Construction challenges in Bangladesh at a time of climate change

A cyclone shelter in Bengal Kuakata Bay. © Kashef Chowdhury

A cyclone shelter in Bengal Kuakata Bay. © Kashef Chowdhury

Archizoom is bringing “Faraway So Close” to Switzerland. This thought-provoking exhibition explores Bangladesh through the architectural universes of the URBANA practice and architect Kashef Chowdhury. After a preview on 23 September 2019, the show will be open to the public between 24 September and 7 December within the Archizoom space in EPFL’s SG building.

“Faraway So Close”, a collection of models, photographs, films and plans, is the first European retrospective dedicated to Bangladeshi architect Kashef Chowdhury, who in 2016 received the prestigious Aga Khan architecture prize for his Friendship Centre on the flood plains of Gaibandha, in northern Bangladesh. An atmospheric installation will immerse the public in his construction process. Chowdhury himself will give a lecture at the exhibition preview on 23 September.

Bangladesh’s extreme complexity

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated regions on earth and its river delta landscape is an area prone to flooding, cyclones and rising sea levels. This presents a major challenge, since buildings need to be designed to withstand these extreme weather conditions. The bungalow typology has a proven track record in tropical climates and is often used to address these issues.

Poetic and pragmatic architecture

Kashef Chowdhury is keenly aware of the collapse of urban regions and cultural heritage due to abrupt climate change in his country, and seeks architectural solutions that benefit society and more specifically the people being pushed to its margins. His modern, pragmatic buildings include a raised village on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, a school in the Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhia, the Gulshan Society Mosque in Dhaka and the Cyclone Shelter in Kuakata. Using earth and bricks as his materials, he strikes a fine balance between functionality and sensuality, with a masterful treatment of light and space.

Faraway So Close

While inspired by Bangladesh’s local context, Chowdhury’s architecture translates globally: it deals with urgent contemporary matters such as the population explosion, climate change, migration and the development of rural potential. His architecture spans East and West, past and present, and raises people’s awareness about many issues that previously seemed remote to them. “The issues facing Bangladeshi architects are gaining new relevance as the rest of the world confronts similar concerns,” concludes Niklaus Graber, the exhibition curator.

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