Development and Urbanization
Modern houses are among the most prevalent and tangible manifestations of aspirations in contemporary Asia. Closely tied to the circulating notions of development and prosperity is the image of the modern house made of concrete. The prominence of the house as a site of future-making project is related to its being “one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind” (Bachelard 1994 ) and to its salience and density of meanings in the context of Asian societies. The new imaginaries of worthwhile architecture provide insights into transforming visions of the past and future.
The case of upland northern Laos will be of particular interest to this inquiry: Amidst the dynamic societies of Southeast Asia, lives in
Laos are changing rapidly. Mainly mountainous, rural and with an ethnically heterogeneous population, gaining prosperity are pivotal aims of the post-socialist Lao government. Closely tied to the ubiquitous claims for progress and prosperity in developing Laos is the image of the villa. Made of concrete, with gabled roof and front veranda, this image triggers aspirations of development and is a prominent background image for retouched family portraits. While the current processes of socio-economic change in Laos have received increasing attention by social scientists, the role of local aspirations and their manifestation in ʻmodernʼ houses is hitherto unexplored. By focussing on the materiality of modern houses in relation to the transforming social processes and imaginaries, this talk will illuminate aspects of current socio-economic change in upland Laos and beyond.