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Marina Tabassum

Khudi Bari

b. Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1968
Based in Dhaka

Architect Marina Tabassum has established an aesthetic language that is contemporary to the world yet rooted to the place. She rejects the global pressure of consumer architecture, a fast breed of buildings that are out of place and context, and pledges to root her designs to the place informed by its climate and geography. She engages in extensive research on the impacts of climate change in Bangladesh, working closely with geographers, landscape architects, planners and other allied professionals. Her work also extends to the marginalized ultra-low-income population of the country with a goal to elevate the environmental and living conditions of all people. Her process-based practice model is internationally regarded as a model.

Tabassum’s Khudi Bari (Bengali for “tiny house”) is an example of a modular mobile home that, in Bangladesh, is inexpensive, durable, and relatively quick and easy to assembled and disassembled with minimum labor, taking advantage of a rigid space-frame structure to save goods and lives in the wake of flash floods on tiny “desert islands” of sand known as “chars” that precariously dot across the Bengal delta. Land is fluid on the floodplains of Bangladesh, and these islands often break off and erode into the water, forcing people to physically move their home. Khudi Bari reminds us to look to locally rooted knowledge to innovate solutions for uncertain futures. Desert X has commissioned a film about the project in which Tabassum addresses dry and wet cultures and the role of design in enabling life in some of the world’s most extreme climate conditions.