Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban: The National Parliament Building of Bangladesh

Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban or National Parliament Building is where the Parliament of Bangladesh meets. It is located in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The building was designed by architect Louis Kahn when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan.

The complex is among the largest legislative complexes globally, covering an area of 200 acres (810,000 m2). The National Parliament of Bangladesh was prominently featured in the 2003 film My Architect, which showcases the career and family legacy of its architect, Louis Kahn. According to Robert McCarter, author of Louis I. Kahn, the building is one of the most important of the twentieth century. Countries with Elections in 2024: Dates and Details From Around the Globe

National Parliament Building

Parliament NameJatiya Sangsad Bhaban or National Parliament Building
StatusFunctioning
Architectural styleModern, Monumental
AddressSher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Town or cityDhaka
Country Bangladesh
Construction started1961
Opened1982
CostUS$32 million
OwnerGovernment of Bangladesh (1982-present)
Floor area200 acres (810,000 m2)
Architect(s)Louis Kahn, Muzharul Islam
Seating capacity350

History

Before the first and second Parliaments were finished, they used the Old Sangsad Bhaban, which now serves as the Prime Minister’s Office. Construction on the legislative complex started in October 1964 when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan. It was ordered by Ayub Khan from the capital of West Pakistan, Islamabad. Ayub hoped that building a modern legislative complex would calm the Bengalis.

Jatiya Sangsad was designed by Louis Kahn. The government asked South Asian activist and architect Muzharul Islam for help, and he suggested bringing in the world’s top architects for the project. He first tried to bring Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier, but they were both unavailable at the time. So Islam asked Kahn, his former teacher at Yale, to join the project. Construction on the project stopped during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and finished on 28 January 1982. Louis Kahn passed away when the project was around three-quarters done, and David Wisdom, who worked for Louis Kahn, completed it.

During the government term that started on 28 October 2001, there were plans to build homes for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Some important architects said that this was not part of the original plan by Louis Kahn. Construction began but then stopped, and the problem is still not fixed.

History of use by Parliament

Ten Parliaments have used the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban as the Parliament building:

ParliamentDurationDates
Second2 years 11 months2 April 1979 – 24 March 1982
Third1 year 5 months10 July 1986 – 6 December 1987
Fourth2 years 7 months15 April 1988 – 6 December 1990
Fifth4 years 8 months5 April 1991 – 24 November 1995
Sixth12 days19 March 1996 – 30 March 1996
Seventh5 years14 July 1996 – 13 July 2001
Eighth5 years28 October 2001 – 27 October 2006
Ninth5 years6 January 2009 – 24 January 2014
Tenth5 years14 January 2014 – 7 January 2019
EleventhRunning since 7 January 2019

Architecture and design

Louis Kahn designed the Jatiya Sangsad complex to showcase Bengali culture and heritage while making the best use of space. The building’s exterior is simple, with deep walls and large openings. It includes lawns, a lake, and residences for the Members of Parliament.

The main building is divided into the Main Plaza, South Plaza, and Presidential Plaza. An artificial lake surrounds three sides of the main building, adding to the site’s beauty.

Design philosophy

Kahn’s main design idea focuses on using space effectively and showcasing Bengali heritage and culture. The outer lines are set back by porches with large openings of simple shapes on the outside, which affect the building’s overall look.

In the assembly, I’ve added a light-giving element to the interior of the plan. When you look at a series of columns, you can see that the choice of columns affects how light is distributed. The solid columns outline the spaces of light. Now, imagine the opposite: picture the columns as hollow and much larger, with walls that can emit light. In this scenario, the empty spaces become rooms, and the column itself becomes the source of light. It can have intricate shapes, support spaces, and illuminate them. I aim to develop this element to the point where it becomes a poetic entity with its own beauty, separate from its role in the composition. This way, it becomes similar to the solid column I mentioned earlier as a light provider.

It was not belief, not design, not pattern, but the essence from which an institution could emerge.

In the architect Louis Kahn’s own words: Source Wikipedia

The Bhaban is surrounded by a lake on three sides, extending up to the Members’ hostel, which enhances the beauty of the site and showcases the riverine beauty of Bangladesh. The Parliament building was honored with the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1989.

Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban building

The Bhaban consists of nine blocks. The eight outer blocks are 110 feet tall, while the central octagonal block is 155 feet tall. Each block contains different functional spaces on different levels. They are connected horizontally and vertically by corridors, lifts, stairs, light courts, and circular areas.

The design aims to make the whole structure appear as a single, indivisible unit from the outside, creating the impression of being a single story. The main committee rooms are located on the second level in one of the outer buildings. All parliamentary officials, including Ministers and leaders of some Standing Committees, have offices in the Bhaban. The Parliament Secretariat also has offices in the same building.

Main Plaza

The most important part of the Main Plaza is the Parliament Chamber. It can hold up to 354 members during meetings and has two podiums and two galleries for VIP visitors.

The chamber’s maximum height is 117 feet (36 meters) with a curved shell roof designed to let in daylight. The surrounding walls and octagonal drum allow natural light to enter the chamber, providing an efficient and aesthetically pleasing use of light. A cool chandelier made of a metal web hangs from the curved roof.

The top levels of the block house the visitor and press galleries, communication booths, all with a view of the Parliament Chamber.

  • at the first level, a library;
  • at the third level, MPs’ lounges; and
  • at the top level, party rooms.

South Plaza

The South Plaza faces the Manik Mia Avenue. It gradually rises to a 20′ height and serves as a beautiful exterior as well as the main entrance (used by members during sessions) to the Parliament Building. It contains:

  • Controlling gates
  • Driveway
  • Main mechanical plant room
  • Maintenance engineers’ offices
  • Equipment stores
  • Open plaza with steps and ramps leading to the main building

Presidential Plaza

The Presidential Plaza lies to the North and faces the Lake Road. It functions as an intimate plaza for the MPs and other dignitaries. It contains marble steps, a gallery and an open pavement. Other information

  • Completion date: 1982
  • Function: civic
  • Construction cost: US$32 million

Tourism and accessibility

Although only authorized Parliament members and staff can enter the Main Building (Bhaban), visitors are welcome at the Jatiyo Sangshad complex. The complex, located north of Crescent Lake and Chandrima Uddan, is a popular tourist attraction in Dhaka, especially during national holidays.

Many people also enjoy jogging and skating in the area, as it’s a popular walking route in the mornings and evenings. The Prime Minister’s Residence can be found on the northwest corner of the Mirpur Road and Lake Road crossing, just a five-minute walk from Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban. This area is highly secure in Dhaka.

The Complex can be accessed using any of the four roads surrounding it, however, the Manik Mia Avenue and Lake Road are the easiest approaches.