To Live Is To Be Slowly Born: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA's Contribution to the 2016 Venice Biennale

As part of ArchDaily's coverage of the 2016 Venice Biennale, we are presenting a series of articles written by the curators of the exhibitions and installations on show.

The title relates to the processes of architecture, which can be slow to come to fruition and therefore one also refers to architecture and patience, and to the meaningful sustained existence of buildings in their fragile environments.

The installation is a glass labyrinth, which one crosses to reach an internal landscape. The glass is clear – therefore it is an alternate take on the architectural manifestation of the 'labyrinth': an age-old space of intrigue and discovery. It refers to the idea that although one is sure of one’s intentions - has a clear vision - the path to achieving that may not be straightforward but rather quite 'labyrinthine', in the economies and climatic zones that the architect operates in. That is, one can see clearly but cannot progress easily.

To Live Is To Be Slowly Born: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA's Contribution to the 2016 Venice Biennale - More Images+ 9

© Laurian Ghinitoiu

As one passes through the labyrinth one encounters terracotta tiles with etchings of historic sites and buildings – a call from deep recesses of memory.

© Laurian Ghinitoiu

In the internalized space are four groups of ‘plants’ – referring again to the patience and perseverance that is required of the architect and the slow raising of buildings much like plants growing from a seed. Three of the four projects on display are directly related to natural disasters and climate change. 

© Laurian Ghinitoiu

1. Raised Settlements - to protect an entire settlement rather than individual houses from catastrophic nature of floods in remote northern Bangladesh.

2. Cyclone Shelter - In the south, close to the Bay of Bengal. To provide shelter and protection to people in cyclone prone areas where, during cyclones, tidal surges can reach heights of 20 feet or more and wind speeds in excess of 230 km/h.

3. Friendship Centre - a meeting and training Centre constructed in a flood zone with an inexpensive but lost solution to protect from flood: a mini-embankment around the project built on low land. This facility is used for health, education, social justice and other programs for some of the poorest of the poor living in remote inaccessible areas in the Jamuna-Brahmaputra river network. With restricted budget, the architect could only give them the luxury of light and shadows.

4. Satkhira Hospital - a low cost 80-bed full function hospital in the remote south, maximizing natural ventilation and rainwater harvest.

© Laurian Ghinitoiu

All these projects are with one client: the non-government development organization 'Friendship'. Projects span over the past 10 years, two without fee, all out of tight budgets, using local materials and workmen. Without innovating (Raised Settlements), re-imagining (Friendship Centre, Hospital) and re-casting (Cyclone Shelter) through architectural solutions, these buildings and projects would not serve their function nor ever see the light of day considering their difficult birth.

© Laurian Ghinitoiu

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Cite: Kashef Chowdhury. "To Live Is To Be Slowly Born: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA's Contribution to the 2016 Venice Biennale" 04 Jul 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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