Prof. M. Tabassum
Professor of Architectural Design for Climate Adaptation
Department of Architecture
Living and working in Bangladesh, “Architectural Design for Climate Adaptation” is almost more of a necessity than a choice for Marina Tabassum. She brings her personal style to it, combining knowledge of local climate, materials history, culture and community.
Marina Tabassum has always been outspoken about the commodification of architecture. “The 1990s were an era when architecture became part of consumerist culture. With real estate developers taking over, building became more about commercial value than architectural and social values.” Studying architecture at the Bangladesh University of Engineering, she had been taught according to a Western curriculum. “It was very much about European history and the modernist legacy. I felt that a local language of architecture was lacking.” Ever since, she has been devoted to developing a language of architecture that reflects the place she is practicing in. In her work, Tabassum seeks to establish a language of architecture that is contemporary yet reflectively rooted to place, always against an ecological rubric containing climate, context, culture, history.
Much more than with plaudits however, Tabassum is concerned with the relevance of her work. “Apart from being rooted in the place it is practiced, architecture should be relevant to the times we live in. It needs to address the questions of our age, such as the global climate crisis. In response to that we have to reduce our use of fossil fuel”.
Tabassum: “Nowadays, we need to address so much more than just the aesthetics of buildings. To be able to make your architecture sustainable is not just about whether you build with bricks, or mud or bamboo. You have to take the whole process into account, and become an anthropologist, a sociologist and much more besides a designer. Architecture has to be a be process-driven, collaborative, research-oriented business. There is so much to do, learn and investigate, and I’ll be looking into all of those aspects at TU Delft.”
Tabassum finds a ready audience in her students. “Most students are interested in this shift in architecture; they are also very much concerned about climate change and adaptation. It is their future, after all.”
Career and awards
Tabassum has taught in Harvard University Graduate School of Design, University of Texas, BRAC University and Bengal Institute. She received Honorary Doctorate from Technical University of Munich. In addition to Aga Khan Awards for Architecture, she has received many accolades including Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Gold Medal of the French Academy of Architecture and Soane medal in Architecture from the United Kingdom. She has also got awarded Millennium Lifetime Achievement Award at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2022 and the distinction of Knight in the Order of Arts and letters from Ministry of Culture of France 2023. Tabassum chairs Foundation for Architecture and Community Equity (FACE) and Prokritee, a Fare trade organization. She serves as the member of the Steering Committee of the Aga Khan Awards for Architecture. She is an honorary member of the Royal Society of Arts.