Save Muzharul Islam's buildings at Azimpur Govt Quarters

Azimpur Government Quarters is one of the earliest examples of public housing schemes in Bangladesh containing two notable specimens of residential quarters designed by the first Bengali modernist architect, the maestro Muzharul Islam. It's such a tragedy that we are demolishing these extraordinary buildings without paying due respect to the architect or his creation, without proper acknowledgement or recognition.

View from the south-east corner, Building 74, Azimpur (March 2019)
View from the south-east corner, Building 74, Azimpur (March 2019) © Fatiha Polin

The question arises, why should we preserve them? After all, it's just a block in that area! Well, we should remember that it was the beginning of planned housing projects in Bangladesh. The arrangement of rectangular buildings like in other government housing projects may seem rudimentary at present but it is a significant part of our architectural history in the context of Dhaka as well as the history of East Bengal. Only a few buildings of that time-span in the neighbouring countries resemble such examples.

It was such an innovative creation at that time that one of the buildings, Building Number 75, was known as Ajob Bari (the Strange Building) and people used to come to see it out of curiosity! Anonymously, a senior dweller of that building shared her personal experience, mentioning that it was designed basically for a bachelor officer. But she started living there as a newly married woman and stayed there longer than expected as her son became a government employee. Now she has two grandchildren, and all of them are staying in the same house without much hurdle. She agreed that it was much more comfortable when they were just two, but even now it is still liveable.

Muzharul Islam split the space of each unit into sections which helped to fulfil the functional requirements of the residents. Instead of arranging the sleeping, living-cum-dining spaces, kitchen and toilet horizontally in a similar pattern in all the modules, he grouped them vertically and created a duplex in a single building block.


Therefore, the two buildings are rare examples of solving the complexity of public housing in two different manners. They can feed the inquisitive mind of the future generation, ranging from architects to designers to planners to researchers. Also for unfolding the history of the transformation and architecture of Dhaka, these must be preserved as key representatives of modernist buildings in the city from that period of time. Thus, the half-demolished Building Number 74 should be restored and kept intact with proper conservation, and Building Number 75 should be protected from the current onsalught.