The national monument Shaheed Minar finds its origin in the Bengali Language Movement, commonly considered the catalyst for the creation of Bangladesh as a sovereign state. It is situated in an in-between and contested space: between old indigenous and new postcolonial parts of Dhaka. Due in part to the monument’s historic and cultural significance, as well as to its location as the centre of public demonstration and protest, it has emerged as the city’s pre-eminent symbolic and representative space. The monument plaza is simple in design, yet very precise in its architectural expression and is structured by a dual axiality: the symbolic axis of mourning and protest and the ordinary axis of everyday life. This dual-axiality allows for coexistence of contradictory activities. It creates a sense of living apart, together, where ceremonial and mundane activities and ordinary life are regularly juxtaposed. Despite being a contested platform, the plaza is also one of the few places without fences in an area of fenced, segregated spaces. This article positions Shaheed Minar within the context of its evolution – from its role in the Language Movement to its contemporary position as both public plaza par excellence and stage for frequent political demonstration.
Keywords: Bengali Language Movement; Dhaka; Shaheed Minar; axis; contested space; design
Habib, Kishwar and Bruno De Meulder. “The Representative Space: Shaheed Minar – the Martyrs Monument Plaza in Dhaka.” In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 2, Number 1 (pp. 181-200), edited by Ipek Türeli, Bristol: Intellect, 2013.