From the Collection: 1960–1969

Louis I. Kahn. Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh (Study for National Assembly Building). 1962–1983

Cardboard, 14 1/2 × 89 × 49" (36.8 × 226.1 × 124.5 cm). Gift of the architect. © 2023 Estate of Louis I. Kahn

Martino Stierli: This is a large-scale cardboard model of the National Assembly Hall in Dhaka, Bangladesh, by the American architect Louis Kahn. It was produced for a retro-spective that was shown here at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966.

The history of this project dates back to the year 1962. That was a time Pakistan still consisted of two geographical parts: West Pakistan, which is today's Pakistan; and East Pakistan, which is today's Bangladesh. In an attempt to represent both parts of the country better, it was decided that there would be a new parliament building in East Pa-kistan.

Being a building for a national parliament, it's a building of highly representative and monumental character. Kahn tried to accommodate this significance for national repre-sentation through a construction based on archetypal geometric forms. You can see in the model squares, circles, triangles... It is situated in an artificial lake and it has a very fortress-like appearance. You have to access it over a ramp, which further accentuates this dimension.

Louis Kahn uses very few building materials. The building is basically characterized by poured-on-site concrete, which speaks through its roughness and directness. But what makes the building also very, very significant is how Louis Kahn masters the light. Light is actually one of the main materials of this building, one could say. It's a very complex ge-ometry that captures the exterior light and channels it into big spaces. And standing in-side these spaces and looking how the light changes throughout the day is a truly amaz-ing experience.

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