Post-Colonial Architecture + Urbanism


Spring 2013

Gwendolyn Wright, instructor

Colonial ambitions and inequalities helped shape the architecture of housing, schools, civic and corporate structures, factories, parks and tourist facilities. These patterns continue, with significant changes, of course, in today’s interconnected global world—a broad historical terrain often described as postcolonial. A close analysis of colonial and postcolonial design helps us understand cities from Lagos to Rio, Seoul, Beirut, Singapore and beyond, including New York and Paris. The colonial world was defined above all by a overt exercise of power from the center and “otherness,” including active resistance, from the margins. Every group battled over the meanings of words like “modern,” “authentic” and “improvements” that are still contested today. Yet modernism’s universalist ideals also helped fuel nationalist demands. This seminar explored the architectural and urban design tactics of European colonialism of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, as well as imperialist expansion by Japan, the USSR, the US, even the religious power of Saudi Arabia from West Africa to Indonesia. We considered shifts, breaks and continuities during the early decades of Third World independence after WWII. The last part of the semester used this background to analyze significant new architecture and new kinds of cities now emanating from former colonial nations.