The Project of Independence

Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985

Feb 20–Jul 2, 2022


Louis Berger and Consulting Engineers (est. 1953), Daniel Dunham and Robert Boughey. Kamalapur Railway Station, Dhaka, East Pakistan (Bangladesh). 1968. Exterior view. Photograph: Randhir Singh
  • MoMA, Floor 3

“Independence brings in the greatest opportunity for a nation to express its thoughts, talent and energy…. Now, we the architects can construct the right and distinct kind of architecture for an independent people,” said Bangladeshi architect Muzharul Islam. In the decades that followed the Partition of 1947, newly independent India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka turned to modern architecture as a means of proclaiming their autonomy, articulating their national identities, and enacting social progress. Focusing on work conceived and realized by local, rather than international, architects, designers, and planners, The Project of Independence presents more than 200 works that showcase South Asia’s groundbreaking modern architecture.

From the concrete governmental complexes of Dhaka to the climate-adapted houses of Colombo, new approaches to architecture offered a break from the British colonial past. While new capital cities rose up in Chandigarh and Islamabad, local architects leveraged the region’s craft traditions to produce innovative and experimental buildings. The exhibition highlights such key figures as Indian architect Balkrishna V. Doshi, the only South Asian winner of the Pritzker Prize in Architecture; Minnette de Silva, the first woman architect of Sri Lanka; and Yasmeen Lari, the first woman architect of Pakistan, among many others. Original sketches, plans, photographs, audiovisual materials, and films are featured alongside newly commissioned images by photographer Randhir Singh and models constructed by Cooper Union students.

Organized by Martino Stierli, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art; Anoma Pieris, guest curator and professor, University of Melbourne; and Sean Anderson, former Associate Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art; with Evangelos Kotsioris, Assistant Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art. The curatorial team consulted with leading scholars of modern architecture from the region, many of whom also contributed to the accompanying exhibition catalogue.

The exhibition is made possible by Allianz, MoMA’s partner for design and innovation.

Leadership support is provided by Xin Zhang and Shiyi Pan.

Generous funding is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

Additional support is provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.


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