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- REVISITING MODERNIST MASS-HOUSING: RESIDENTS AS ACTIVE AGENTS OF CHANGE
- Shah, Nadia
In this PhD research, I have examined the modernist approach of mid-20thcentury mass housing projects against the backdrop of post-colonial...
Show moreIn this PhD research, I have examined the modernist approach of mid-20thcentury mass housing projects against the backdrop of post-colonial nation building and the need for housing refugees through resettlement projects after World War II. In this epoch most of the refugees were accommodated in newly decolonized nation states that were struggling to create their national identity as ‘modern'. It was at this critical moment in history, when the West assumed the paternalistic role of development of the so-called ‘Third World’, the ‘Global South’ or the ‘Underdeveloped Nations’, that they defined what is 'modern' using Western standards of ‘normalcy’. Aboard this international development project, architectural modernism’s response was to ‘generalize problems’ and provide ‘normative prescriptions’ as solutions based on rational models. I have reviewed the timeline of modernist ideas that led to mass housing and the associated notion of ‘normalization of space,’ presenting three scales used to organize society: regional planning, land use zoning, and mass-produced architecture, as a prescriptive process. I have examined architecture’s ‘normalization’ as a source of conflict for nation states in their process of national identity formation. I argue that the pedagogy of both modernism and late modernism, presented cultural distinction as an intermediary condition that was subject to change. In particular, modernist architecture engaged with the “concept of normalcy” for the formation of a modern society through spatial and physical organization. Using the case study of Pakistan, I present how this notion was at odds with Pakistani nationalism, since the country was created on the premise to house a traditional society. I have used the example of the Greek architect, Constantinos Doxiadis and his trajectory of late modernism for solving the global housing crisis after World War II. For this purpose, I present the case of a particular post World War II refugee resettlement project called Korangi Town in Karachi Pakistan. This case is studied in the light of modernist planning and architectural models to examine what was proposed, designed, and predicted by this professional architect and how Korangi Town has evolved in the past sixty years. The objective is to see how the new normal architecture and planning standards of the West were received in the non-Western culture? The case study of Korangi Town reveals that the residents of a locale may organize themselves along cultural and ethnic lines, deviating from implemented prescriptive and normative solutions. The changes that the residents made to their built environment through the processes identified as ‘appropriation’, ‘adaptation’ and ‘expansion’ in the dissertation are interpreted as the signs of their active agency. The residents’ agency emerges to reshape their built environs to meet their cultural and individual needs, but most of all their economic needs. These observations show that rather than being passive recipients of ready-made and prescriptive solutions, the residents were active agents in adjusting and adding to their environment. Inhabitants’ active agency needs attention by the planning and architecture professions to assure that environments intended for them have their meaningful input. This dissertation raises questions about how these professions can support this active agency from the beginning and through the planning and design processes.