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The Financial Express

From Nazma Anwar to Merina Tabassum: Female architects of Bangladesh breaking stereotypes

| Updated: January 02, 2023 16:10:19


From Nazma Anwar to Merina Tabassum: Female architects of Bangladesh breaking stereotypes

Like almost every other engineering sector, architecture has always been mostly male-dominated. Considering the socio-cultural scenario of Bangladesh, it has always been a battle against the social norms to make a mark in history. 

However, some female architects have defied all odds and broken the glass ceiling to pursue a successful career in architecture while winning prestigious awards representing Bangladesh at international levels. They have earned a name and fame for Bangladesh in various places worldwide through their great works.

Marina Tabassum is one of the pioneers in the history of Bangladeshi female architects. In 2016, she made history by winning the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the design of the Bait-ur-Rouf Mosque in Dhaka. 

Inspiring other females to pursue the path of architecture, Marina went ahead to receive remarkable feats at the international level. Belonging to a country where most women have not even entered a mosque in their lifetime, she designed it. 

The unique part of her design was domes in a single-storey terracotta brick structure which is suffused with light and remains cool even in the hottest summer weather of Bangladesh. 

She won one of the most prestigious international awards for her inquisitive design. Before starting to work on this project, Marina had never set foot in a mosque. 

However, after taking up the project, she visited hundreds of mosques to learn about their design and internal structure before starting to work on the actual design for the project and presenting an inspirational place with sophisticated touch for the people seeking peace from spirituality. 

The 54-year-old architect, who emerged as one of Bangladesh's most successful and inspiring architects, has noted that she never let her gender define her career choices and path. She has always thought of herself as a professional who is devoted to the works of architecture and would love to contribute to the history of architecture by creating masterpiece designs, thus, earning a name and fame for Bangladesh. 

In the list of inspiring female architects, one of the nation's very first females in the engineering sector is architect Nazma Anwar. 

Nazma Anwar is among the three pioneering female students of the Faculty of Architecture, BUET, which was established in 1962. 

Her glorified career in architecture began with the legendary architect Muzharul Islam. Later she worked on the biggest project as the project architect for Bangladesh Agricultural University. There she was in charge of supervising the masterplan for the Bangladesh Agricultural University, which world-renowned architect Paul Rudolph designed. 

Nazma was inspired to study architecture during her childhood as her father was a civil engineer. She was introduced to blueprints and drawings from her home throughout her childhood. 

As a female, she never let gender inequality refrain her from pursuing what she loved. The most intense project of her life was when she served as the project architect for the project of Bangladesh Agricultural University. It was challenging as the design was intricate, and she was the only project engineer working on it as the supervisor. 

Nazma also designed the Sultana Razia Hall. As one of the very first female architects, Nazma never faced any discrimination for being a woman and had a friendly work environment. She also received positive responses from her family members regarding work. 

She confronted all the challenges while working as an architect rather than a woman. Nazma Anwar went ahead to inspire a large number of girls to pursue what they wanted to do. 

Architecture is an extremely male-dominated field, and the names like Marina Tabassum and Nazma Anwar have broken so many stereotypes and misconceptions that women cannot shine in engineering. 

As Marina Tabassum thinks, we only need to stop biasing certain professions towards a certain gender and treat everyone like professionals. Only then will society be able to thrive beautifully. 

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