Bangladesh’s Genius Architect Marina Tabassum: An architect in search of roots – inspiring, spiritual & divine – shortlisted for 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture

 “… a mosque needs to be inspirational and spiritual enough to generate respect and create a divine feeling, otherwise it loses its purpose.”

 

– Marina Tabassum, Architect – Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Tabassum’s idea was simple. She wanted to create a structure which had its roots in Bangladesh. “What I like to do in my practice generally is, root architecture to its place. To find its root, architecture needs to come from history, culture, climate etc. It’s not just about the visual aesthetics. It’s about combining all these elements of a place into a language of architecture. Not only is the historic reference of Islam important in this case but also the historic references of Bangladesh.”

 

Marina Tabassum at her Dhanmondi office. (Image Credit: The Daily Star \ Hasan Saifuddin Chandan)
Marina Tabassum at her Dhanmondi office. (Image Credit: The Daily Star \ Hasan Saifuddin Chandan)

“Our problem is that we have lost the rich glory of mosque building in Bangladesh. I think a mosque needs to be inspirational and spiritual enough to generate respect and create a divine feeling, otherwise it loses its purpose,” she adds.

It’s very much rooted in the history. If you look at mosque architecture historically, it generated from house form. It was a room where people would congregate to pray. Also not just prayer, during Prophet’s (pbuh) time various social, political issues and disputes were settled there.

“At that time it didn’t have the elements that we associate with a mosque today. Whatever we associate with a mosque today, let’s say the minarets and the domes, were introduced in different times for different reasons.

Column free prayer hall is raised on eight peripheral columns, in addition to four light courts, random circular roof openings allows daylight into the prayer hall creating an ornate pattern on the floor enhancing spirituality through light - Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh.Column free prayer hall is raised on eight peripheral columns, in addition to four light courts, random circular roof openings allows daylight into the prayer hall creating an ornate pattern on the floor enhancing spirituality through light - Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Image credit: AKTC / Hassan Saifuddin Chandan)
Column free prayer hall is raised on eight peripheral columns, in addition to four light courts, random circular roof openings allows daylight into the prayer hall creating an ornate pattern on the floor enhancing spirituality through light – Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Column free prayer hall is raised on eight peripheral columns, in addition to four light courts, random circular roof openings allows daylight into the prayer hall creating an ornate pattern on the floor enhancing spirituality through light – Bait Ur Rouf Mosque, Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Image credit: AKTC / Hassan Saifuddin Chandan)

For instance, the dome came into being because that was the technical know-how of that time to cover a large space. Over time, this has become a symbol we associate mosques with, even though we have various new technologies to span a large roof,” says Marina Tabassum.

This isn’t the first time that Tabassum has been nominated for the Aga Khan Awards. She reached the finals once before for A5, the pavilion apartment in 2004. She seemed unmoved when asked if she expected to win this time. “There’s still a long process to go. Who knows what happen?” she smiles.

Regardless of whether she wins the award, the fact that architects like Tabassum, who still prefer to treat structures as living beings rather than just commercial prospects, still exist in the country is in itself a boon. And it was this principle that led to the creation of the beautiful Bait-ur-Rouf.

Source:


The Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established by the Aga Khan in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of Islamic societies. The Award recognizes examples of architectural excellence throughout the Islamic world in the fields of contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, restoration, reuse and area conservation, as well as landscape design and improvement of the environment.

 

OTHER PROJECTS IN BANGLADESH:

NAME CITY BUILDING TYPE AWARD CYCLE
Chandgaon Mosque Chittagong Islamic Religious Facilities 2008-2010 Cycle (Shortlisted)
Friendship Centre Gaibandha Schools 2014-2016 Cycle (Shortlisted)
Grameen Bank Housing Programme Bangladesh various locations Community Development and Improvement 1987-1989 Cycle (Recipient)
National Assembly Building Dhaka Official Administration Facilities 1987-1989 Cycle (Recipient)
Nishorgo Oirabot Nature Interpretation Centre Teknaf Cultural Facilities 2008-2010 Cycle (Shortlisted)
School in Rudrapur Rudrapur Education & Information Facilities 2005-2007 Cycle (Recipient)

 

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