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  • Sofia Karim

Essays on Architecture

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

Amdani Cell - Kechki File (কেচকি ফাইল)

Essays on Architecture - 01


The idea came whilst I was swimming, as so many of my ideas do.

When I am weightless.


If architecture is an embodiment of humanity, it must confront the pain of the past and present. 

Pain’s mirror is beauty, or pleasure.

I seek to bring architecture closer to the human condition.

A building can provide, shelter, comfort and functionality. It can invoke a sense of liberation, beauty and awe.

But it can also make us look at ourselves.


This time last year, my uncle was in jail.

When he shut his eyes he saw bars. I drew cages.

Amdani Cell - Kechki File (কেচকি ফাইল)

Amdani Cell - Kechki File (কেচকি ফাইল)

Shurjomuki (সূর্যমুখী) Cell

Essays on Architecture - 02


Amdani cell, Keraniganj jail, Bangladesh. Bodies pressed against bodies. Poses so intimate I can only try them with my children, in effort to understand.


I draw the bodies in various ways: sometimes as solids and sometimes as vectors projected in space. I draw the same thing for months. And after some time I realise that when I’m drawing the Amdani Cell, I’m not only drawing this instance, but every such instance:

the stacking of bodies - dead, alive, or barely alive - the final phases of human subjugation.

What if it were my children in that heap? I draw till the lines dissolve beyond recognition.

Then space breaks across my screen.

Architecture of Disappearance

Essays on Architecture - 03


After everything that happened, I’ll never design buildings in the same way again.

While I make work, I think about power and abuse of power. This includes race and the history of subjugation of my people. I think of the politics of today.

Too often architecture evades.

I’m not saying a building should invoke the physical sensation of pain, or anguish, or even the memory of it, in order to confront historical and political pain.

It’s harder than that.

I’m saying that as an architect, I need to engage with the politics of the lived experience, and interrogate my own relationship to power. Only then might a sense of liberation or transcendence emerge in my work, in any truthful sense.


And perhaps it is that confrontation which is exhilarating, and beautiful. 

Divison Cell, Keraniganj Jail

Essays on Architecture - 05

Architects do not sufficiently engage with forces of labour.

We say we are powerless to help migrant workers who construct our visions.

But did we ever simply sit down with a worker to share a plate of rice, the way Shahidul did?

Share a plate of rice, and share someone’s story. That leads to action.

Too often architecture evades.

Architecture and labour go hand in hand.

Photo by Shahidul Alam. A woman bids farewell to her husband leaving for work in the Middle East, from across the glass panels, at Zia International Airport, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 1996. Part of Migrant soul project, an attempt to understand the dreams and the realities of Bangladeshi migrant people.

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