Modernity in architecture in relation to context
Setiawan, Arief B.
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The thesis questions the ways in which architecture might embody the notion of modernity in different cultures and regions yet achieve appropriateness relative to place. In the early twentieth century in the industrialized world, the issue of modernity in architecture was identified with the notions of abstraction and rationalization that colored the development of the modern movement. The second generation of the modern movement queried the roles of human experiences and urban and architectural contexts in architectural design. With the spread of the modern movement to the rest of the world, the issue of context in architecture grew stronger. Following this line of thought, this dissertation examines the tension between modernist abstractionism and urban and architectural contexts in place in which the presence and the role of local knowledge and traditions in architecture remained influential. It investigates modernity in architecture through a specific Asian reading and through an analysis of the work of Geoffrey Bawa of Sri Lanka. Selected works of Geoffrey Bawa are chosen because the significance of his oeuvre is often contested by interpreters who see it as reflecting various contemporary approaches, including regionalism and vernacularism. Thus, in an effort to refute such simplistic explanations of his work, this thesis examines selected works of Bawa, analyzing their spatial organization, formal arrangement, materials, techniques, and building details. In particular, it attempts to highlight the ways in which Bawa articulated the notions of experience and memory in his architecture. These analyses are then placed within the framework of the social and cultural situations that his architecture confronted in Sri Lanka. It is within this framework that we might determine the ways in which modernity and locality were embodied in Bawa's work. Interpretations of his work take into account the understanding of modernity as a cultural practice and an attitude. Modernity as an attitude relates to a specific modernist subject who is able to use reason for judgment in addressing context. In this dissertation, a reading on the work of Walter Benjamin on modernity, the pasts, and traditions frames this understanding of this modernist subjectivity. In architecture, modernity as an attitude means that is not a style but a way of thinking and formulating design intent. This inquiry is then used as a framework within which this dissertation will interpret the relationship between modernity and local identity. The conclusions of the dissertation contribute to an understanding of the achievement of modernity in architecture in tight relationship to context. On a more focused level, it also hopes to contribute to an appreciation of the extant works of Geoffrey Bawa, which the author of this dissertation deems exemplary of what modern architecture might achieve in Asia.