I remember curling up with a coffee table book in a vacation rental some years back and encountering Louis Kahn’s Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban for the first time and thinking, “That is one of the craziest buildings I have ever seen, maybe even one of the craziest things I have ever seen.” It looked so surreal that I wondered if it was in fact real and not some children’s blocks that someone painted shapes on the sides of and stuck in a puddle. More specifically, the scale of the building was really hard to suss out.
On that particular weekend, I imagine I was not in the mood for reading and did not partake in the accompanying information about the pains that were taken to bring natural light into the building, the way everything emanates from the center, the fascinating choices in materials, and so on. These are things I only recently discovered upon deciding to come to Dhaka. Frankly, I am not in the mood to write about those things now, being that I am on a partial vacation and for fear that my limited knowledge of architecture will diminish any interest you ever had in reading this blog. But other people, who know much more about architecture than yours truly have written loads about this building. Archituul, a site on which I have lost countless hours, has a really nice write up.
So, an expert I am certainly not, but an appreciator, I most certainly am. In fact, I often try and tour buildings that confuse and delight me whenever I travel. And this one delights. It is really something special. I am not the only person who seeks out these special buildings. While I thought that on a Sunday morning in September I would be the only person interested in an interior tour of Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, lo and behold, three Korean architecture students tumbled into the tour manager’s tiny office in the basement of the building. I gasped as one of the students pulled out a red fountain pen identical to the one I had just used to fill out the vast amount of paperwork needed to tour the building. And then, HE PULLED OUT AN IDENTICAL NOTEBOOK. SAME NOTEBOOK. SAME ARTSY GERMAN FOUNTAIN PEN!
The tour guide was very specific about what we could and could not photograph, so there are big chunks missing from my account here (namely the room where the Parliament actually meets which is just stunning). If you find yourself in Dhaka or going there, send me a note and I would be glad to share my inroad to this truly remarkable experience. In other words: I know a guy.