Organized Panel Session
In 1948, after 63 years of occupation, the United Kingdom granted independence to the new state of Burma, which embarked on a thorny path in the context of fractured tribal alliances and global political tensions between “Red” China, the capitalist “West”, and a growing “Non-aligned Movement”. After World War II, Burma’s architectural and planning needs were dramatic, but meeting those needs was a formidable challenge.
This paper will provide some sense of this macro-level context, but it will also focus on more micro-level decisions about how and what Burma built during the brief time window that closed abruptly in 1962, when military generals of the Tatmadaw assumed control. During that 1948-1962 period, Rangoon (Yangon) was clearly in need of “modernization”, but what did being “modern” suggest in this post-colonial maelstrom? What kind of planning and architectural design resulted in other Burmese towns?
Therefore, Burma is an intriguing case for exploring questions about state-building, shifting architectural discourses and “mid-20th century modernization” in a transnational context. The paper will draw distinctions between the ideals of “tropical modernity” – as manifested in a new training program of the Architectural Association in London – and “social modernization”, as shown by agents of the new Burmese state. The paper will suggest not only the need for further research in this scarcely-studied subject, but also the importance of understanding architectural change as a confluence of Burmese and non-Burmese agents, architects, planners, and politicians.