Cultural production and identity in colonial and post-colonial Madras, India
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All cultural production is a consequence of its context and is infused with meaning and identity. A preoccupation with the visual and symbolic aspects of architectural form and its cultural meaning has led to an increased autonomy of the architectural object. This thesis posits that architectural forms do not have fixed, unchanging and singular meanings, but that they acquire meaning in particular contexts- historical, social, cultural and political. Certain forms or stylistic motifs, acquire, embody or are perceived to represent the identity of a nation or cultural groups within a nation. The confluence of a search for 'Indianness' and the post-modern thought in architecture is a paradoxical aspect of the recognition of the autonomy of architecture. In the contemporary India, the search for a 'Tamil' identity, may be perceived as an attempt to create a distinct, regional identity as opposed to the homogenous and universal national identity. This is similar to the creation of a 'British-Indian' identity as opposed to the western one, by the British, in the last quarter of the 19th century. In this attempt to create a regional identity, the same or similar regional architectural forms and stylistic motifs were the source and precedent to represent both 'Tamil' and 'British-Indian' identity. This would imply that the forms do not have a singular meaning but that they are embodied with meaning and symbolism in particular contexts. This is exemplified by a trans-historical comparison between two colonial and contemporary buildings in Madras, South India. The Post and Telegraph Office, 1875-84 (Architect: Robert Chisholm) and the Law Court, 1889-92 (Architect: Henry Irwin) represent the two trends within 'Indo-Saracenic' architecture. The former draws precedents primarily from local, regional and classical Hindu temple architectural traditions while the latter from the 'Indo-Islamic' Mughal architectural tradition. The Valluvar Kottam Cultural Center, 1976-8 (Architect: P. K. Acharya) and the Kalakshetra Cultural Center, 1980-2 (Architects: Mis. C. R. Narayanarao & Sons) represent the search for an indigenous 'Tamil' architecture. The sources for the former are primarily from the Dravidian style classical Hindu temple architecture of the region while the latter is inspired by the local and regional traditions. Paradoxically, the same or similar forms manifest opposing ideals, and represent colonial and post-colonial identities, respectively.
Thesis (M.S.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture, 1996.Includes bibliographical references (p. 181-195).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology