Rafiq Azam wanted to be a painter, just a painter and nothing else.
At the age of only seven, he picked up paint and brush to try his hand on a canvass. He tried to capture what was in abundance all around him back then in the early fifties -- a green Bangladesh. In the eyes of the young boy, the land of rivers and six seasons appeared to be a mystic artwork of nature. So, he went on to capture it, pouring lots of green and light in his painting.
Impressed, his elder sister became the chief patron of his work in the family. The child artist won several national and international awards including the Notun Kuri of the Bangladesh Television and Jawaharlal Nehru memorial gold medal of India.
But his parents remained unmoved. They wanted Rafiq to become an engineer, not a painter. "I was very happy when I realised there was scope for me to continue painting in architecture as well," says Rafiq. Interestingly, the nature soon started dominating his architecture. His memory of movement of water, rain, trees and colour of lights inspired him to create soul inside brick and concrete shell, turning house into a place for water, greenery, light, shade and shadow.
His rise to architectural fame began at home when he was still a student at the Buet. He was asked by his family to renovate their 3,600sft house in Lalbagh. This was the place where his nine siblings bathed in the sunlight of chilly winter mornings, where his parents bickered over trifling family matters, and where he did his watercolour paintings. Ideas for the design quickly began to develop in his mind. He wanted to bring back the garden and the courtyard, reviving a sense of nostalgia and wistful memories of bygone days. And he did it so masterfully in 1988 that this project was nominated for the Aga Khan Award in 1992 and won the IAB (Institute of Architects Bangladesh) Award in 1992.
Over two decades down the line, Rafiq has designed over two dozens of houses and establishments, from luxury vacation house to graveyard, and each of those captured the imagination of gurus of architectural world. The philosophy of his architecture for green living is now being taught at different universities across the globe. The Arthur and Boyd Exhibition Centre in Australia and SP Setia Headquarters, the top housing developer in Malaysia, speak for Rafiq's demand abroad.
His approach to work is also very interesting. He considers every project he takes as his girlfriend. He goes to site, spends plenty of time there, sees the surroundings and experiences the course of sun and wind. He actually lets his mind court with the site first. And once he falls in love, the design starts to develop automatically.
And, as long as his love continues, the world is going to get architectural wonder more and more.