Session at the European Architectural History Network Sixth International Meeting

The planning of Abuja, the new capital of Nigeria, in the late 1970s, saw the collaboration of architects and planners of multiple nationalities, traversing east-west and north-south divides. Alongside the US and East German project leaders, the international committee included M. N. Sharma, Chief Architect of Chandigarh, India, and Clement G. Kahama, who served a similar role in the planning of Dodoma, the new capital of Tanzania. Coming out of the “interstices of [colonial] power structures” (Stoler and Cooper 1997), Sharma and Kahama, both architects from the so-called “Global South,” were engaged as advisors of international standing. They represent a historical and conceptual shift in the figuring of the “global expert,” and the knowledge that s/he holds in an uneven and racialized globality. From passive “native informants,” southern architects and planners became active agents of knowledge production with global applicability. 

This panel calls for contributions that position the production of architectural and urban planning knowledge as part of south-south exchanges throughout the twentieth century. We seek to highlight the role of southern actors in forming colonial and postcolonial architectural networks of expertise, and conversely, the role of northern development and educational institutions in facilitating southern architects’ mobility and exchange. The panel will contribute to historicizing and problematizing the South as a geographical, political, economic and epistemological category, while addressing questions such as: How did the North partake in south-south knowledge exchange? And how did southern knowledge feed-back to hegemonic centers, or contribute to the formation of new centers that challenge northern hegemony? The role of northern “experts” who identified themselves as having “southern” or “othered” experience may also be explored. By underscoring southern formations of disciplinary knowledge, we hope to shed some new light on key concepts associated with architecture of the South such as the vernacular, climate, the informal, and the urban-countryside binary.

While we will focus primarily on the established (and problematic) category of the “Global South”, we welcome presentations that explore knowledge production in other “souths” (such as the American south), or problematize hierarchical differentiations of actors from various “souths” in architectural discourse (e.g. between Latin America, Africa, Central, South and Southeast Asia) or non-western locales, such as the Middle East, China, and Japan, that do not easily fit these binary categories.

Ayala Levin, Northwestern University
Rachel Lee, LMU Munich

Contact : Ayala Levin, Email : [email protected]