In 1964 began designing his own house at Dhanmondi area in Dhaka.
The plan of Muzharul Islam’s own house at Dhanmondi, Dhaka, built in1964-69, was conceived as a free floating reinforced concrete roof slab (parasol) on four columns, under which complex layers of spaces are articulated with exposed brick walls where the walls are completely separated from the roof. Different sizes of rooms with varied heights in this house allow natural ventilation and light creating comfortable interior.
This upright building with sculptural forms created a new progressive and aesthetic symbol for modernist living and established Muzharul Islam as one of the great architects of South Asia.
During the turbulent 1960s, while the two wings of Pakistan was engulfed in ever increasing political turmoil, Muzharul Islam was commissioned with what would become arguably the biggest project of his career: the design of Polytechnic Institutes for the World Bank. However, Muzharul Islam got the commission on the condition that he collaborate with a Western architect. He turned to his Chicago-based friend Stanley Tigerman, who was his classmate at Yale University.
Thus, having already had a major part in bringing Louis Kahn to Bangladesh, Muzharul Islam brought another renowned American architect to Bangladesh for the first time.
In 1966 both friends collaborated together to commence work on the Polytechnic Institutes. By 1978 the pair oversaw the design and development of five institutes spread across different parts of the land: Rangpur and Bogra to the north-west of country, Pabna to the east, Barisal down south, and Sylhet to the north-east.
The Chicago-based architect Stanley Tigerman, Islam's Yale University colleague who collaborated with him in the creation of five polytechnic institutes during the 1960s, views Islam's architecture as part of the same search for a Bengali identity that helped define the ideological foundation on which the new nation of Bangladesh was eventually built.
The Five Polytechnics Institute in Bangladesh helped equip the next generation of Bengalis with the information needed to help them harness their national resources in sustainable ways.
During the 12-year lifecycle of the project, Muzharul Islam and Stanley Tigerman weathered the 1971 revolution in which East Pakistan became the newly formed country of Bangladesh.
The socially conscious Tigerman underwent a still tougher test of his skills and stamina when he went to Bangladesh in the 1960s to help design several polytechnic institutes. That adventure found him coping with everything from dysentery to a revolution that eventually brought down the government. Many years later, Tigerman looked back at his Bangladesh designs and found them seriously flawed. They failed to provide architectural alternatives to existing cultural conditions, he decided. American-style Modernism was not a cure-all for everything.
In 1967 Muzharul Islam was commissioned to design the Master Plan of Jahangirnagar University along with its students’ hostel, Readers Quarters, and Fourth Class Employees, located in Savar, 30 km north-west of Dhaka city. After three years the designs were complete.
In order to harmonize built-form with the hilly nature of the site at the Chittagong University, Islam devised a system of staggering open to sky roof terraces in each floor echoing the slope of the hills. The robust exposed brick walls with similar rectangular openings and staggered form provide the buildings a sense of order and primordial power.
While in the design of Art College and Chittagong University, Muzharul Islam was seeking for strong harmony of built-form and nature, in the design of Jahangirnagar University he opted for contrast. Its master plan was determined by a geometric pattern of tilted squares, triangles and diagonals interrupted by the irregular form of water bodies, vegetation and the undulation of the site. Here he wanted to realise his utopia of an alternate city.
The Jahangir Nagar University, designed in 1969, demonstrate his concerns for a holistic design approach arising out of concerns for landscape and topography, the relation between built and natural environment, climate responsiveness and efficiency of planning. Particularly aware as to the immense responsibility of the architect figure in the larger social structure, Mazharul Islam concentrated as much on the detail design of student's room as he would on an entire block.
The master plan of Jahangir Nagar University is an example of his life long occupation with the urgent need for a harmonious co-existence of buildings, roads, bridges or, for that matter, any man-made objects with the sensitive and delicate natural environment.
The residential, public university was formally launched on 12 January 1970 by the government of Pakistan under the Jahangirnagar Muslim University Ordinance, 1970. Initially it was called "Jahangirnagar Muslim University", and the plan was to operate this university like the world renowned Aligarh Muslim University in India.
Its first Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mafiz Uddin Ahmad (Ph.D in Chemistry, University of Illinois, Chicago) took up office on 24 September 1970. The first group of students, a total of 150, was enrolled in four departments: Economics, Geography, Mathematics and Statistics. Its formal inauguration was delayed until 12 January 1971, when the university was launched by the then Governor of East Pakistan Rear Admiral S. M. Ahsan who was elected as the Chancellor. Until 1973, it operated as a project. In 1973, after the independence of Bangladesh, Jahangirnagar Muslim University was renamed to ‘Jahangirnagar University’ (known as ‘Jahangirnagar Bishobiddaloe’ in Bangla, and by its acronym JU) via the Jahangirnagar University Act.
Today, it is one of the leading universities in the whole of Bangladesh with over 15,000 students, 34 departments and 6 faculties.
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