Architects argue that 'space' is the most purest and irreducible substance of architecture; a property that sets it apart from all other artistic practices. Space is also viewed as an apparatus through which we perceive the world. So as the folks residing in this region underwent metamorphosis, their purpose, usage and perception of occupying spaces changed-- forming the basis of how architecture evolved in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has been the home to best known Buddhist Viharas since the Pala Dynasty. Located in Paharpur, Naogaon district, Somapura Mahavihara is the largest Buddhist Vihara in the Indian subcontinent and UNESCO made it a World Heritage Site in 1985. The suffix Pala means 'protector' and the Palas were astute diplomats and military conquerors, hence the temples and monasteries they built were vast and gigantic. Occupying acres of land and surrounded by thick walls as shields, this type of architecture represented their warrior-like mindset-the need to protect and stay protected.
The Mughal Empire was dominated by Sultanate architecture comprising of Muslim inhabitants. Structures such as Shait Gombuj Mosque in Bagerhat, Kusumba Masjid in Naogaon and Lalbagh Fort in Dhaka were constructed. The dominance of Muslims explain why most of these structures are characterized by domes, massive arches and bold clean lines. They emphasized simplicity and utility making these spaces radiate spirituality.
The population of Bengal grew during this time, followed by development of townships and housing. Many mosques and forts such as the Bara Katra were also built. Development of such structures show that there was massive urban and economic expansion during this reign. These spaces were kept practical as compared to the previous ones that revolved around security. Mughal Architecture was about functionality and mobility.
With the arrival on East India Company in Bengal, architecture transitioned. Small, single storied and detached houses were built with wide verandas for colonial administrators in summer retreats. The Bungalow style houses became popular which mimicked British designs. The Curzon Hall with long pillars and vast verandas was built during The British Raj representing the expanse of British elegance and nobility.
As we arrived at a period emerging from the shackles of a 200-year old colonial rule, more focus was implied on nation-building. Clouded by political difficulties and the struggle for Bengali nationalism architectural growth during this time was rather measured. Also, the lack of formal education of architects contributed to this. However, as Bangladesh attained independence there was a rise in Bangladeshi nationalism alongside Western architects intending to participate in local projects. Thus a new phase of architecture evolved. Gradually, formal architecture was being taught at the university and our buildings started bearing drapes of Bangladeshi pride and honor.