[excerpt] The 1940s and '50s were both a turbulent and optimistic time for the subcontinent. The period spanned the end of colonial rule and witnessed the granting of independence to India and Pakistan. With Independence also came Partition-not only a political one but also the breakup of a civilizational unity.

Yet at the same time there was a vision, an optimism, and a faith in the radical transformation fo society for collective well-being and common good. Science, rationalism and secularism became the most visible medium and expression of this idealism. Chandigarh, and the partnership of Nehru and Le Corbusier make a most compelling example. Modernism was proposed as an alternative civilizational unity in a fractious time. Achyut Purushottam Kanvinde in India and Muzharul Islam then in East Pakistan and later Bangladesh, shared a critical time in the history of the subcontinent.

Kanvinde began his architectural practice in 1947 after returning from the U.S., while Muzharul Islam's practice began in 1953. In their respective countries, both were the earliest proponents of an architecture of modernism; and both engaged in their work the issue of nation-building with a social purpose.

Even today, despite the gradual weakening of social idealism and the faltering stature of modernism, Kanvinde and Islam have remained more or less steadfast in their commitment to a rationalist rigeour and a modernist vocabulary. They have continued to define modernism not only as a formal creation but in its ethical and existential dimensions, to articulate the exigency of time but often to counter the tyranny of tradition.