Domus India - May 2019
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Civilizations are measured practically always by the buildings they make and the cities they build; but rarely have we written the histories of people and the cultures that destroy and demolish their built worlds. How could the building of French pride and history, and world heritage — the Notre Dame — burn down? But the French President Emmanuel Macron, at the site, announced its assured reconstruction and rebuilding, and support poured in from across the world. In India, in 1992, Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid was demolished by aggressive mobs driven by ideological imaginations and manufactured confusions regarding national histories and politically driven interpretations of mythologies. In 2017, the Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries at the Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, celebrated world over as an architectural engineering feat and marvel, was demolished by the ITPO (India Trade Promotions Organisation), an agency under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The history of contemporary architecture in India is marked between these two demolitions — Babri Masjid in 1992 to Pragati Maidan buildings in 2017 — and it well indicates the nature of the civilization and society we live and participate in. History and the contemporary are both contested regions. The struggle constantly is not only to make sense of continuities and discontinuities between history and the contemporary but also to recover the multiple histories and stories of confluences that shape our present. The present needs to be recovered beyond its politicized narrowness to address richer and more complex histories. Our simplistic histories and readings of craft and regionalism have destroyed deeper debates on building civilizations and the complexities of creativity and citizenship, neighborhoods and relationships of everyday living.
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