Dhaka's National Assembly building, designed by Louis Kahn, was built over several turbulent decades as East Pakistan fought for autonomy and became the new country of Bangladesh. Conventional critical narratives situate the National Assembly within Kahn's biography, treating Bangladesh as an empty canvas on which Kahn could enact design philosophies developed over his career. I contend that architects and critics are not the only arbiters of a building's meaning, and that local and political context should not be ignored in a building's historical narrative. There is ample recent scholarship decentering the Western canon, to which the National Assembly belongs, in architecture history, theory, and criticism. This article calls for decentering the architect as well, and acknowledging that the client's agenda, historical context, local interventions, popular perception, and the ongoing use of a building all influence the many layers of meaning architecture acquires over time. Continuing to perpetuate the myth of the lone artistic genius doggedly pursuing his creative vision gives unfounded agency to the individual architect alone. Design has agency and buildings shape worlds, but buildings themselves are shaped by complex collective actions, not singular visions. As a Western architect called to build on a grand scale in Asia, Kahn is an early example of a now prevalent trope. This research establishes a template for understanding this kind of work in context, and acknowledging the crucial role played by local actors in shaping each project and determining the project's cultural significance over time.

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