Nationalism and architecture in postcolonial Bangladesh, 1947-1971
Reza, Mohona Tahsin
Buildings built between 1947 and 1971 played an important role to seek national identity during the postcolonial period of Bangladesh when the country was known as East Pakistan and was unified with West Pakistan. In a decolonised setting of rebuilding one nation with two halves of Pakistan, this thesis will unravel the connections between geopolitical tensions, socio-economic concerns, and cultural and religious perplexities through an investigation of a series of governmental and institutional buildings designed by local and internationally renowned architects. The analysis examines the relationship between nationalism and architecture through a study of power and design in the postcolonial context of East Pakistan. The analysis of the buildings includes distinct and at times contradictory interpretations. Architecture of East Pakistan not only depicts spatial transformation but also represents a narrative of awakening from supremacy. In an attempt to gain control in the Eastern part, the ruling Government of Pakistan sought to appease the subaltern populace by developing the province. Alongside architectural readings, this is demonstrated through the studies of nationalism, governmental development schemes, ample outsourced funding and both foreign and local architects who executed their diversified designs within a postcolonial network. Although these buildings introduced an architectural shift in the region, nevertheless, the transitions from colonial to postcolonial architecture were overshadowed by the neo-colonial subjugation of Pakistani authority. The two key concepts – nationalism and architecture serve both as a critical lens for historiography as well as a framework for detailed analysis of the case studies. The key ideas are divided into sections and sub-sections of themes and tropes that form a deeper meaning of diverse ideas incorporated in this thesis related to culture, tradition, ethnicity, religion and politics. The research method is informed by existing literature, archival materials, photographs and architectural drawings in which these buildings have been identified typically either Regional or Tropical architecture. This research challenges the traditional ideas arguing for a rational and contextual architecture by connecting critical understanding of the concepts of multi-layered and changing interpretations of nationalism. This occurs through a historiographic analysis of the case studies combined with an intricated architectural reading of the building designs from three perspectives: how it relates to the multi-layered nationalism and religious dogmatism; to what extent cultural incorporation was applied in the design and construction techniques; and the relationship between the client and the architect(s) for the individual projects. By analysing the governmental and institutional buildings of East Pakistan within a broader historical and global context, this thesis explores how nationalism had altered meaning to seek ethnic and religious identity and how the political events, global funding and design implications interpret these spaces. This research not only unlocks a wider possibility for new research in the history of Bangladeshi architecture but also highlights the formations of twentieth century postcolonial countries and the emergence of nation-states through architecture.