Water is synonymous with Bangladesh. Rivers carry it across the country from the northern mountain chain to the huge delta before the Bay of Bengal. Flooding is a recurrent feature of life with the receding waters leaving a layer of fertile mud. Little wonder then that water is a constant architectural feature for architect Rafiq Azam of the firm Shatotto - Architecture for Green Living. His S.A. residence in the capital Dhaka has water at every level of this multi-storey building: reflecting pools on the ground floor and swimming pools on the upper levels. Besides its symbolic value, water also has a major functional role, its thermal inertia helping to cool the torrid tropical air while cascading water releases refreshing sprays. Here nature invades the home. Its use is a statement that quality architecture, even in a densely populated area like Dhaka must connect with its natural environment. The result is a large contemporary urban villa that stands as an enclosed natural island in the midst of the city. On the ground floor, the stretches of water can be crossed in a traditional wooden boat. The courts between the build volumes host grassy areas with tropical trees. The jungle penetrates all levels; one has the impression that the living spaces have been created around the vegetation and not the other way around. Rooms look out on reflecting pools on the same level while the upper storeys look down onto the water and luxuriant vegetation of the inner courts. The interlocking design of the building’s components is highlighted by a series of loggias and “bridges”. This intricate weave of superposed blocks is knitted together by the climbing and cascading vegetation on the facades of the inner courts. The programme pivots around the intricate use of light. Light turns space into a sensory experience. It streams directly into the interiors from glazed walls, filters discreetly through vertical or strip openings in the exposed concrete walls and through the transparent roof of the water-filled court, or reflects off the cascading streams adjacent to the living areas. Light comes through huge oculi in the roof cantilevering over the top floor terraces, and filters through cement-beam or wood-slat pergolas. By the same token the different materials employed create a similar variation of effect. In the courts and interiors, large stretches of fair-face concrete wall are here and there contrasted with areas of unrendered brick facades. Frames of the windows and glazed “verandahs” containing the cantilevered single-flight staircases making up the internal vertical circulation routes are either in wood or metal. The translucent glass of the balcony balustrades contrasts with transparent glazing of the walls. A mixture of wood panels and grilles create a play of light and shade along the interior perimeter walls. Similar variation is achieved with wood inserts and panelling on the walls of rooms and corridors. They also provide colour contrast with the expanses of unrendered concrete. Simple essential component parts are here juxtaposed to form a complex pattern of separate residential areas. The perception of a composite whole is, however, created by the natural vegetation that is here not just a component part but the integrating element.