Mazharul Islam's architectural intentions had always been bigger than the problem at hand. More than being merely a practicing architect, he epitomised a larger cultural mission, one that confronted the old duality of tradition and modernity. His oft-repeated reflection: "How do we enter the 21st century?" reveals an unabashed and idealistic stance towards modernity.
Modernity, for Mazharul Islam, was as much a returning as going away. It was a going away from the immediate colonial past in order to return to an "essentialist" condition free from exclusionary religious ideologies, traumatic traditions, propagandist symbolisms, and pretentious iconographies. As much avowed to a Bengali political identity, he would not immediately translate that visually by adopting easy motifs of tradition.
Mazharul Islam's position in this regard was dialogical. Although it was hinged to a specific place, the new position did not falter in engaging in a "world dialogue," that is, in recognising what the philosopher Jarava Lal Mehta described as "the mode of existence of present-day man, who has his sojourn in a region where civilisations, cultures and religions touch each other, where times and places flow together". Mazharul Islam wished to operate within the nexus of a cultural particularness and the humanist idea of "the-world-as-my-village". This twin obligation directed his work ever since his first project.
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