Platform for Architectural Transfers in the Indian Ocean rim
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Institutions: Colonial and Postcolonial

Within this theme, we inquire into the role of structures of the state and its affiliates, as well as autonomous organisations and networks in the processes of producing built environments. Examples could include but are not limited to Departments of Public Works, Railway systems, Building Research Institutes, Development Banks, International aid agencies and other NGOs, institutions for the advancement of art and culture such as India’s Lalit Kala Akademi, and the metropolitan/imperial Department of Science and Arts, as well as transnational missionary organisations among many others. How have such institutional agents translated power and policy into the architectures of their respective technical and knowledge domains? How might such processes have their own autonomous histories and continuities?  What are their legacies (cognitive as well as constructed) in different post-colonial nation building contexts—Kenya or Yemen, for instance, as compared to India, or Pakistan?


   Peter Scriver            Catherine Desai
  (Theme director)         (Theme coordinator)

Built environment pedagogy

Historical analysis of the discourse within and about education and methodology in architectural, engineering, and vocational institutions in the Indian Ocean rim, which includes the transcultural structures of exchange of personnel, ideas and pedagogic models. Under this theme, one could consider the educational institutes such as the Government Colleges of Art, the new polytechnics and schools of architecture that emerged in the post-colonial period, or even the roles of professional networks such as the Royal Institute of British Architects or the Indian Institute of Architects.

    Priya Jain                 Catherine Desai
(Theme director)            (Theme coordinator)

Solidarities and opportunities

In this theme, we explore exchanges of capital, material and expertise contingent upon political and economic conditions at specific moments and locations, while illuminating the more interpersonal and spontaneous modes of such kinds of architectural transfers. Research could consider the inter-imperial or inter-national operations of business and enterprise, as well as the exchanges informed by ideologies, political positions and inter-governmental relations. For example, could we fashion histories of construction labour transfers between Southwestern India and the Middle East or east Africa? Or consider the impact of the Non-Aligned-Movement on architectural practice?

 Amit Srivastava           Sonali Dhanpal
  (Theme director)           (Theme coordinator)

Material and construction histories

This theme shifts emphasis in the conceptualisation of architectural histories, from objects or artefacts to their underlying processes. Such narratives could emerge by either taking particular building sites as starting points or spring from exploring the historical and geospatial movements of specific materials such as mud, cement, steel or concrete, or even a study of building components like blocks, sheets, or tiles. Here, we move away from technological determinism to explore a relatively underpopulated field of material and construction histories of how materials and buildings are shaped by multiple social, cultural and economic dynamics within the regions or sites of their deployment.

   Gauri Bharat              Amit Srivastava
 (Theme director)           (Theme coordinator)

Architecture and media cultures

This theme considers how the printed, audio and visual press operate as sites of architectural discourse as well as means of syncretising and popularising architectural and building knowledge. From professional and trade journals such as The Bombay Builder and MARG and A+D to treatises and pattern books, and from cinematic narratives to video archives, such as those of the National Film Development Corporation and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting: How do media cultures of the Indian Ocean rim straddle the representational and built aspects of architecture? We particularly encourage new and emerging research engaging with vernacular languages, often overlooked as sites of both professional and popular architectural discourse.

     Ishita Shah                  Priya Jain
   (Theme director)        (Theme coordinator)

Tools of building practice

The material tools of building practice have steadily increased in number and diversity: from the ‘design technics’ that support drawing and model making, to managerial tools such as BoQs, Contracts, and building specifications, to concrete mixers, scaffolds and hoists used on building sites. How do these tools configure architectural production? What do adaptations in tools of building practice, and the degree to which they have been adopted or rejected across geographies and building projects, tell us of the particular socio-cultural contexts and power relations in which building projects are embedded?

  Sarah Melsens          Saptarshi Sanyal
  (Theme director)         (Theme coordinator)

Writing histories

This theme gathers critical reflections upon the nature, practice, and scope of architectural history. Do other approaches, for example, non-human-centric histories such as environmental history, or subaltern histories, provide us with the means to push the boundaries of the discipline? The theme seeks to further current understandings of how the field is shaped by its historiographical devices, which could include a critical engagement with particular extant terminologies, categories, modes of classification, epistemes, methods, sources, and approaches.

Saptarshi Sanyal            Yakin Kinger      
  (Theme director)         (Theme coordinator)

Landscape ecology and environment

This theme addresses issues of ecological significance which are of increasing importance in contemporary practice. When did we enter the age of the anthropocene, the point at which human activity began to have a significant impact on earth's ecosystems? Exploring relationships between development and ecology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provides a means of addressing this shift and of potentially identifying and framing precedents for contemporary ethical practice. Research could consider changes to landscapes and ecologies, relationships between infrastructural developments and sites or, at an architectural scale, analyse passive climatic strategies including those associated with tropical modernism.

Catherine Desai    Deepa Ramaswamy (Theme director)  (Theme coordinator)