Shatotto: Meghna residence in Bangladesh

15-09-2010
Physical distances may have been reduced by modern forms of transport, but it is still hard for westerners to understand the rituals and lifestyles of the people if Southeast Asia. The Meghna home in Dhaka is a home set in a place that still amazes us, an example of how design can respond to Bangladeshi rituals and lifestyles.

The Meghna home, designed for a family in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is based on the essential relationship between built element, human artefact and natural element. This interweave does not occur when the building is constructed, as in the European modus operandi, but in the architect’s mind: and in fact, as we will see at the end of this article, the owners of the home were amazed by the “brutalist” appearance of the naked house, without the vegetation that would later take possession of the home.
The structure is made of bare cement panels, intentionally left unfinished, without any decoration that the choice of smaller wooden formworks, for example, might impress. The concrete’s “natural” state is only bridled by the little bricks covering some of the outer walls, with an imperfect surface and bright red colour in continuity with the “unfinished” look. All imprecise encounters between materials are an invitation to the action of time and nature, which, originally absent, gradually insinuate themselves into the building and complete it with their presence.
The dominant presence of greenery is a specific landscaping choice, taking into consideration that, according to the architects, Dhaka is one of the world’s most densely populated cities, where only 5% of the city’s territory is set aside for greenery, and where traditional single-storey homes with gardens are rapidly being replaced by multi-storey bare concrete housing blocks. Shatotto’s project is clearly intended as a return to the historic type of home, reinterpreting the multi-level building as a container for built and natural elements, cement and gardens, on multiple levels . The home, organised on five levels above ground, each with its own specific functions (utilities on the ground floor and in the basement, living areas and areas open to visitors on the first floor, bedrooms, study and leisure areas on the second floor, and a swimming pool, gym and sauna on the fourth floor) has a “fluid” layout marked by an alternation of bodies of water – little pools or big swimming pools – with terraces, gardens and hollow spaces, favoured by its horseshoe shape, in which the continuity of routes is enriched by the discontinuity of views. This layout centring around the green courtyard also serves to promote the passage of breezes from the east, creating proper natural ventilation thanks to the many openings, windows and terraces on each floor.
Laden with stimuli, the home culminates in the tranquillity of the big swimming pool, half covered and half open, from which we can see the city with all its contradictions whilewalking down the ghat to immerse ourselves in the water.
The client, Mr. Kamal, tells us how he lives in it:

“The use of exposed concrete both inside and outside in major walls along with exposed brick initially made my family a bit sceptical and uncomfortable in terms of its mat and raw look of the house. But my architect explained to us the appropriateness of the approach considering the ease of maintenance and the climate of Bangladesh. He also tried hard to make us imagine the house transforming gradually with the growing green that he kept in different levels.

Now after more than a year living in this house, I can see what he meant. Now I enjoy the privacy, movement of air and light, sound of water and obviously the warily messy bouncing green. If I need to be very specific then I will talk about the fourth level music room (gosha ghar) surrounded by the terraces and the gardens attached to the upper level swimming pool, large tree area and the deck by an open sky stair. I like the fluidity. After my daylong exertion when I come back home and sit relaxed or stroll on this calm and quiet area in the midst of chaotic and noisy Dhaka, I become nostalgic to my early days in the village and I love it.”

by Mara Corradi
 
Design: Shatotto
Project head: Rafiq Azam
Associate architect: Roushn Ul Islam
Assistant: Akter Hossen
Client: Privato
Location: Dhanmondi, Dhaka (Bangladesh)
Structural design: Shamsul Alam and Assaduzzaman
Landscape design: Rafiq Azam
Gross useful surface area: 1860 m2
Lot size: 1300 m2
Design: 2003-2005
Completion of work: 2005
Rough bare cement structure and glass facades
Red brick outer cladding
Carrara marble and Burmese mahogany flooring
Lighting: Massive
Furniture: Moda Casa
Photographs: Rafiq Azam and Hassan Saifuddin Chandan