Conference programme and abstracts

This two-day symposium initiates a long-term critical and intellectual exchange between India and the UK focused on the knowledge, practice and discourse of the built environment.

As the first concrete event marking this dialogue, its aim is two-fold. On the one hand, it traverses not only the making and unmaking of the built environment in India and its related discourses, but also unpacks the disciplinary, communitarian and epistemological frameworks that enclose such production. On the other, it is interested in tracing some of the entanglements of these concerns with(in) the context of the built environment in the UK, either in terms of transcultural processes or related conceptual interests. The colonial past shared between Britain and India presents the potential of excavating some of these links and considering them under new terms of reference within the postcolonial context. This opens up the possibility of a two-way conversation along certain discursive themes, being fundamentally premised on the fact that the postcolonial condition warrants newer and more equal exchange of history, theory and practice of architectural and spatial thought.

The symposium is a collaboration between Dr. Tania Sengupta (UCL Bartlett), Dr. Jaideep Chatterjee (Shiv Nadar University, India) and Dr. Pushpa Arabindoo (UCL Geography). It is supported by a UCL Grand Challenges award and a Bartlett Architecture Research Fund award. The panelists from India and the UK include: Arunava Dasgupta (School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi), Andrew Harris (UCL, Geography), Ashok Lall (independent practioner and educationist, Delhi/ Mumbai), Himanshu Burte (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai), Hussain Indorewala (Kamla Raheja Vidhyanidhi Institute for Architecture, Mumbai), Jaideep Chatterjee (Shiv Nadar University India), Jonathan Hill (UCL Bartlett), Kaiwan Mehta (Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore), Megha Chand (Cardiff University/ UCL Bartlett), Pushpa Arabindoo (UCL Geography), Shahed Saleem (Makespace Architects and University of Westminster), Tania Sengupta (UCL Bartlett) and Tatjana Schneider (Sheffield University). 

Keynote Lecture

'Elementary Aspects of Indian Urbanism', Dr. Swati Chattopadhyay, Professor and Departmental Chair, History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara on 16 May at 6.30pm in the Gustave Tuck LT.

Symposium panels

Panel 1: The politics of the designed
(16 May, 11.30am - 4.45pm)

Over the last two decades India’s social, economic and political fabric has been witness to profound changes. Central to these transformations is the built environment which has emerged as the arena where diverse discourses of neoliberalism, governmentality, development, security, minority rights, disability, sustainability and ecology have laid their claims as well as contested each other. This panel seeks to unpack how architects, urbanists, governmental and non-governmental agencies and various stakeholder communities in India negotiate this complex and changing terrain, and also looks at the possible transcultural and trans-contextual links of such issues in Britain.

Panel 2: Architecture and its forms of knowledge
(17 May, 11.15am - 1.15pm)
This panel investigates knowledges that ground Architecture as disciplinary formation, as practice and as culture, i.e. how architecture constitutes its object and domain and thereby (re)constructs, (re)produces, sustains, and even contests itself. It also looks at how the architectural artifact shapes and mediates various forms of knowledge, and revisits some of the fundamental categories of architectural knowledge (e.g. categories of design, space, temporality, contingency, representation) to forge newer ways of reimagining the field.

Panel 3: History and the architectural present
(17 May, 2.30pm - 4.30pm)
This panel investigates how the disciplinary frameworks as well as the practice of architecture and urbanism in India today, deals with the question of history, memory, past and present while also engaging with descriptors of the present in order to understand the past. The panelists will explore their own critical practice(s) on the notion of archives, exploring alternative, everyday and minor histories, transnational and transcultural circulations of architectural heritage and expertise including, for instance, artisanal practices and modes of translations.