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Southeast Asia’s Modern Architecture

Questions of Translation, Epistemology and Power

What is the modern in Southeast Asia’s architecture and how do we approach its study critically? This pathbreaking multidisciplinary volume is the first critical survey of Southeast Asia’s modern architecture. It looks at the challenges of studying this complex history through the conceptual frameworks of translation, epistemology, and power. Challenging Eurocentric ideas and architectural nomenclature, the authors examine the development of modern architecture in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, with a focus on selective translation and strategic appropriation of imported ideas and practices by local architects and builders. The book transforms our understandings of the region’s modern architecture by moving beyond a consideration of architecture as an aesthetic artifact and instead examining its entanglement with different dynamics of power.

400 pages | 78 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018


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This edited volume should be celebrated as the first that provides an architectural survey of the region and a critical reevaluation [...] Despite the archival challenge in researching about Southeast Asia, the contributors managed to produce rigorous works that are substantiated by various forms of evidence. Moreover, I found the footnotes in this collection very resourceful in constructing a new system of reference that deviates from the Western canon of architectural history. This last note should not be taken for granted, for it conveys the contribution of this volume to the regional project as much as to the global history of architecture."

Robin Honggare | Planning Perspectives

“It is a rare pleasure to read an edited volume that presents a coherent argument while also inviting critique which opens up further thinking. Jiat-Hwee Chang and Imran bin Tajudeen walk this fine line in [their book].”


“The book offers an interesting first glimpse into a plethora of thematically and nationally varied narratives about twentieth-century modern architecture.”

Pauline Roosmalen | SOJOURN

“The areas of study cover important cities in the region, including Bagan in Myanmar, Bangkok in Thailand, Saigon in Vietnam, Bali and Yogyakarta in Indonesia, Singapore, and Manila in the Philippines…. The papers in this volume attempt to take a comparative view in order to show a broad picture and reveal some common characteristics of the Southeast Asian region.  This may lead to the construction of a new theory for understanding the history of this group of countries.”

Chatri Prakitnonthakan | Southeast Asian Studies

“A pioneering work in the twentieth-century architectural history of this region (especially in the postcolonial Cold War period) [which] progresses beyond conventional explanations of architectural history.” 

Southeast Asia Studies

"This collection opens the field of architectural history of the modern and will enrich specialists’ way of seeing. It shows how modern architecture could be differently understood, challenged, transformed, and owned. It capably represents a break, but not a retreat, from influential architectural history and theory."

Abidin Kusno, professor, York Centre for Asian Research and director, Centre for Southeast Asia, University of British Columbia, Canada

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