Thursday, January 31, 2008


We are just back from Bangladesh – a country that is crushingly poor but rich in cultural audacity. A compelling example is the  Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, Bangladesh’s General Assembly Building in the capital city Dhaka designed by the American architect Louis Kahn. Generally regarded as Kahn’s masterpiece and one of the 20th century’s greatest buildings, its construction started in 1961. Just three years later, Sir Basil Spence sketched out his design for the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings. Wellington’s Beehive was completed in 1981, one year before the completion of Kahn’s building in Bangladesh. There is some irony in the fact that struggling Bangladesh commissioned the masterpiece of a great architect at the same time as New Zealand negotiated its own uninspired effort by a modest talent. The comparison with the snubbing of Frank Gehry’s participation in the design of Te Papa is irresistible.

Images: top and bottom left Louis Kahn in Dhaka. Bottom right Sir Basil Spence in Wellington