Dhaka-based Rafiq Azam of Shatotto received the ‘Residential Building of the Year Award’ (multiple occupancy), for SA Residence project, at the 2012 Emirates Glass LEAF Awards, which took place during this year’s London Design Festival.
The human form has two parts – body as the shell and thoughts as the soul. Architecture is similar, with the building envelope as the shell and nature as the soul.
The building envelope of this three-storey contemporary Bangladesh residence is a pure square, constructed of a single material, cast-concrete. The sphere, the universal celestial form, in this case is transformed to its terrestrial expression in the shape of a square.
Considering the socio-economic conditions of Dhaka, the architectural vocabulary is kept simple, with traditional spaces like the courtyard, pond, ghat (steps to water) and ample green to merge together urban and rural typologies in this urban context.
Multistory buildings surround the site, so an introverted design strategy was adopted, placing a water-court as a swimming pool in the middle of the house to ensure privacy. It is the interrelationship between form and void which is at the heart of 18th-century mystic minstrel Lalon’s philosophy: “If one thing is not there inside the body, then it is not outside the body either,” which was the underlying inspiration for this building. The open quad at the centre depicts nothingness.
The south and southeast faces have been designed to bring in cool breeze during the hot, humid summer and the warmth of the sun during the winter. The central water court acts as a natural exhaust system, allowing hot air to escape and making the middle court a cool sanctuary.
A small boat waits by the ghat , green and light with its silence – and the space becomes a natural habitat within a man-made dwelling, with layers of understanding to unfold nothingness.