HomeArticlesJiat-Hwee Chang: “A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture: Colonial Networks, Nature and Technoscience”
Jiat-Hwee Chang: “A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture: Colonial Networks, Nature and Technoscience”
August 18, 2019
Thank you all for coming. Glad there is such
a large turn out. If you are sitting on the steps, make sure the steps are passable and
that there is room. It is my pleasure to welcome Jiat Hwee Chang here. I place his work at
the critical intersection of architecture, history, science, technology and environmental
studies. His work is also historically rigorous and theoretically innovative and demonstrates
the ways, architecture is embedded in networks across multiple geographies and temporalities.
Dr. Chang is associate professor at the
Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore
will argue that tropical architecture was inextricably
entangled with the socio cultural constructions of
tropical nature, and the politics of colonial governance
and postcolonial development in the British colonial and
post colonial networks. University of Singapore, where
he is also the leader of the history, theory and criticism
cluster. Jiat Hwee is the author of A Genealogy of Tropical
Architecture: Colonial Networks, Nature and Technoscience (2016),
which is awarded an International Planning History
Society (IPHS) Book Prize 2018, and shortlisted for the European
Association for Southeast Asian Studies Humanities Book Prize
2017. He is also co editor (with William S. W. Lim) of Non West
Modernist Past (2011) and (with And examples modernism in the nonwest. And
will be coeditor of Southeast Asia’s Modern
Architecture: Questions in Translation, Epistemology and
Power (2018). Currently Jiat Hwee is a Canadian Centre
for Architecture/Mellon Foundation Researcher 2017 19,
researching the transnational history of air conditioning,
built environment and thermal governance in Asia.
And part of the long complicated story of how we managed to bring him here. He’s in
Syracuse to speak to you and do research at the carrier archives. Join me in welcoming
Dr. Chang. [Applause]>>Thank you. Good evening. Can everyone hear
me? Thank you. So many thanks for having me and many thanks for coming to this lecture.
I would like to thank Lawrence for hosting me during my stay and introducing me. The
title is the genealogy of architecture, tropical architecture, Colonial networks, nature and
technoscience. This is part of my influence of
my education. Education in the tropical of architecture play a central part.
My first encounter is captured in the photograph on the screen, that shows two awkward bodies,
including mine. Mine is the body on the left, in the gazebo. It was taken in 1993, during
my first year trip to Bali. We were experiencing tropical living, so he arranged for us to
visit tropical resorts in Bali. This was a criticism of the air conditioned lives we
led and still live in Singapore. This was only partial. We could not stay in exclusive
tropical resorts, so we spent our nights in the air conditioned rooms of the budget hotel.
Returning from Bali, we were tasked to design a tropical house in our overly cool air conditioned
studio. Behind the pedagogy that emphasized tropical
living was the tropical discosis that emerged in Singapore, Malaysia and Southeast Asia
during the 1890s and 1980s, this was attempted to create new architectural languages and
urban typologies better suited for the tropics and included works that draw on southeast
Asian vernacular traditions to craft beautiful house it is and results. This was however,
not just environmental discosis, but cultural discosis connected to the post Colonial identity
politics that revolve around this architecture. Subsequently, the discosis of tropicality
in the environment proliferated. By mid 1990s, the works of the tropical architecture was
grouped under the labor of Asian tropical style, one of the interchangeable variance.
And celebrate in Victorian books and magazines, many of which you see on the screen. This
was a label used in a loose manner. Tropical architecture had by then become taken for
granted and seldom interrogated entity. It is associated with the keywords like climate,
culture, sustainability. A controversy that erupted in 1991 exposed this in the tropical
architecture. That year, an architect and local journal published the outcome of a student
workshop in Singapore titled new tropicality. Created by the person in the top left. The
figure in the top right was it was framed in a workshop. Particularly [indiscernible]
in interlocking cubic forms. In the cultural politics, for many users for the Asian tropics,
to challenge what she saw as the aesthetic of volume and life.
There was those upset about the derivative region of western temperate form, with the
status of volume as new tropicality, writing to the journal, Taylor mentioned how it degenerated
from being part of the context of freeing one’s self from the political taste of our
masters during the 1960s decolonization to more of a fashion statement for the 2000s.
He accused of deferring the quest in the tropicality in our terms and none other.
Although this was a local controversy, it reflect some of the broader views in the discosis
of architecture. First, in the tropical aesthetic decolonization and independence from the west,
it is evident that tropical architecture was inextricably bound by Colonial and post Colonial
relations. Despite the appeal of the tropical nature, it is political through and through.
Secondly, in contrasting mid 20th century architecture, for the static with tropical
architecture as a fashion statement pandering to the taste of the west in the 21st Century,
we see it not as an unchanging structure, while shifting context contending consent
by the [indiscernible]. This claim about immense politics in the architecture
is not unproblematic. Many of you might know about forms of Colonial architecture constructed.
Materially and discussively by the Colonial powers during the mid 20th century. The architecture
extended into the post Colonial era and involved not American and other European architects
building in many parts of Asia and Africa as a part of mid 20th century international
development aids to countries in the tropics. In other words, western forms of tropical
architecture was ubiquitous in the mid 20th century.
As documented in the contemporary publications by several artists, given the aesthetic could
be discerned in the Colonial architecture, how could the quest of the tropicality be
a form of politics as they claim? My intention is not to criticize the position, but the
purpose is to argue that we need to understand the controversy involving [indiscernible]
in the longer history of architecture and entanglement of globalization during the early
20th century. The early forms may not be named as such, but the privileged tropical nature,
particularly the hot and humid climate is a prime determinant of architectural form.
In fact, the earlier forms established the foundation and formed the basis upon which
institutionalized tropical architecture was due.
The did you institutionalization in the mid 20th century is what the book is about. There
are six chapters organized in two parts. The first part historyizes it prior to the [indiscernible]
the second part with the knowledge of the institutionalization of tropical architecture
during the mid 20th century to research the educational activities.
I will draw from three of the chapters to draw from moments in the tropical architecture
in the British Empire. They’re highlighted in Orange on the screen. Before I do that,
we need to confront the peculiarity of the taxonomy.
In the structure of the tropical architecture, it is unspoken. Temperate is a category that
does not exist. Architecture was and still is categorized according to smaller geographical
units, based on nations, regions such as English, French, such as classical, Baroque and modern.
Culture in relation to aesthetic classification was implicitly assumed to be the most significant
factor in the architecture. This taxonomy peculiarity implies that since it is determined
by external immutable nature, it is a homogeneous, status entity. Because of the cultural of
this. In historizationing the architecture, there is the taxonomy peculiarity. I am asked
why and how nature was and still is privileged and what did the privileging of nature achieve
or facilitate? I argue that the privileging of nature led to an emphasis on the scientific
solutions that obfuscated the underlying social political questions, revolving around Colonial
and post Colonial power nations. Let us start with the first historical moment. By the early
19th century, after around 200 years of Colonial rules of territories in the tropics, the British
had established ways of building and leaving adapted with the social environmental conditions
of the tropics. One of the most prevalent types in the British topical areas was the
bungalow. And circulated in parts of Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. The word
bungalow was derived from the bang alley word for the peasant bengal. The bungalow is a
hybrid typology which came about because the British adopted indigenous building forms
and practices. And adapted building forms to them. The indigenization in the environment
are evident in the various climatic devices used by British in India. And the punka as
shown on the screen. The indigenization and hybridization of the environment was part
of the pattern of how the British in India adopted indigenous diets and lifestyles prior
to the 19th century. Doors opened into broad Verandas around the
house. They were designed with comfort in mind. In this moment in history, the tropics
was not seen as unhealthy to the Europeans. The tropics was only deemed as uncomfortable
because of the heat and humidity. The British was tasked primarily preoccupied with planning
comfortable buildings. Comfort was understood as physical comfort in all the physical spaces.
The self satisfaction between the relationship of one’s body and immediate environment is
the Anglo American invention. It led to improvement in the material culture of the domestic environment.
The area and comfortable Asian bungalow could be understood in this historical context.
Physical comfort of the European inhabitants was not just provided to the environment.
It was augmented between the relationship of architecture and landscape. Many bungalows
were careful leave sited for the benefit of resource and shading and placed in relation
to the wild and manicured landscape to create picturesque effect. The hybridization tends
to be seen as culture possesses. The destabilized binaries and question the narratives. However,
hybridization could be seen in relation to social processes of designing and building
the concept of the conditions of Colonial production. The heterogenous, drawing on the
notion of architectural heteronomy. Larson argues instead of disciplinary autonomy, he
better describes architecture, knowledge and practices as architects depend on external
practices, and realize, the architecture. The heterogenous and drawing on the study,
there is called heterogenous engineering to describe the necessity of the stable artifact
to have diverse elements align in the example. The fragileness of the environment, the buildings
convey a term Nance and stability. But if we turn our attention to the Colonial environment,
the tenuous nature of the beauty of Zambia, is evident to the forms and building failure
which were not uncommon as those on the screen suggest.
This failure could be passionately attributed to the heavy dependency those that spoke different
languages and had different cultures and crafts from the Europeans. The culture bias and representing
the natives, led many Colonial architect engineers to view them in negative stereotype. Viewed
as unskilled and callous unreliable workers they sought to learn their languages and practice
to better understand with the outcome. The lack of familiarity of building resources
in the early phase might account for the building failures. Each locality has their own stones,
bricks and plaster. In addition certain tools and appliances available in industrializing
Europe might not be found in the tropics. This building challenges had been overcome
through various means such as finding suitable local substitute and simplifying architectural
design to match the local resources. They taken together, the hybridization should be
seen through the framework in relation to the various forms of improvisation, on the
job learning and other strategies deployed in the architectural production. Hybridization
should be understood in relation to the butta. Until the introduction of systematic training,
as we shall see, the military engineer was not a design to be envied.
We will move on to the next type. The military barracks. A very brief of the
barracks in Singapore. The first purpose were built in 1862. As timber building surrounded
by Verandas and surrounded by attached roof, they were built with local materials. In the
1880s, a new military plan was devised for Singapore as importance of the group. The
new military and barracks in the islands. They were half brick and Amber construction.
The local Colonial customs and building construction. In this case, the local norms occasionally
took precedent and overwrote metropolitan standards.
During the interwar years of 1920s and 30s, as part of turning Singapore into a major
British barracks in the far east, it was built and planned by the engineers. The typical
barrack was a building with reinforced concrete. It had the building plans and standards described
in the later synopsis, which were sufficiently flexible to accommodate local variations and
adaptations. For example, the reinforced concrete frame of the barracks was calculated and designed
in London. A few different roof systems were tested locally and implemented. We can discern
in the brief overview, the military barrack became increasingly mobile and stable with
time. They were not unlike the hybridized bungalow discussed in the first movement,
they were used with local materials. The barrack, especially that of the most recent iteration
was a relatively immutable type that remain stable when circulated. It was more stable
because it was a well defined building type by the early 20th century. Military barrack
became less objective because of the improvisation because of the conditions of Colonial architecture
production. s increased stability could accommodate and incorporate the local changes and variation.
In discussing the military barracks in this historical moment and contrasting them with
the bungalows of the previous moment, I am interested to explore how this increased the
ability and mobility came about and the underlying politics.
The military barrack became more stable and mobile because of the early to mid 19th century
emergence of the building in the tropics, which could be attributed to a number of factors.
The first, the military training engineers from the early 19th century. Military engineers
were the earliest to be schooled in building construction. In Britain and the empire, the
establishment of the cost in architecture, in the establishment of 1825 by captain Charles
was a milestone. In the following year, paisley published a book that was designed to help
military engineers send to The Colonies by methodically covering the fundamentals in
building construction. Besides formal training, he and his colleagues
pioneer research into the different aspects of building, including establishing a tradition
of testing building materials and comparing the construction methods in the tropical colonies.
It was under such conditions of experimentations that one of the earliest standardized barracks
was produced in the west Indies. Proposed in 1824, colonel Smith, the engineer of the
west Indies, it was a freestanding beauty in the basement.
The cross section of the design shows the barrack room is shield from sun and rain on
both sides by Verandas. The interior was spacious, providing volume of air space for soldier.
The design was informed by the transmission, the prevailing medical explanation. According
to the theory, ill health was caused by a type of nauseous vapor from rotting organic
matters. Associated with the environment and human bodies. It was reason that the hot and
humid climate in the tropics [indiscernible] leading to the emission of more poisonous
discharge. It would accumulate in overcrowded and poor ventilated facilities. Having a large
model for the inhabitant of a room. Therefore, Smith’s propose barrack had a narrow section,
spacious interior that allowed it to be well ventilated. Equally if not more significantly,
Smith’s proposed barrack was seen as a system to be replicated.
The connection was created from a prefabricated system and was able to build bar beings in
many areas, despite the system, it is tropical barrack would become further systemized and
more widespread after the major sanitary reform in the British army.
Two momentous event took place in the mid 19th century that led to the major reform.
The first was a Crimean war center crisis famously exposed by Florence Nightingale.
It led to the appointment of the helm of the army in 1897 to review the high mortality
rates in the British army and attributed them to the dark, damp, overcrowded barracks that
soldiers live in. The second was 1857 to the Indian rebellion and political reform in the
aftermath. The reform as stated the stationing of greater number of British soldiers in India.
That focus the administrator’s attention on the health of the soldiers in India and sanitary
conditions of their stations. This led to the appointment of the royal commission of
the sanitary state of the army in India which reviewed higher mortality rates and more appalling
living conditions than those in other stations. As they were deemed as the main cause of bad
health for the British soldiers, of it led to the barrack and hospital review to evaluate
them. It was assumed there was a relationship between climate and health. The home stations
represented temperate climate as regarded as the healthiest for the British. This stood
in for tropical climate that was assumed to be hostile to human life and especially deadly
to the English health. The Mediterranean was in between the extremes.
The causal relationship between health and climate was specifically hot climate was obviously
also infringed by the resist transmission discussed earlier. And shaped by the development
of neutral RG in the 19th century. Before then climate was unquantified and unquantifiable.
The availability of precise measuring instruments and regularization of measurement methods
in the early 19th century contributed to the quantification of climate and also representing
climatic data in space. By using the data, new interpretations could emerge. One of the
new interpretation was the reconstruction of the tropics from merely uncomfortable that
we saw in the earlier movements, to the tropics as the path log pathological cause.
They were recognized for the health for the stations investigated. Given that the three
commissions were distinguished by differences, predicated on the same theory. It was not
surprising the issue between 1861 and 63 propose the barracks based on the same basic configuration.
Symmetrical, freestanding one room deep with a stair case in the center and lavatories
on the end. In tomorrows of the space for the soldier and whether there were Verandas,
as you can see on the screen. The space and the logic of variation became
the basis of a definite standard of military accommodation that was codified into the synopsis.
The standard of building in military units in the British Empire was provided. It was
the guide for any new building. Since it was continuously revised, the climatic classification
and prescribed change. The climatic classification was based on the schema of home, Mediterranean
and [indiscernible] on the scale from temperate to tropics. We see it becoming more generous
as they move from the cold to hot climate. You can see on this table. These were special environments, atypical
of the general Colonial landscape. There was a vast array of recreational amenities for
the soldiers to use. And the buildings were carefully placed in a natural setting regarded
by the residents as paradisical. Quarter, divide and separate. Implicit in the planning
was what Anthony king calls a separation concept. Thus, not only was it exceptional, it was
also conceived as a separate entity from the native city. Near enough to be defended, but
not close enough to be contaminated. It is from unsanitary and immoral conditions. This
was the researcher from Singapore over here. Many of the siting of the tropics based on
the separation concept were introduced in the 1863 report of the royal commission. They
recommended reading rooms and other facilities to spend their time in physical and moral
improvements. It was in experience to the observations of the occupation among soldiers
was the major cause of widespread intemperance, ill health and venereal diseases. It was understood
as relevance. To administer, multiply and optimize the biological life of the population.
Contrasting this new biopower with the sovereign power, he notes that while sovereign power
is the right to take life and let live, the biopower is to let life and let die. There
is a parasitic relationship with the native city.
The British soldiers relied on an array of local servants to perform various household
tasks and support daily lives, the construction depended on the military contribution from
The Colony. Exceptions into the lives of the colonized. The Colonial defendant made contributions
to the imperial naval base and other structure in Singapore, including those in the 1920s
to 1940s. The military contributions came from The Colony’s revenue. In ma Leah, the
source was from the source of opium. This parasitic relationship between the cantonment
with the rep contrasting the good lives of the soldiers with the lives of the migrant
laborers. It was refracted between the spacious ground, greenery and infrastructure of the
cantonment that the Colonial government invested in and the city that the Colonial government
neglected. Let us move to the third and final historical
movement in the 20th century. At this juncture, it was institutionalized as a body of knowledge
applicable to all building types. Central to the architecture was the scientific knowledges
and practices. They distinguished it from the moment from the predecessor. The establishment
that focused on the problems. There was a growing emphasis and research and experimentation
aimed at improving building methods and design. The UN tropical housing mission was dispatched
to Southeast Asia between 1950 and 51 there was a great amount of research, experimentation
and small scale demonstration going on in south and Southeast Asia. It was evidence
in the numerous conferences and specialists held to explore the challenges of building
in the tropics during the 1950s. Furthermore, the textbooks on tropical architecture, with
cata and representation for the reinforced impression of the technoscientific turn.
The building was the one in Britain. Founded in 1921, it was the model for many state funded
building research organizations that were subsequently set up around the world. Building
was established to deal with housing and other building problems in Britain. It wasn’t until
1948 when the Colonial liaison unit was established to deal with problems in the tropics. Later
it was called the tropical building division. Clearly narrowing its borders. There is a
recommendation put forward by the Colonial housing group in 1945. The group make two
recommendations to coordinate housing done in the different parts of British Empire.
Firstly, they recommended the establishment of a metropolitan center called the Colonial
housing bureau for the collection, examination of Colonial housing research. It would be
a depository in which housing could be organized and make available for consolidation. Secondly,
the group recommended setting up four regional national convention research centers in the
periphery. The recommendations represent the first time that a major coordinated effort
with the requisite financial backing was initiated by the Colonial office for the housing. This
came about following the passing of the 1940 Colonial development and welfare act. Subsidies
were made available for social welfare in areas such as health, education and housing.
The concern came not from the pure government. It was part of the larger strategy to deal
with what the British regarded as disturbances in The Colonies. Labor, unrest, anti Colonial
housing. It was the previous model of Colonial scientific research. Following the standard
practice of science, the proposed Colonial housing bureau was to be attached to the institution
with a similar problem. In this case, it was [indiscernible]. The regional research establishment
in The Colonies were to be modeled after metropolitan establishment, although they were the sub
Sid. In the case of tropical medicine in the 20th century, there was a decision of labor
and general application of The Colonies, a hierarchical division of labor was assumed
between the center and the proposed organization of the research. The group proposed the regional
centers view simpler on site problems and leave the research to the metropolitan institutions.
This corresponded to the prevailing political economy relations. Reached the tropical and
was entrapped in the relationship with the temporal after several delays, the proposed
Colonial housing bureau was established and had the appointment of Josh Anthony Atkinson
as the liaison officer in June 1948. Each was to assign an officer to correspond with
and facilitate the work. One of the main tasks facing Atkinson was the need to control the
cause of building construction in the colonies. He was asked to formally minimum building
standards and find cheaper, more efficient ways of building the tropics through technical
problem solving approach of building science. Unlike traditional craft that depended on
rules and practices and trial and error. They were predicting performance and replicatability
in different sites and contexts. The building standards would be useless if they not adhere
to the building where they’re formulated or not adopted by those that formulated them.
For them to work the knowledge has to be disseminated and trained to establish norms and practices.
And new tools and instruments might be required. In other words building standards need to
remain constant when circulating between different sites, situations and people. Many ways building
standard brought a cost immutable mobile. It is [indiscernible] it could circulate without
distortion. Immutable only remains that inside the network. With the beauty standard and
network building. Work done by Atkinson was that. He travel
to make contacts to survey and advise on the Colonial building development on this basis.
To lecture and publicize the work in the Colonial building research. In addition he took on
educational initiatives, with the Colonial services and teaching part time at department
of tropical studies and architectural association London. One of the most important parts of
the units at the network building in assisting the establishment of regional building of
The Colonies and beyond. The unit helped to establish the west African building in 1952
and the desire and research branch in the department in Malia. That will not just permit
that. They have power effects too. The network indicates that it is concentrated in a few
places, we call it the knots and notes. The network, the places people could turn into
immutable from the peripheries of the centers. With the accumulation of knowledge at the
centers. The accumulation of knowledge is also the accumulation of power, because it
allows a few points in the network to become the centers of calculation which can act on
distant places because of the familiarity with things, people, events there. Cycles
of accumulating network create and reinforce the asymmetry of powers in the centers and
peripheries, allowing the centers to dominate other localities. To illustrate the effects
of the network, let us turn our attention to the chromatic design, the view that Atkinson
was a pioneer. It was seen as unhealthy, if not deadly under the theory. As the theory
took the theory from the turn of the 20th century and related innovations in tropical
medicine and sanitation reduced the mortality and morbidity rates of the tropics, the effect
of the environment was no longer a matter of life and death and became the less menacing
question of impinging on comfort. It was the return to the question of comfort we saw in
the first moment, but framed more scientifically and narrowly. Comfort was a question of thermo
sensation, but linked to an array of issues in race, class and labor. Much of the earlier
research on thermal comfort was focused on the efficiency of European col Anya and laborers.
It was created into a climatic design. There was an overview of the principles and design
prescriptions. Central was the chart. There was DeLeon. Nairobi in Kenya. Representing
the principal typings of warm, humid, hot, dry, upland, respectively. Juxtapose on the
graph is arid that represents the thermal comfort zone. The descriptions were termed
on the differences of climatical times of zones. This appears to achieve several things.
Firstly, the tropics were known for the three types, knowing the climate stands in for knowledge
about the locality, for the reduction, simplification and standardization of the work into a set
of climatic parameters. The climate in the social, political diverse entities could being
grouped together because of sharing a hot and humid tropical climate. They could be
grouped together, but architectural responses to this socially, culturally and politically
different sites could be considered in a similar manner. Primarily in terms of thermal comfort.
By representing different localities according to climatic types and providing recommended
architectural responses through the mobiles like tables, graphs, diagrams,
climatic designs were gathered and allowed them to be presented at once and facilitated
at a distance with an unfamiliar event, basis and people at the center of calculation. This
is manifested in two different forms, for British architects, based in the tropics,
overview of climatic design allowed them to prosecution architecture without said needing
to travel to The Colonies. It was the expertise of The Colonies. The second manifestation
of the action at a distance was less direct and more pervasive it allowed the office to
set building standards and establish new design forms that became known as modern tropical
architecture. To regulate architecture production in The Colonies. The standards and norms of
the modern architecture includes specifications of planning standard, building materials and
construction methods. The techno clarity were provided at times when the territories were
in flux. Experiencing changes and transformation brought about by rapid modernization, unequal
development and rural migration. This was the scaling and traditional building. A few
commentators have argued that the new design and building norms created a dependency on
imported construction materials, components and expertise from the metropolitan in the
tropics. Finally, concluding notes. I have sought to
historyize these moments in the genealogy. This is a term I borrow. This is a history
of the present. This is how the history was constituted. This is to share the belief that
it carries sentimental meanings from the past. It is preop pied as subjugated preoccupied,
as subjugated knowledges and the insurrection to realize
the architecture in the tropics. [Laughter]
A moment of darkness. Thank you. I categorize these knowledges under
the three broad categories of nature, technoscience and power.
At the beginning of the talk I pointed out the taxonomy peculiarity of tropical architecture.
This peculiarity can be understood in relation to what David Arnold called tropicality, the
complex of western ideas of imaging the tropics as an environmental authority against the
perceived normal see of the world in Europe. Along the line of [indiscernible] this was
contingent on the historical construction and entwined with other social and cultural
authorities. As we have seen, the tropics was at different points constructed as the
chaotic pictures, and undeveloped order. There is the entanglements, the tropical climate
was conceived as an external and unchanging entity out there.
Perhaps as James Roger and Vladimir argues, climate is a vehicle capable of maturizing
the mature of social construct and natural fact. The conception of society is useful
for two related reasons. One, for society to have the climates in order to explain social
phenomena. Two, for society to see climate as a problem to be controlled and tame. In
other words, tropical climate was considered as authority and enemy. Explanation and problem.
Colonial construction linger on up to today. Architecturally today, the hot and humid tropical
climate is seen as an external entity to be responded to or regulated in order to facilitate
different forms of economic development of post Colonial nations. The responses are predicated
on the immutability of tropical climate. We have the climate change, it is no longer stable
and not predictable. Can society have cause to the climate in view of the seismic change?
Furthermore it has led to the conception of the human being that has irretrievably transformed
nature. This also challenges the distinction between climate and society. Nature and culture.
Without the external nature, the society, nature relationship needs to steal a new cost.
This is one that responds to tropical nature and climate. It is perhaps one that coproduces
the tropical nature and climate. Colonial construction will not just culture and construction,
they are mediated by technoscience. And without this, it would not be identified and causations
with health thinking not be established. Building on the knowledge of tropical climate,
other knowledges such as tropical medicine and sanitation building science and physiology
contributed to the construction of the tropics of the pestilence and the fear of scientific
knowledge was addressed the problems and deficiencies. Behind this knowledge and practices of cost
experts like Josh Atkinson and royal engineers and building cessation. After the end of the
Colonialism in 1960s and 70s, they continue to produce knowledge and establish normals
to the beauty of the designs. This was likewise dependent on new knowledge produced by network
of sustainability institutions, expert and consultancy firms. It is worth repeating that
technoscience has power, innovation, social, cultural and political consequences. We have
soon the forms of technoscience is accumulated and consolidated. I argue this was an accrual
of power. Because technoscience knowledge enabled them to know on distant places in
the network. Furthermore, it was linked to various Colonial technosciences, which were
shaped by the government. They were solving building problems over others. And building
problems remember privileged with the political expediency.
If the recalls has helped to render tropical architecture as apolitical, the interrogation
to the tropicality of technology and symposium suggests it is political and cannot be extricated
from the colonial and postcolonial. I depart from this to discuss
that it was translated, racialized, fragmented manners in the Colonial tropics. Spatially
fragmented an uneven landscape was created. There was neglect and others living good biopolitical
lives. Primarily enclaves. Similar forms of power continue to permeate the sustainable
architecture today. In the splintering cultures, it is fragments into regimes. For the high
net worth individual, to the south view compounds for urban quarter settlements, of marginalized
community. Thank you. [Applause]>>So will all the smart people please stay.
We have time for a few questions. Yes, in the back.
>>QUESTION: First of all, thank you for the presentation. A note, I am from Indonesia,
I know some things you were talking about. Another part I was thinking is that you’re
presenting how the colonists from Britain pretty much approached tropical architecture
through technoscience methods, is that pervasive in the rules, standards and specifically through
the building authority?>>Thanks for the question. I don’t think
we can ever escape from any kind of technosciencific knowledges, especially those related to standards,
norms and prescriptions. Does that answer your question?
>>>>QUESTION: I guess I want to ask, a lot of the methods come from a western perspective.
I did see how the changes from the barracks up to the newer typology, how it is informed
from the western perspective of what tropical architecture is. I think in the Dutch, they
were what were a lot of them doing is taking up from the local architecture and bring it
into the phonology. To reiterate, is it still taking from that western point of view of
tropical architecture and then building into the codes, the standards?
>>I think your question seems to suggest that are you thinking of Colonial architects
that draw from>>QUESTION: Some of them, right.
>>I think there is a long Dutch Colonial tradition of Europeans were born at that time
have a great affinity for the culture and traditions there and drawing from this culture
and tradition and using these culture and traditions interpreting them in modern forms.
Are you referring to those type of practices?>>QUESTION: I guess I want to ask how is
it in Singapore? If I gather from your presentation, it is all taking the technosciencific methods
and researches and not considering what the locals were actually doing.
>>Maybe a few things first. I’m not sure whether I can really answer your question.
First, I think the west is inside of us. We cannot really tease out the west and create
the west as a separate distinct categories. For example, coming to study at Syracuse,
you are in a way internalizing part of the west. Could you still pull out the west and
pull it from your other self. I think the two are deeply entangled. The point is not
to say that the west is bad or western technosciencific is necessarily evil, but there are specific
contexts of constructing this form of knowledge, it obfuscate the it is in some other ways,
covered and buried. If I refer to the earlier question, there is difference between the
Asian countries. Singapore is a city state. Much shorter history and the longer history
of the one that is maybe deeply entangled with the larger region that Singapore is surrounded
by. Today is has weak relationship with that. In that sense, the tradition, the sense of
tradition and sense of the local culture and knowledge is perhaps very different from in
Indonesia where many parts I imagine I can’t say for sure this might still be living practices.
Whereas in Singapore, because it is only a city and tiny and city state. Those kind of
local knowledge and forms and practices might not exist anymore. To revive them would be
artificial, to reassert their importance would be equally artificial as to import so called
western knowledge. There is a nuance depending on what city or part of Southeast Asia you
are talking about. Yeah. Does that answer your question?
>>QUESTION: Professor, thank you. Towering achievement. I think the Biscali work is so
cogently argued. I try to replicate it, but I can’t. So I think on many levels it exceeds.
The part I am wondering in this presentation in particular is the idea of the technoscientific
clarity you present, I wonder if it is too clean. Like in a sense, the picture presented
is that these are all success stories where the substitution of the colonizer and colonize
with networks. That is smart and opens things up for sure. It is little less binary. I wonder
if in the shift and praising of the technoscientific, you loose some sense of the places where the
project failed and where the I think what the earlier question was getting to is some
sense of a push back from whether it is a local context or whatever, because, you know,
my sense because I’m dealing with the British Colonial and Nigerian sense. So there, the
case, you go to archives and you find not success stories, it is like a comedy of errors.
The wheels are always falling off and the British are kind of, you know, on a shoe string
budget trying to fix problems. They just can’t quite get it right. Things eventually just
fall apart. So I’m wondering if there is room in the narrative to have something that complicates
the clarity. It is almost too clean right now. It is like yes, yes, it is totally the
networkization. I agree with your points about nature becoming things that are social becoming
naturalized. I think that that is the move that a lot of the research opens up. I wonder
if it makes it as though that you believe that fact also. Like, you buy into the idea
it is a naturalized kind of condition.>>Yeah, I think that is a great question.
I agree in many sense, that The Colony is underfunded overextended, the ambition of
the experiment was huge. But rarely succeeded in achieving what they wanted to do in the
laboratory. This is influenced by the research that I
did. I went to London, the metropolitan archives. It will tell a set of stories. I think my
narrative is very much informed by that archive. So I am totally, if you go to the ground,
there will be failures, things are falling apart. Totally underfunded. The Colonial liaison
office for a very long time was two person, Josh and his assistant. They would write letters.
They would travel to try to persuade everyone to undertake technoscientific research. They
were underfunded so I don’t think they could influence the research.
But then I was responding to how this discourse is absorbed into architectural education and
promoted as the right thing to do, but I was arguing that in all, it is not so clear cut,
no climate is not just a simple determinant of architecture forms. It is slightly more
complicated in the climate, so I was trying to foreground the politics. I might have overemphasized
how the strength of the network and the inference of the network. Yeah. So maybe the next book
or some further book will talk about how this network falls apart.
>>QUESTION: Thank you so much for the wonderful presentation. I have a question that relates
to the last question in terms of failure and trying the error in Colonial architecture.
I wonder the relationships that might have happened and the effect of that experimentation,
with the Colonial being a laboratory for the west. Into the western canon. I’m thinking
I’m off a little in the time line, but I’m thinking of the idea that was still kind of
being shaped in the barracks that you presented. Is it ba rocks? Barracks, sorry. And how it
is not quite configured that way. It gives room for local builders or the idea of failure
to happen. I wonder how those kind of experimentation in terms of the Cantonments in the garden
city movement in the west. I guess we don’t have to talk about the west, but I’m interested
in that idea of the laboratory.>>I think the question regarding The Colony
as a laboratory of experimentation is a really fascinating one. Conceptually and historically.
When I was looking at example, I sort of make the argument that the laboratory was successful
an experiment done in the laboratory was successful because the site of experimentation was very
clearly delineated within the Cantonment. So in that sense we did the Cantonment, it
was a successful experimentation. Partly because they were talking about far smaller population,
far smaller site as well. But if you look at the larger colony in the matter of The
Colony like Singapore, you will see a lot of it was really out of control. So we see
the laboratory, we look at the laboratory today with the highly controlled site. It
is the variables of the experiment. So uncover the larger scale I don’t think the experiment
was not anything like the laboratory experimentations that we see today. So they were really out
of control, the variables were not set. It was underfunded. It was a successful experiment
but in a highly prescribed and narrow sense of the words. Yeah. I hope that makes sense.
>>QUESTION: I enjoyed your talk, I wanted to switch to the transnational flows, especially
from the beginning of the talk. Can you talk about the relationship between Qatar with
the Cantonment next to the college and the botanical garden. An 18th century structure.
Singapore has strong connections to the city, any thoughts about that? My question [indiscernible]>>Could you please have manners and dignity
and leave quietly? Thank you.>>So I think that up to I think for the first
half of 19th century, Singapore was part of street settlement, and that included. It was
from Calcutta and then things change and the settlement became a colony. So in fact, there
were a lot of inference. Some of the early settlement, because of the military engineers
that were from different parts of British India that came from to Singapore and supervised
the construction. There was connection in that sense, there were connections in terms
of people like military engineers and the convict laborers. Up to 1860s, I think, they
were essentially done by convict laborers. In terms of the people not just people that
were supervising them. We have got the question of the model of the city, that would be some
parallel in terms of leaning the structure with the notion of the ma Don and the Cantonment
of the term. It is formalized in the institutionalized there as well. That kind of circulation and
inference from India. Some scholars argue the Indian Ocean is the center [indiscernible]
and I say if you look at this, there is a lot of connections.
>>Thank you. You have been very generous. If you would like to speak with him after,
he’s here for a few more minutes.>>Sure. Definitely.
[Applause] [Presentation ended]