Perhaps today, in remembering architect Muzharul Islam, the one thing that stands out the most, is his tremendous sense of “duty”, since that is what we see lacking in most of the work that populates our cities.
We today in our euphoria to build “attractive buildings “ have succumbed to the lure of the “image” the “façade” the “form”, without seriously thinking about what is the purpose of our architecture and to what great end are we heading to with our work.
Muzharul Islam never said “I wanted” in describing his work, he always said “what should be done”. This position is a total shift from the inflated “architect ego” that we are so fond of projecting. To me this seems like the fundamental core from which his profound thoughts on architecture stems from, a sense of “duty” and an architectural value system, that is uncompromised by any pressure or self propagation. Today most architects are attracted to the idea of “fame” rather than responsibility. Presentations, awards, publications, and a “busy practice”. Media, and even Universities find it easier to work with the idea of “famous” architect or “upcoming architect”. But till today we have not had a publication with which is about critical analysis, architectural criticism, and thoughts about architectural direction both in the profession and academia. In the absence of criticism and any real sense of “duty” what we have today students” borrowing” forms and seducing teachers with presentations, and architects often compromising the program and the need of the users for their own propaganda in the form of form façade and architectural rhetoric.
Architects in our cities today are busy in putting up their billboards in the form of projects, picturesque and selfish. Very few are even attempting to struggle with the idea of how to look at our cities, its people, the socio-economic context that we live in,and the right kind of architecture that needs to follow. The other problem that seems to have arisen is that architects loosely throwing around words like “green” and “sustainable” and “ecological” and “culture” while their work does not reflect responsibility of vision but rather shows that all these words have now become the new self marketing phrases.
Muzharul Islam never needed to talk about his work, to publish his work or promote himself in anyway. He did not try to establish a separate architectural philosophy, he had a philosophy of life and his work stemmed from that. He looked at every work with a tremendous sense of responsibility to the client, the project, his own sense of duty, and to architecture itself. He spoke with his work, and in his work he left behind extremely articulated thoughts and profound vision of how to work in our cities , our society and in our economy. His work is void of showmanship, pseudo intellectuality, and superfluous imagery, they are profound , timeless masterpieces, and of architectural quality that has not been equaled by anyone in this country till date. Just because most of his work due to neglect looks rundown, we will only demonstrate our shallowness if we think that any of the new “attractive” work that surround us is anywhere near to any of his work. His Patriotism surpasses his own self by so far that he has only thought of how to take the architecture of this country forward and what should be the right kind of thought in architecture for the people of this country. Site, climate, material, technology, heritage, culture , continuity, modernity, economy, way of life, philosophy , all seems to find its place in his work effortlessly without him using any of them to promote his work. If we do not start to look at our work with sincerity and with a sense of duty, our work will only be like architectural “images” that are selfish and weak.
Architect Muzharul Islam spoke of “truthfulness”, to be true when we work, not to thing of personal gain but to perform our duty to the client the city the country. He told us to think, to know, to speak up against what is wrong, and to do what is right no matter how hard it is.Today if we embark on the journey of “truth” we will only then see the greatness of his work and also be able to correct ourselves in a time when its “smart” to “promote” oneself.
If we are to remember him today let us remember what he expected of us and the sacrifices he made to see a profession of quality, competence, sincerity and honesty, and his struggle to establish architecture as a profession of dignity and nobility.
In his own words “One has to be creative. One has to love his own land, it’s people and it’s culture and think profoundly about these. The love of one’s own land is the eternal source of creative power, which in turn makes a proper architect”