Bangladesh, which has been stigmatised in many respects as a peripheral region, has hardly been present on the global architectural map. However, this is likely to change in the near future, because of the work of Bangladeshi architect and founder of URBANA, Kashef Chowdhury.
Kashef Chowdhury's buildings – such as his storm-proof school or island-shaped village near the Bramaputra River – seem to have emerged directly from the local context of Bangladesh. His work has universal appeal, spanning space and time from east to west, from the past to the present. His implementation of light, space and materiality in his work is powerful.
URBANA's works are not only spatially and architecturally extraordinary in their immediacy, they also bear witness to the high social relevance. They thoughtfully address grave issues such as population density, climate change, migration etc.
Bangladesh's urban centres, such as Dhaka and Chattogram, are rapidly expanding under the pressures of rural exodus. Kashef Chowdhury wants to find new strategies that offer the rural population a sense of security and identity. He is aware that improvement of rural living conditions can halt the seemingly unstoppable flow of rural emigration, and with it, the collapse of urban regions. Bangladesh's river delta landscape is an area prone to flooding, cyclones, and rising sea levels. In this context, URBANA's buildings reveal a permanence based on clear geometries, local materials, and vernacular building methods.
With the first comprehensive European exhibition, the Aedes Architecture Forum presents the work of Kashef Chowdhury. He received the prestigious Aga Khan Award in 2016, for the Friendship Centre on the flood plains of Gaibandha in northern Bangladesh. With projects such as the Gulshan Society Mosque in Dhaka and the Cyclone Shelter in Kuakata, he gained widespread international acclaim. Kashef Chowdhury's buildings are carefully arranged in areas marked by extreme climatic conditions. At the same time they are combined with local building techniques and material. Hosted in Berlin, the exhibition documents more than a dozen buildings and projects by means of models, photographs, film footage, and plans, that provides a kaleidoscopic view of the studio's design and construction processes. It invites visitors on a journey to Bangladesh and the architectural worlds of URBANA. The exhibition, curated by Niklaus Graber and Andreas Ruby, opened on January 25 and will continue till March 6.