By Barbara Hahijary
A massive grey construction stands in the southwest side of downtown Dhaka, Bangladesh. Some call it the National Assembly Building or the National Parliament House of Bangladesh, but the locals call it Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban.
In 1962, the Pakistani government appointed Louis Kahn to be the architect of this development, which was originally planned to be an extension of the country’s parliament building. There was a short pause during the construction in 1971 when Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan. The project was eventually completed in 1982.
The National Parliament House of Bangladesh design is a sensuous modern-utilitarian style with compositions of the Bengali vernacular architecture. There are a total of eight concrete halls connected by a parliamentary grand chamber in the centre. When compared to other parliament houses in the world, the National Parliament House of Bangladesh has a different typology. For one, it doesn’t have a dome, a tower or a nondescript look.
There is an impression of unostentatious, power and wealth associated with Neo-classic architecture written all over it. Its façade is adorned with lines of white marbles accented by geometric shapes that function as windows. Behind the dramatic exterior is a public building optimized for space. Kahn, a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania gained numerous compliments for this project.
On the other hand, the project brewed controversy from local residents as well as architects worldwide. The majority of the parliament building was constructed of concrete that was not locally sourced, making it a less-than-ideal material for buildings in the tropical climate, not to mention concrete has a tendency to store heat. But considering Kahn designed the building façade to have many large openings, there is good air circulation and an acceptable temperature within. Moreover, the building is surrounded with an artificial lake and well-designed landscape, which help in maintaining the temperature and avoiding floods that were so rampant in the area.
Besides being the mind behind the National Parliament House of Bangladesh design, the Russian-born Kahn is also in-charge of the whole development of the national parliament complex. The building is surrounded by supporting facilities for the members of parliament including hostels, dining halls, and a hospital. It remains the largest legislative complex in the world.
Photos by Sahil H, Sangshad Bhaban, Naquib Hossaim, George Kunihiro and Elana Miari courtesy of Flickr