‘They were transforming their countries’: South Asian architecture after British rule


, 22/02/2022, 3:30 pm

A MoMA exhibition takes a new look at the modernist structures that defined Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka after independence

Light lands softly on concrete walls in a series of silver gelatin prints by an unknown photographer. These small, souvenir-like snapshots give glimpses into the houses of Sri Lanka’s first female architect, Minette de Silva. Here, there are no architectural drawings or models – those have been lost to time. What we see are the personal artifacts of De Silva’s mentee Anuradha Mathur – documents that have been newly uncovered as part of the exhibition The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985, at the Museum of Modern Art.

De Silva’s work – shown though this unconventional medium from an unconventional source – sheds light on the architect’s regional modernist architecture that has been largely ignored by institutions in the west. It is among many such materials now being brought to light both literally and metaphorically.

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