It was immediately after the independence of Bangladesh that Architect Mubasshar Hussain completed his studies in architecture.
At that time, one of his relatives was also preparing to construct a building. With the zeal of a young professional, Hussain proposed that he make the architectural plan for the building. He offered the service free of cost, but the response was more than stringent than he imagined.
"I will build the house on my own land, with my own money, and it is I who will live in the house. Then why should you design it," Hussain, now president of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh (IAB), quoted his relative. The Buet graduate was describing the situation architects generally faced at that time.
Those days are over.
Architects now work under tremendous pressure. Experienced architects will often have to say no to fresh work orders due to workload, Hussain said in a recent interview at the IAB office in Dhaka.
Architects say the country experienced a boom in real estate in the last few years mainly because of continuous economic growth, remittance inflow, business and export, which resulted in increased work orders for architects.
Consequently, the demand for institutions that teach architecture has also increased over the years.
In the 70s, only the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) offered postgraduate studies in architecture. But now, at least 10 schools, including three public universities, offer the course to meet the growing need for building planners.
According to sector insiders, over 350 dedicated architectural firms are operational currently, while there was only a handful in the post independence period. Besides, some real estate firms also have separate architectural units to feed their projects.
"We set up an architectural firm -- Nirnoy Upodesta Ltd -- to meet the needs of our company," said Tanveerul Haq Probal, managing director of Building for Future and president of Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB).
He found the growing importance of such firms as an indication of rising professionalism in the construction sector.
"Gone are the days when one designed their own office," said Hussain.
Mamnoon Murshed Chowdhury, owner of DWM4 Architects, said architectural firms have mushroomed not only in Dhaka, but also in Chittagong and Sylhet, as construction work is also expanding fast in those areas.
At present, people are engaging architects not only for residential and commercial buildings, but also to build factories. This trend has developed, as people are now conscious that a building could be well planned and attractive at the same time, with the help of an architect, Chowdhury said.
Architect Shah Fuad M Cyrus, owner of architectural firm Mason Consultants, said modern structures are becoming more complicated and larger by the day. Keeping pace with the requirements of these structures, the pressure on professionals is also mounting.
Architecture has multiple roles to play in constructing a well-planned structure that is comfortable to live in and also makes the best use of scarce urban land.
"At the same time, an architect has to make the best use of the natural environment, like receiving the most wind flow and avoiding the heat of summer," Cyrus said.
IAB is the sole platform of building designers in the country, which now has over 1,800 active members. Any graduate with an architectural background is required to be a member of the platform to begin professional work. To gain membership, an architect has to pass an exam held by IAB.
Some say the IAB examinations are easier than the same at other developed countries.
Professionals said it is easy to set up an architectural firm, as it is mainly vigorous brainwork. Good architects prefer to set up separate architectural firms instead of working with others.
"Due to this reason, consultancy fees for architects have reduced significantly that, in some cases, compromised on the quality of work," said Chowdhury.
Architect Mustapha Khalid Palash, managing director of Vistaara Architects, said several new arenas have emerged in architecture, including fire fighting, earthquake tackling and use of the natural environment, which were not very important in the past.
"Architects have to tackle the issues to make the city safe, sustainable and beautiful," he said.
Professionals said in the past, designs prepared by architects were often violated, as there were no government laws in this regard. But now, any constructor or developer needs to take the permission of the architect and government to make changes to the plan.
"This law ensures that no one violates the original plan submitted to the authorities to get permission to construct a building," Chowdhury added.
According to Dhaka city development authority Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipokkho, 22,500 building plans were passed by the organisation since 2007, while the number of permanent structures in the city is 225,000.