Organized Panel Session
Scholarship on architectural modernity across newly-independent Southeast Asian nations and Hong Kong has mostly emphasized major displays of power and architectural grandeur meant to symbolize the beginning of a new era.
The proposed panel seeks to shift the focus on the agency that local architects and builders deployed in Hong Kong and post-independent Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma as manifested by the definition and shaping of socially-conscious architectural discourses and practices. Both discourses and practices aligned with the state’s claimed effort to address the general welfare of the population and took on a particular resonance in the aftermath of WWII and the devastation it caused especially in the cities. To a certain extent, they also owed their emergence to the formative years that architects and builders had spent at fine arts and architecture schools run by the colonial administration. How did local apprentices across the region initially trained in the European Beaux-Arts traditions, confronted to the horrors of war, and energized by the prospect of their nation’s independence emerge as the driving forces behind this socially-engaged agenda will be one key point addressed in the presentations.
Based on newspapers, interviews, archival materials, and architectural records, the analysis of the writings and works of these individuals reveal trajectories influenced by intertwined sets of dynamics: forward-looking design vs. inspired by pre-colonial past, work commissioned by the local elite vs. concern to address social needs, and, lastly, conflicted individual choices amidst growing complexity of politics at both national and regional levels.