Advanced Design Studio: Adjaye
With Kashef Chowdhury of Studio URBANA, Dhaka
More than 78% of Bangladesh's export earnings come from the garment industry which is the single greatest source of foreign currency in Bangladesh. The sector employs around 3.5 million workers, of which around 80 percent are women. The garment sector has a greater potential than any other sector in terms of employment and foreign exchange earnings to reduce poverty and make a contribution to the national economy. However working conditions are poor as Bangladesh's factories do not comply with international labor practices that ensure the social welfare of their employees. As a result, there is a rising fear in Bangladesh that the garments sector may face a decline in demand from global brands if it does not reform its labor practices and start to provide living wages, social services, and educational opportunities such as trade schools and women's centers.
Lutyens' Delhi, Le Corbusier's Chandigarh (with social housing by Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew, and Pierre Jeanneret), and Louis Kahn's National Assembly building in Dhaka will be used as lenses through which we will examine the regions architectural legacy- from late colonialism to modernist examples of post-independence nation building. Students will examine the local urban ecologies of the garment industry districts in Dhaka and propose hybrid building (or campus) typologies that address the needs of an emerging middle class- or at least examine the notion that coupling new factory buildings with housing and social or education programs could perhaps foster more upward mobility for factory workers, especially women. Students will engage in the analysis of a garment district quarter and choose a site within to propose an industrial program paired with a social, educational, and/or housing component. With Corbusier's Chandigarh, and Kahn's Bangladesh as Utopian precedents, this studio will be analogously Utopian but focused on an architecture that is scalable to that of local urban ecologies and the hyper topologies of global capital networks. As opposed to the notion of nation building that drove the post-independence architecture of the 60s and 70s- it is now the demands of the global economy, combined with the rapid urbanization of Bangladesh as workers stream in from the countryside, which calls for a responsive architecture for new worker communities.
Bangladesh has a 50 year legacy of modernist architecture from the forming of the nation in 1971 to present. Kahn's National Assembly was completed in 1974. This and Corbusier's Chandigarh are examples of architects working in another world- projects situated in a geography and context outside of their culture, though both projects are operationally very different. If Corb's Secretariat can be seen as a variation on the Modulor, a Unite dropped into a foreign context as a symbolic catalyst, the architecture of Kahn's National Assembly building is perhaps more mutable and culturally aware of the aesthetic heritage of the region. As opposed to the mimicry of modernist utopian tropes, this studio will engage in the back and forth of research and design, drawing from the layered, complex tectonic palette and spatial typologies of the region, until a responsive architecture to fit the contemporary global culture and economy emerges at both architectural and urban scales.
We will be meeting with a number of garment/ fashion industry people in New York to better understand the full life cycle of garments in terms of how clothing is designed, sourced, manufactured and distributed, and what conditions of labor exist at the origin point of manufacture whether in the U.S. or overseas. It is important to note the impact of contemporary technology and computer aided design and fabrication on the future of garment industries in places like Bangladesh. Non-mechanized garment factories are beginning to feel pressure to modernize their operations as technological advances in garment manufacturing are allowing a significant number
of manufacturing operations to come back to first world nations- this will have a direct impact on labor conditions and the economic factors driving new factory architecture.