CEPT Essay Prize (2019-2020)

The second cycle of the CEPT Essay Prize (2019-2020) will focus on ‘Dwelling in Asian Cities’. The term Asian here will refer to a more geographical location of places and cities, and the many histories from which contemporary Asia emerges, rather than any abstraction of a cultural typology emerging from an unproductive East-West binary.

Cities in the last century have been shaped by many changing ideas of urbanity and living, that have in-turn emerged from shifts in geopolitics and the ecology of economics, as well as the changing face of finance as well as culture. Asia as a geopolitical mass with unique historical developments between the medieval period to the industrialising and colonial period, and its tryst through modernization and liberalization in the mid- and late-twentieth century makes Asia an important case at hands. While old oriental and modernist imaginations read Asia in a particular grain, there have been few but extremely important attempts to read Asia as a history, a cultural phenomenon, a lived reality of today from critical perspectives in sociology, political science and cultural studies. Cities have been important players in this history and imagination of Asia.

From Baghdad and Delhi, to Mumbai and Shanghai, Kolkata to Leningrad, or Dubai to Tokyo, and to Dhaka, Hong Kong, and Karachi – the cases of cities in Asia are filled with questions of aspirations and strife, struggles to survive to financial maneuvers, the nostalgia of the medieval city to the disgust or lust over the shining architectural eruptions today, to debates on community and sustainability, heritage and development, life and destruction. How do we all dwell in the imagination, aspiration, as well as history and the everyday politics of the Asian City today? Let us understand ‘dwelling’ here as the idea of ‘being’ – as individual, as citizen, as community, as belonging and alienation; but let us also look at ‘dwelling’ as the basic human need to shelter, love, ego, and identity as well as the realities of land and its politics.

The essays could address:

  1. What are the imaginations of Dwelling? Dwelling as aspirations, dreams, mythologies, mysteries, struggles, and more…
  2. What are the challenges of Dwelling – in the ways we understand land politics, economic shifts, cultural slides, nation and nationality, governance and mobility?
  3. What are the opportunities of new imaginations of the contemporary through Dwelling – by nature of innovations and reinterpretations, neighnourhoods recalibrated, and the will to self-assertion?

The practices of architecture and planning, through which we understand and intervene within human life in its everyday existence – need to open up new frameworks to approach, re-familiarise itself with, and draw out new lenses to understand ‘dwelling’ in the contemporary world – in our case, the cities of Asia more specifically.

The essays are invited to be argumentative or narrative, researching into histories as well as conditions of the contemporary, bringing in observations as well as ruminations, proposing ideas or theses, and playing between all or some of these forms of writing, and thinking. The essays would contribute new directions as well as ‘thick descriptions’ into an already growing discursive arena on the subject.