Discover a shining example of modern architecture at the National Assembly Building in Dhaka. In 1963 Louis Kahn, a world-famous American architect, was commissioned to design the regional capital building for East Pakistan. However, due to the liberation movement and ensuing war, what became the Bangladeshi National Assembly Building wasn't completed until 1982. The building often features in books on modern architecture and visitors flock to see what is regarded as one of Kahn's finest works.
The imposing structure of the National Assembly Building sits as a massive entity in the Bengali desert. While an example of modern architecture, Kahn's design is far from lacking in context. The building is a project deeply rooted in Bengali culture and its citizens. Kahn's design used simplistic local materials that were readily available and could be used to protect against the harsh desert climate. In this way, a modern building has been integrated into an otherwise non-modern context. There are eight halls that run in octagonal concentric rings around the parliamentary grand chamber, which is a metaphor for placing the new democratic government at the heart of the building. The entire complex is fabricated out of concrete with inlaid white marble. The sheer size of the National Assembly and the artificial lake surrounding the building act as a natural insulator and cooling system, as well as providing interesting spatial and lighting conditions. The geometric shapes on the different faces of the façade are abstracted forms found in traditional Bengali culture that are meant to create a marriage of old and new cultural identities. Light is an important aspect in the design of a building, not just as a way to illuminate a space, but also in conceptualizing light as a creator of space. The National Assembly building now stands as a monumental achievement of architecture and as a symbol of the government of Bangladesh.
Visiting the National Assembly Building
Although the distinctive geometric patterns are visible from the outside and from some distance, a visit to the interior, including the octagonal Assembly Hall, is recommended when staying in Dhaka. This can only be done on a prearranged guided tour, which you must book at least 1 week in advance. The tour takes approximately four hours, and you can pick up a booking form at the front gate or download it from the parliament website. You will need to bring two copies of your passport and visa with you as access is restricted. It's worth taking the time to make these arrangements, however, due to the unique nature of this architectural wonder and democratic symbol.