New Research: The architectural production of India’s everyday modernism: middle-class housing in Pune, 1960-1980

‘The architectural production of India’s everyday modernism: middle-class housing in Pune, 1960-1980’ in Architecture Beyond Europe Journal, no.16, 2019.

Sarah Melsens, Inge Bertels et Amit Srivastava

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Architects United, Freestanding Bungalow for Mrs. Shroff, Pune, 1966

The large-scale appropriation of modernist architectural features in everyday housing projects in postcolonial India is remarkable. This article examines how regional architects adapted their engagement with architectural modernism to the evolving circumstances of architectural production within the context of the developing world. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s “field theory”, it presents a detailed case study of two decades of residential work by Architects United, a medium-scale architectural practice founded in the Indian city of Pune in 1961. While the architects’ earliest projects demonstrated an opportunity and desire for architectural innovation, this approach became increasingly restricted as new patterns for housing provision emerged, resulting in a more subdued and hybrid form of modernist architecture. The paper makes use of the architects’ previously undisclosed archive and oral history to demonstrate that these architectural adaptations were the indirect result of governance practices and societal change, particularly the government’s stimulation of co-operative housing initiatives and the emergence of a postcolonial middle class with distinct housing expectations. As such, this “peripheral” case exposes some of the processes that have been overlooked in the rhetoric of Architectural Modernism as a Western import in India, which is primarily centered around the discussion of exceptional public building commissions by “global experts” or their Indian disciples. The paper further highlights the need to investigate the processes of architectural production, in addition to the built product itself, so that a pluralistic rather than romanticized understanding of architectural practice may emerge.

The full article is freely available here: https://doi.org/10.4000/abe.7011

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