Architecture Foundation Australia

International Alumni Projects

Projects by the great community of participants on 'oz.e.tecture' events

..... Bangladesh ..... Rafiq Azam .......

Rafiq Azam, Dhaka, Bangladesh : Glenn Murcutt Master Class 2004

[ private house : dense urban : concrete : tropical : courtyard : pond ]

SA Residence, Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Rafiq Azam, Shatotto Architecture, Dhaka

Unfolding Nothingness

Water the most precious, abundant and life subtly woven with it, makes Bangladesh a country of toil and poetry. Bangladesh the largest delta on earth has 52 rivers that carry water from the Himalayas in an intricate pattern to the Bay of Bengal. During Monsoon these rivers inundate two third of the country's land depicting water the major element of the country scape. When the water recedes, it leaves a fine layer of fertile alluvial soil and the entire landscape is transformed into large patches of paddy fields dancing with winds. Lalon, a spiritual folk singer, Sufi and philosopher of this land, said in eighteenth century,

“if there is not one thing inside the body then it is not outside the body either”. Human body has two parts, shell and thinking as soul.

Architecture has similar, shell and Mother Nature as soul.

The building envelope of this three-storey residence is a pure square, constructed of a single material, cast-concrete. The sphere, the universal celestial form, in this case is transformed to its terrestrial expression in the shape of a square.

Considering the socio-economic conditions of Dhaka, architectural vocabulary is kept simple, with traditional spaces like the courtyard, pond,


(steps to water) and ample green to merge together urban and rural typologies in this urban context.

The site is surrounded by multi-storied buildings as on-lookers. An introverted design strategy was hence adopted, placing a water-court as a swimming pond in the middle of the house to ensure privacy.

It is the inter-relationship between form and void which is at the heart of Lalon’s philosophy, the underlying inspiration

for this building. The open quad at the center depicts Nothingness. 

The South and South-East have been designed to bring in cool breeze during the hot, humid summers and the warmth of the sun during the winters. The central water court acts as a natural exhaust system, allowing hot air to escape and making the middle court a cool sanctuary.

A small “dingi” boat waiting by the “ghat”, patch green and light with its silence, the space becomes a natural habitat within a man made dwelling and the layers of understanding to unfold - nothingness. When light caresses the wall, or the water touches the land, or the land pats the green, or the green embraces the breeze or the breeze ushers in.

The destiny is ‘nothingness’ where soul and shell cohabit and purify themselves.

Photography : Daniele Domenicali

Shatotto -



architects thinking locally acting globally


Lindsay Johnston