New MoMA Exhibit Reflects on South Asian Architecture Marking Decolonization

One of the axes is also one of self-determination, paralleling how the region’s first generation of post-independence architects collectively articulated a powerful vision of a post-colonial society. “This aspiration was expressed in new cities and spaces of political representation, and in the construction of formally and typologically innovative buildings. We are particularly interested in showing how architects responded to social and material conditions on the ground, and how they linked their work to craft traditions and working conditions unique to the subcontinent.

Six distinct sections address the construction of new towns, housing, industry and infrastructure, spaces for political representation, as well as educational and civic institutions. Around 200 works, including original sketches, drawings, photographs, films, audio-visual components and architectural models, shed new light on the culture of modern architecture in South Asia.

National Cooperative Development Corporation Office Building (1978–80), New Delhi, by Kuldip Singh (architect) and Mahendra Raj (engineer).

Fundamental is the new portfolio commissioned by architectural photographer Randhir Singh, whose contemporary eye is crucial in unveiling the current status of some of the most impactful projects. “I felt like I was traveling back in time to observe buildings designed and built in a different context. It made me wonder what it means to photograph them today given the changing realities we live in. All four countries have changed significantly over the years and in many cases have abandoned much of the ethos and idealism that defined the cultural context of this era of modernism,” says Singh.

The Independence Project is, through its camera, an in-depth study of modern architecture across the subcontinent. “In photographing for this project, I traveled to four countries and 23 cities, visiting 74 individual sites. Each building was thought of as a thread connecting a complex narrative in the development not only of architecture, but also of identity, politics, culture and society.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Municipal Stadium (1959-1966), Ahmedabad, by Charles Correa (architect). Mahendra Raj (engineer).

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