches here are reminiscent of Gothic architecture. The detailing is again appalling. To compensate the central dome two shallow domes are on opposite entry porticos. The elevation of these porticos consists of three horse-shoe shaped arches, the middle one is bigger than the rest. Two patios ensure that enough light and air enter the prayer hall. The main prayer hall is 26517 square feet at the eastern side. The hall is surrounded by verandahs on three sides. The mihrab is rectangular


High Court building


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Baitul Mukarram National Mosque (1960-65),

by Thariani


instead of semi-circular and Minar was debauched structure of the south side of the main building. The design is modern. The space on the south had the potential to develop into a real urban space like an Italian piazza full of intense activity which was probably never realized by it’s architect.

National Assembly Building at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. This complex represents a blending of the international with the regional styles. Question may be raised that whether the complex speak to a Bengali nationalism to which it had been offered as compensation. Again, it is difficult to evaluate this complex as the concrete structure of the monumental parliament building itself as imposing and distant. Although, brick as regional materialy is used in the accompanying structures, and the buildings were tried to blend with surrounding nature by landscaping.

The architect has chosen Bright Red Brick as the main building material. This is indeed a brilliant choice. The brick and it’s consequential structural form have given a timeless character to Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. The semi circles, circles and flat arches are all too familiar and ever charming. Another reason for these arches is given by the architect as “The search for light causes these shapes to exist”. It should also be mentioned that the hierarchy of arches correspond to the hierarchy of spaces. For example, flat arch is being used in the corridors. The climatic or sheltering efficiency of a flat arch over a pointed or a semi circular arch is readily apparent. Kahn himself explains, “... This is a manifestation of the nature of the atmosphere and how you respect the strength of the demands of nature. I tried to give that idea in the great porches...”.


 

Architecture of Pakistan TimeBangladesh ScenarioConcluding RemarksBibliography

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