Bangladesh Parliament – A Great Architectural Monument

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National Parliament House or Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban (Bengali: জাতীয় সংসদ ভবন) is the National Assembly Building of Bangladesh, located in the capital Dhaka. It was created by architect Louis Isadore Kahn. Kahn and is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world. It houses all parliamentary activities of Bangladesh.

Historical Information

The first and second Parliaments used the Old Shangshad Bhaban, which currently serves as the Prime Minister’s Office. Construction of the Jatiya Shangshad Bhaban began in 1961 by the Government of Pakistan as a permanent building for the federal legislature of both West and East Pakistan. However, it was the eighth (and last) session of the second parliament of Bangladesh that first used it on 15 February 1982 after its construction was completed on 28 January of the same year. The Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban has been in operation and has acted as the sole complex used as the National Assembly ever since. The Jatiya Shangshad Bhaban was designed by the American architect Louis Kahn.

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Some Basic Data:

  • Beginning of construction: 1961
  • Cost of construction and design: Tk. 129 crore or 1.29 billion (=1,290,000,000)
  • Inauguration: 28 January 1982
  • Architect: Louis I. Kahn
  • Total area: 200 acres (800,000 m²)
  • Location: Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Number of Parliaments: 7 (seven)
  • GIS coordinates: 23.762465°,90.378545°

Architecture and Design

Louis Kahn designed the entire Jatiyo Sangsad complex, which includes lawns, lake and residences for the Members of the Parliament (MPs).

Location and Basic Layout

The enclave, situated in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, is bounded by four major streets:

  • Lake Road to the North;
  • Rokeya Sarani to the East;
  • Manik Mia Avenue to the South; and
  • Mirpur Road to the West.

The main building (the Bhaban) is divided into three parts:

  1. The Main Plaza: 823,000 square feet (76,000 m²)
  2. South Plaza: 223,000 square feet (21,000 m²)
  3. Presidential Plaza: 65,000 square feet (6,000 m²)

The main building is in the centre of the complex. The outer parts of the complex include the MP hostel. An intricately designed lake surrounds the main building.
Design philosophy

Kahn’s key design philosophy optimizes the use of space while representing Bangladeshi heritage and culture. External lines are deeply recessed by porticoes with huge openings of regular geometric shapes on their exterior, shaping the building’s overall visual impact.

In the architect Louis Kahn’s own words:

“ In the assembly, I have introduced a light-giving element to the interior of the plan. If you see a series of columns you can say that the choice of columns is a choice in light. The columns as solids frame the spaces of light. Now think of it just in reverse and think that the columns are hollow and much bigger and that their walls can themselves give light, then the voids are rooms, and the column is the maker of light and can take on complex shapes and be the supporter of spaces and give light to spaces. I am working to develop the element to such an extent that it becomes a poetic entity which has its own beauty outside of its place in the composition. In this way, it becomes analogous to the solid column I mentioned above as a giver of light.

It was not belief, not design, not pattern, but the essence from which an institution could emerge… ”
Source: Louis I. Kahn. from Heinz Ronner, with Sharad Jhaveri and Alessandro Vasella Louis I. Kahn: Complete Works 1935-74. p236, 238.

The lake on three sides of the Bhaban, extending up to the Members’ hostel adds to site’s aesthetics and also portrays the riverine beauty of Bangladesh.

The assembly building received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1989.

The Bhaban (Main Building) Design

The Bhaban consists of nine individual blocks: the eight peripheral blocks rise to a height of 110′ while the central octagonal block rises to a height of 155′. All nine blocks include different groups of functional spaces and have different levels, inter-linked horizontally and vertically by corridors, lifts, stairs, light courts, and circular areas. The entire structure is designed to blend into one single, non-differentiable unit, that appears from the exterior to be a single story.

The main committee rooms are located at level two in one of the peripheral blocks. All parliamentary functionaries, including Ministers and chairpersons of some of the Standing Committees, have offices in the Bhaban. The Parliament Secretariat also occupies offices in the same building.

The Main Plaza

The most important part of the Main Plaza is the Parliament Chamber, which can house up to 354 members during sessions. There are also two podiums and two galleries for VIP visitors. The Chamber has a maximum height of 117′ with a parabolic shell roof. The roof was designed with a clearance of a single story to let in the daylight. Daylight, reflecting from the surrounding walls and octagonal drum, filters into the Parliament Chamber. The efficient and aesthetic use of light was a strong architectural capability of Louis Kahn.

The artificial lighting system has been carefully devised to provide zero obstruction to the entry of daylight. A composite chandelier is suspended from parabolic shell roof. This chandelier, in turn, consists of a metallic web, spanning the entire chamber, that supports the individual light fixtures.

Upper levels of the block (that contains the Chamber) contain the visitor and press galleries, as well as communication booths, all of which overlook the Parliament Chamber. The block also contains:

  • at level one, a library;
  • at level three, MPs’ lounges; and
  • at the upper level, party rooms.

The South Plaza

The South Plaza faces the Manik Mia Avenue. It gradually rises to a 20′ height and serves as a beautiful exterior as well as the main entrance (used by members during sessions) to the Parliament Building. It contains:

  • controlling gates;
  • a driveway;
  • a main mechanical plant room;
  • a large car parking space;
  • a telephone exchange;
  • offices of maintenance engineers;
  • equipment stores; and
  • an open plaza with steps and ramps leading directly to the main building.

Presidential Plaza

The Presidential Plaza lies to the North and faces the Lake Road. It functions as an intimate plaza for the MPs and other dignitaries. It contains marble steps, a gallery and an open pavement.
Tourism and accessibility

Although entrance to the Bhaban, the Main Building, is limited to authorized members of Parliament and staff, the Jatiyo Sangshad complex is open to visitors. On the North of complex, across the Lake Road, is Crescent Lake and Zia Uddan (also called Chondrima Uddan). The two complexes together form a major attraction for tourists in Dhaka. The complexes are popular among joggers and skaters of Dhaka. The official Prime Minister’s Residence is on the North West corner of the Mirpur Road and Lake Road crossing and is a five-minute walk from the Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban. The area is one of the higher security zones of Dhaka.

The Complex can be accessed using any of the four roads surrounding it, however, the Manik Mia Avenue and Lake Road are the easiest approaches.

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