Water, channelizes its expansive existence subtly inside the weave of life, mingling toil and poetry into the land of Bangladesh. During Monsoon the 52 rivers that carry water across Bangladesh inundate two-thirds of the land. The water recedes, leaving behind fertile alluvial soil, transforming the landscape into large patches of paddy fields. Lalon, the 18th-century mystic minstrel of this land said, “If one thing is not there inside the body then it is not outside the body either.” The human form has two parts – body, being the shell and thoughts as the soul. Shell and Soul are interdependent, yet independent; belonging to each other while belonging to themselves. Architecture is similar, with the building envelope as the shell and nature as the soul.
In the early 19th Century, the Bengali scientist Jagadis Chandra Bose revealed his new discovery stating, “Every tree has a life and has a language it communicates in.” Although a physicist in profession, he stepped into the territory of the botanist. It was hard for him to convince the world that “every inanimate object has life” and he went on to adopt a gradual path to prove that. While his research is yet to be resolved scientifically, philosophically it exists. It is the same when Louis I. Kahn says, “I asked the brick what it wants to be, it says an arch.” The sculpture, Kritious Boy is also about the feeling of life. The same goes for Michelangelo who tried to bring out the encaged life from the stone. “Does Architecture have life? If Architecture has life, then how does it express the dynamics of that life?” Here if Jagadish is about the embodiment of life, then Lalon is about the dynamics of life. Thus, Jagadish and Lalon come together side by side.
The building envelope of this three-storey residence is a pure square, constructed of a single material, cast-concrete. The sphere, the universal celestial form, in this case is transformed to its terrestrial expression in the shape of a square. Considering the socio-economic conditions of Dhaka, architectural vocabulary is kept simple, with traditional spaces like the courtyard, pond, ghat (steps to water) and ample Green to merge together urban and rural typologies in this urban context. The site is surrounded by multi-storied buildings as on-lookers. An introverted design strategy was hence adopted, placing a water-court as a swimming pond in the middle of the house to ensure privacy. It is the inter-relationship between form and void which is at the heart of Lalon’s philosophy, the underlying inspiration for this building. The open quad at the center depicts Nothingness. The South and South-East have been designed to bring in cool breeze during the hot, humid summers and the warmth of the sun during the winters. The central water court acts as a natural exhaust system, allowing hot air to escape and making the middle court a cool sanctuary.
A small dingi boat waits by the ghat, patch green and light with its silence – and the space becomes a natural habitat within a man-made dwelling, with layers of understanding to unfold Nothingness. When light caresses the wall or the water touches the land or the land pats the green or the green embraces the breeze or the breeze ushers in fragrance… it is all about touching and feeling the soul. The Destiny is Nothingness, where the soul and shell cohabit and purify themselves.
Here you can let the soul come inside the home and then, just let it be …
1. Emirates Glass Leading European Architects Forum (LEAF) Award 2012
RESIDENTIAL BUILDING (MULTIPLE OCCUPANCY) OF THE YEAR AWARD
2. Most Beautiful Building of the World 2011, presented by Floor and Nature
3. Architect of the Year Award, presented by South Asian Award
4. Cityscape Winner, Global Award