Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban is the National Assembly Building of Bangladesh, located in the capital Dhaka. It was created by architect Louis Kahn and is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world. It houses all parliamentary activities of Bangladesh.
First, Muzharul Islam was given to design Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban by the government. But, Islam brought his teacher Louis Kahn into the project to do a significant work for future generation. Muzharul Islam assisted Kahn at the project. According to Robert McCarter, author of Louis I. Kahn, it "is one of the twentieth century's greatest architectural monuments, and is without question Kahn's magnum opus."
The architect drew upon and assimilated both the vernacular and monumental archetypes of the region, and abstracted and transformed, to a degree of utter purity, lasting architectural ideas from many eras and civilisations. The core of the composition is the assembly chamber, a 300-seat, 30-meters high, domed amphitheatre and the library. These spaces alternate among eight "light and air courts" and a restaurant, as well as entrances to the garden and mosque. Built of rough-shuttered, poured-in-place concrete, the walls are inlaid with bands of white marble. The jury noted that the architect has produced a building that "while universal in its sources of forms, aesthetics, and technologies, could be in no other place."
Louis Kahn designed the entire Jatiyo Sangsad complex, which includes lawns, lake and residences for the Members of the Parliament.
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..."
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 main building (the Bhaban) is divided into three parts:
- The Main Plaza
- South Plaza
- Presidential Plaza
The main building is at the center of the complex. The outer parts of the complex include the MP hostel. An intricately designed lake surrounds the main building.
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 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 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.
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.