Op-Ed

Is parliament building is safe from earthquake risk?
A K M Mayeedul Islam MP
17 May,2015

Louis I Kahn, famous American Architect, based in Philadelphia, USA, designed Sangsad Bhaban. This is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world and an oasis of calm in our capital Dhaka. Author Robert McCarter described Sangsad Bhaban as one of the 20th century’s most significant buildings. Its inauguration took place on January 28, 1982. It is sad to say that for reasons unknown, the complete set of original drawings and details of this complex is still held by Kahn’s organisation (although Louis Kahn expired in 1974). The prime minister had ordered the procurement of them for proper upkeep of this monumental legislative building. The chamber has a maximum height of 117 feet and originally with a parabolic shell roof at its top. The architect’s idea is a splendid feature: a clear ‘story’ above the parabolic shell that lets in daylight, which reflects from surrounding walls into the parliament chamber, demonstrating the unique combination of architecture with light.

But the sad reality is that the original idea of Kahn is totally disregarded. Instead, several canoid shells in an inverted situation are constructed on the canopy which might have satisfied Kahn’s lighting philosophy. In my view, selecting of concrete construction material has grossly violated the safety of the legislators in case of an earthquake of 6.4 on the Richter scale. Falling concrete chunks from the canopy had been noted in the past.

As observed by seismic experts, Bangladesh is already in the range of seismic disaster. So, I suggest that the design of the canopy structure should be reviewed as early as possible by a seismic expert. If needed, simulated model testing could be included.

In the past, palm trees dominated the Sangsad Bhaban environment. At a later stage, the function of the trees is eliminated and they were replaced with different types of trees. The lakes remained a strong feature of the environment. The maintenance of the green and the water of the lake is grossly neglected. This is essential that the green grass should be mowed to certain standard and clean water be maintained to a level of international standard.

The whole area needs to be properly planned because now, the parliament has larger areas than the original plan did. Authorities may contact the UNDP or any other donor that may help us to prepare a master plan for the area.

To ensure the safety of the parliament building, appropriate fencing of the boundary may be constructed around the periphery. Not long ago, I observed some activity to construct a boundary wall, which stopped abruptly. It is absolutely necessary to have a strong and suitable boundary fencing of the parliament without disturbing the aesthetic aspects. Everywhere in the world parliaments are well-protected, well-guarded and well-maintained.

It is learnt that Bangladesh stands at several tectonic junctures. Its plate motions and high rate of strain accumulation make it vulnerable to disaster even in an earthquake of the 6.8 magnitude.

In view of the situation that has arisen out of the earthquake in Nepal, all patriotic and conscious citizens desire that the government may take, along with others, serious appropriate steps for the upkeep and maintenance of Sangsad Bhaban which has enriched the architectural heritage of Bangladesh.


The writer is now a Member of Parliament (MP) and  is a former minister.