Architecture For Green Living

Azam Residence Lalbagh, Dhaka (1986-1988)

Sketch by Rafiq Azam

The Lalbagh fort, a historical landmark of Dhaka city, acts as a nucleus of Old Dhaka. This highly dense residential area, was once inhabited by wealthy Hindu merchants. After the partition of India in 1947, this area subsequently developed into a predominantly muslin community. In the winter of 1959, a house was bought from a departing Hindu family by my father. This was an old brick structure with a rear courtyard, standing right on the Atash Khana Lane, Lalbagh,Old Dhaka. This house had a courtyard where, memories of spending many enchanting evenings remained with my family member. This is the place, where they bathed in sunlight in chilly winter mornings, argued on trifling family affairs and where I painted.

In 1981, construction in the western part of the plot began. An architect was hired but the job remained unfinished due to financial constrains. In 1984, after the death of my father and the unfinished house still standing there, the responsibility of re-designing the upper floors was bestowed upon me. While still an architecture student the design thinking began. The desire was to recapture the garden that was there before and bring alive the nostalgia from the window of memories. The courtyard was designed within a new frame of requirements. As the three sides of the house, was already wrapped in dense urban fabric of Old Dhaka, the design took an introvert turn.

A free flowing plan, with minimal use of interior walls, visual interplay of interior versus exterior and the rich quality of soft but filtered light gave a feeling of warmth and love. To bring back the memory of the small back garden that we had before, I designed an extended Boithok Khana (out house), as a continuation of the new living space. A set back from the road for visual and sound privacy, this small green lawn or out house acted as a transitional space between the dense urban exterior and a private family sitting. Bricks from the old house and stepped sitting made it more intimate and nostalgic.