Nurur Rahman Khan was born and bred in Dhaka, Bangladesh; here’s a taste of
his home city, photographed by Mohammad Tauheed, a TED Senior Fellow, architect, designer and technology consultant.
This wasn’t your regular photoshoot. Tauheed was hampered in his task by the tense political situation. He told TED in an email, “We just faced around six days of
hartal [strike]. Vehicles were torched, crude bombs exploded and around eight people died across the country. In Dhaka there were no cars in the street, only rickshaws and bikes. I was running errands on my bike with a camera for the photos, and a few locations were just a bit too dangerous to cover.” Such tumult is a visceral reminder that democracy is very much a work-in-progress — and our sincere thanks go to both Tauheed and Khan for working with us even as their daily life is upended regularly.
In Dhanmondi, a residential area west of Dhaka’s center, the pace of life slows just a little. Still, architect NR Khan reports that many of the city’s parks are in a state of disrepair. In general, he says, Dhakaites don’t tend to seek much in the way of quietude. “People don’t see a need for personal time.”
The smell of food pervades Dhaka, not least in the oldest parts of the city. Here, and most everywhere, you may find smoky kebabs, plump dalpuris, and other snacks. Dhakaites, says NR Khan, are “big foodies.”
Opened in 1982, the Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban (National Assembly Building) is extraordinary, a colossal floating palace that seems to have equal heft and weightlessness. Dhaka’s modernist jewel, it was the final work by American architect Louis I. Kahn. Bangladeshi architect NR Khan has lectured widely on his near-namesake’s work, at universities including Yale, Columbia and Harvard.
Nurur Rahman Khan’s Dhaka is rooted in the city’s academic life. Beyond the university classrooms he takes delight in adda — Dhakaites discussing, thinking and debating in every setting and at every moment. Conversations, he says, are never about only one thing and in one mood. “You can get hooked on this drug.”
Dhaka may look peaceful from the water. But it’s a messy and chaotic place, a heady mixture of culture, opportunity, and deprivation. Salvador Dali would not have found success in Dhaka, says architect Nurur Rahman Khan: “The city’s already surreal.”
Karail Slum near Gulshan. The proximity of Karail to the upscale Gulshan and Banani area makes it amazingly contrasting in that urban landscape. May be since there’s Gulshan, there’s Karail, they support each other from other side of the lake.
Like other megacities around the world, Dhaka is blighted by heavy traffic. Many residents travel by rickshaw, motorized and not, or by private car. And those with cars often make use of drivers — if you’re to be stuck in traffic, why not work?
The heart of NR Khan’s Dhaka is Ramna, a central district that’s home to some of city’s key institutions, including the University of Dhaka. Other locations in Ramna are steeped in history. In December 1971, Suhrawardy Udyan (formerly the Ramna racecourse) was the scene of Pakistan’s surrender in the Liberation War.
The residents of Dhanmondi are among Dhaka’s most fortunate. “It’s a great area,” says Khan. “People are on their feet, or on rickshaws, doing their shopping.” The district is also home to a concentration of art galleries.
Read more about Nurur Rahman Khan and his life and work in Dhaka. This article was published as part of our “ Questions Worth Asking ” series. This week’s teaser: “ What makes a city feel like home? ”