Introduction to the Institute and the Programs

Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements: Prologue
A major part of the furious urban and infrastructural expansion in Bangladesh is unplanned, and much of it is a threat to the future of our environment and wellbeing. The tremendous speed and pressure of urbanisation are affecting our villages, small towns and megacities alike. To cope with this change and to be prepared for rapid urbanisation and climate change, we need a group of people who are educated and trained about urban futures, landscape arrangements and global environmental phenomena. Bangladesh needs a locally established, global institute to produce a new group of thinkers who can take on the responsibility of researching and designing to shape the environmental future of the country. Bengal Institute is working towards developing thinkers and practitioners with a new ‘design intelligence,’ who are trained by an international lineup of faculty. The Institute is also initiating design and research activities to study existing situations, and produce ideas about future planning of our cities, landscapes and settlements.

The Chairman of Bengal Foundation, Abul Khair, believes in the future prospects of Bangladesh, and that the design of landscapes and cities will bring about an effective change in realizing those prospects. In alignment with the vision of Muzharul Islam, the pioneer modern architect of Bangladesh, Bengal Institute is a beginning effort towards the idea of designing and planning every inch of the country.

Kazi Khaleed Ashraf, Director General of the Institute, explains:
“Dhaka is the toughest city in the world. Bangladesh is symptomatic of the gravest environmental challenges.” It is in the neighbourhood of such pronouncements that we find necessary to rethink the scope of environmental design, and its pedagogy and practices.
“With its aquatic-geological formation – in flux – and projected consequences of environmental changes, the organization of land, water and settlements takes on an urgency that is unique to Bangladesh. Settlements patterns, architectural types, and socio-economic life-world, that are dynamically interconnected, confront new conditions raised by accelerated economic, environmental and social transformations.
“In such anxious times, the architectural agenda needs to go beyond problem-solving and form creation. At the Bengal Institute, we think that the architectural task should extend its sights to the intellectual, ethical and creative issues facing the futures of human habitats. In this regard, a new “architectural intelligence” is needed that is more about “place-form” rather than spectacular objects. The question of systemic and integrated “landscapes,” whether as habitats or place-forms, agricultural fabrics, or natural wetlands, should be at the core of this new approach. Developing this design intelligence requires a new kind of knowledge base, training and orientation that will uncover the original intimacy between architecture, habitation and landscape.
“Bengal Institute promises unique learning programs by bringing outstanding thinkers and practitioners to a common stage in Dhaka. Programs will offer opportunities to both fresh and established professionals, and young faculty, in developing their interests and imaginations, as well as their obligations to the new environmental task.”