Bangladesh receives parliament building's original design by Louis Kahn

Bangladesh has received a copy of the parliament building's original design, prepared by the famous American architect Louis I Kahn, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Published : 1 Dec 2016, 01:28 PM
Updated : 1 Dec 2016, 06:34 PM

Kahn designed the structure in the early 1960s, when the regime of Pakistan’s first military ruler, General Ayub Khan, decided that Dhaka would be the Second Capital of what was yet a united Pakistan. Following Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971, the parliament building was transformed into the country’s Jatiya Sangsad.

The copy of the design arrived at Dhaka's Shahjalal International Airport in 41 boxes on Thursday, Parliament Secretariat Additional Secretary AYM Golam Kibria told

"We got the designs in the evening. Now we will hand them over to the Speaker," he said.

The Department of Architecture of the government contacted Kahn's firm, David Wisdom and Associates, after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked in 2014 that the original design of Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban or National Parliament Building be brought to Bangladesh.

The government then contacted the University of Pennsylvania, which had stored the design in its archive.

In January, Housing and Public Works Minister Mosharraf Hossain told Parliament that the US had sent the drawing inventory list of the parliament building.

In October, the minister said the graves in parliament area would be relocated once the original design arrived.

The remains of late president Abdus Sattar, former prime minister Ataur Rahman Khan, former minister Mashiur Rahman Jadu Mia, late writer-journalist Abul Mansur Ahmed and Pakistan National Assembly speaker Tamizuddin Khan are interred in a graveyard at the west-southern boundary of the parliament complex.

Among the graves are those of Khan A Sabur and Shah Azizur Rahman, both of whom collaborated with the Yahya Khan junta and opposed Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971.

BNP founder and late president Ziaur Rahman's grave is also in the parliament complex beside Crescent Lake.

The BNP has warned against any move to shift the grave, which was dug in 1981 at Chandrima Udyan to house the remains of the military ruler by breaching the building's original plan after his assassination.

During the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami coalition government's tenure, two houses for the speaker and deputy speaker were constructed, which was a breach of the main design and was in defiance of the High Court's order. A case over the issue is in the trial process.

The move to bring the design back was initiated recently following criticism over the construction of a security fence around the parliament complex.

At a meeting with the Public Works Department, the Department of Architecture and Parliament's security wing, the prime minister had asked about the original design of the complex.

It was then that officials realised that 'some parts' of the design were missing.

A delegation of the Parliament Secretariat visited the US to discuss the matter with the University of Pennsylvania.

Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury had earlier told that around 8,000 designs and documents of the parliament building and the surrounding areas were in the university's archives. Bangladesh needed 853 of them, she said.

The Department of Architecture finalised a list of the designs and the government paid $3,500 for each design to be checked.

The Parliament Secretariat did not have the money and so Sheikh Hasina ordered a special allocation for the purpose.

Mazharul Islam was appointed architect of the building when the plan to construct it was initiated in 1961. On the basis of the reference he had placed, Kahn was appointed chief architect of the complex. The parliament complex was formally inaugurated on Jan 28, 1982.

Kahn came to Bangladesh several times after the emergence of Bangladesh but could not hand over 'some plans' related to the main design. The government too did not show any interest in procuring them later on.  

On June 2, 2013, the Leader of the House in Parliament, Sheikh Hasina declared that nothing that went against Kahn's main design should be done to the building. She asked officials to consult experts regarding the matter.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher