“Independence brings in the greatest opportunity for a nation to express its thoughts, talent and energy…. Now, we the architects can construct the right and distinct kind of architecture for an independent people,” said Bangladeshi architect Muzharul Islam. Following the end of British rule in 1947/48, architects in the territories of today’s India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka embraced the language of modernism as a means of proclaiming their autonomy, articulating their national identities, and enacting social progress. Focusing on work conceived and realized by local, rather than international, architects, designers, and planners, The Project of Independence presents more than 200 works that showcase South Asia’s groundbreaking modern architecture.
From the concrete governmental complexes of Dhaka to the climate-adapted houses of Colombo, new approaches to architecture offered a break from the British colonial past. While new capital cities rose up in Chandigarh and Islamabad, local architects leveraged the region’s craft traditions to produce innovative and experimental buildings. The exhibition highlights such key figures as Indian architect Balkrishna V. Doshi, the only South Asian winner of the Pritzker Prize in Architecture; Minnette de Silva, the first woman architect of Sri Lanka; and Yasmeen Lari, the first woman architect of Pakistan, among many others. Original sketches, plans, photographs, audiovisual materials, and films are featured alongside newly commissioned images by photographer Randhir Singh and models constructed by Cooper Union students.
Organized by Martino Stierli, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art; Anoma Pieris, guest curator and professor, University of Melbourne; and Sean Anderson, former Associate Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art; with Evangelos Kotsioris, Assistant Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art. The curatorial team consulted with leading scholars of modern architecture from the region, many of whom also contributed to the accompanying exhibition catalogue.