Kashef Chowdury/Urbana

His projects show research on materials, attention for the climate, and the favouring of artistic content.

Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1970 and has a degree in architecture from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. His work experiments with the expressive and technological potential of modernism in an era and a land that give it new meaning. His projects with Urbana, founded in Dhaka in 1995, show research on materials, attention for the climate, and the favouring of artistic content, something that is also found in his parallel practice of photography.

The full presence of local elements in architectural figuration by Urbana gives them nuances of meaning significantly different from the ones perceived in otherwise similar visual languages developed by architects from the preceding modern generation. The mosque for the Gulshan Society in Dhaka (2017) has similarities to the vibrant and dreamy gridded patterns designed by Italians architects such as Franco Purini or Antonio Monestiroli, with the substantial difference that the symbolism and forms of Urbana correspond to and are rooted in cultural and social sensibilities, instead of being a search for a radical quality.

The principle is present too in the cyclone shelter in Kuakata (2018) originally designed after Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh in 2007. Standing in cultivated fields, this is an architectural monument that looks like a primitive Guggenheim Museum. It is a shelter from the weather, almost an extrusion of the ones scattered throughout Europe during World War II. It mainly functions as a school and outpatient clinic, but it can protect 1,000 people and their herds, not from cannon balls, but from cyclonic winds and high tides. Furniture and machinery can be moved easily to a storage area.

Other significant work by Urbana follows these lines, such as the hospital in Satkhira (2018), which rises in a prevalently rural region hit by a cyclone a few years ago. All are projects that remind us how sustainable ethics can be pursued in an aesthetic key over and above their technical terms.

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