Tropicality of Colonial Heritage Buildings in a Deltaic Landscape: British Colonial Architecture in Khulna




Tropicality, Colonial Architecture, Deltaic Landscape, Architectural Heritage, Urbanisation, Bengal, Khulna


During the 17th-18th century colonial period on the Indian subcontinent, British colonial architecture flourished – including in the Bengal Delta. Although colonial architecture was inherently different from the traditional architecture of this tropical region, the monsoon climate and deltaic landscape forced colonial style buildings to incorporate a number of tropical architectural features to ensure climatic comfort. In the contemporary period, due to pressure from population density, many colonial buildings have been demolished and replaced with multi-story buildings. However, the tropical forces of this deltaic region need to be evaluated in order to re-create climate responsive architecture. This study aims to identify tropical architectural features inherent within colonial buildings of Khulna, Bangladesh, a city which formed a junction in the deltaic region during the colonial period. Four colonial buildings have been selected as case studies: two residential buildings, one mixed-use building, and a school. Tropical features were analysed from photographic data, and reproductions of plans and sections of the selected buildings, in order to reveal the significant tropical architectural features of these colonial period buildings. The case studies reveal structural and design elements that aided ventilation and air flow, and controlled solar radiation, humidity and driving rain. The findings aim to encourage practicing architects to rethink climate responsiveness in contemporary buildings in Bangladesh, by revealing how, a century ago, colonial buildings were influenced by the tropical deltaic climate, which impacted foreign architectural ideology and practice.

Author Biographies

Muhaiminul Islam, Northern University of Business and Technology Khulna, Bangladesh

Muhaiminul Islam is an Architect, Partner and founding member at Clayscape Design Workshop a small architecture studio that conducts research and design projects focused on tropical deltaic issues and beyond. He is also a Lecturer in the Department of Architecture at Northern University of Business and Technology Khulna. He has a Bachelor in Architecture (B.Arch) from the Architecture Discipline of Khulna University as well as a Master of Science in Human Settlements (MScHS) from the same institution. His Master’s Research topic was the impact of spatial configuration on students’ social interaction in university academic buildings and his Bachelor Thesis topic analysed integrating heritage buildings of Natore town with cultural-ecological landscapes from a heritage trail approach. In parallel, he is working with Riverine Architecture Studio led by Ar. Sharif Jahir Hossain and Built Environment Consultant at Stha-Kalpa Architects. His research interests are design philosophy, learning space design, architectural history and heritage, climate resilience, housing and tropical architecture.

Hasan Muntasir, Northern University of Business and Technology Khulna, Bangladesh

Hasan Muntasir is currently working as Lecturer in the Department of Architecture at Northern University of Business and Technology Khulna. He completed his Bachelor in Architecture from Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET). His Bachelor thesis topic was entitled ‘Transcendency between a river and a city: A case of Rupsha and Khulna’. He has also conducted research work in space re-evaluation and informal settlement. His research interests are urban design, sustainability, architectural history and heritage, space and environmental issues.


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How to Cite

Islam, M., & Muntasir, H. (2020). Tropicality of Colonial Heritage Buildings in a Deltaic Landscape: British Colonial Architecture in Khulna. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 19(2), 72–96.