Borak//Borak #19: Merdeka and Modernism will be organized at Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 13th October 2016 (Thursday).
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In collaboration with UM M.Arch Architectural Theory and Philosophy Class, we present you the
#19 Borak//Borak: Public Lecture by Dr. Lai Chee Kien
MERDEKA AND MODERNISM
The end of World War II in 1945 marked a crucial phase in Malaya as sovereignty was wrestled from their former British colonizers. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and developmental politics, the new government sought to rapidly urbanize Kuala Lumpur the capital city, induce urban housing, commit infrastructural works and launch large-scale national buildings to refashion geographies and citizens.
From 1957 to 1966, the first cabinet in Malaysia capitalized on its strong export-based economy, established public works programme, and civil fervour to construct infrastructural and national projects efficiently and speedily. During the same period, ten structures designed and built in Kuala Lumpur forged an important collective and architectural affirmation that the nascent state had arrived at the regional and world spheres besides galvanizing the nation’s internal visions of unity and progress.
Such projects as a national mosque, a parliament house, two stadiums, a university, an international airport; a national monument, an international airport, a language institute and an urban park, not only displayed the capabilities of architectural and constructional expertise in both public and private sectors, but became beacons through which the emancipative nature of the new nation may be interpellated, consumed and disseminated.
This lecture discusses these Merdeka projects as a group to delineate and discern the complex range of issues regarding Independence and its subsequent phases of national aspiration. The realisation of these architectural projects, their murals and formal expressions taken as a whole, may be considered physical manifestations or interocutors of nascent experiments with modernist idioms in architecture, but also as transmitted or altered forms.
Lai Chee Kien is Adjunct Associate Professor at the Architecture and Sustainable Design Pillar, Singapore University of Technology and Design. He is a registered architect, and graduated from the National University of Singapore with an M Arch. by research , and then a PhD in History of Architecture & Urban Design from the University of California, Berkeley . He researches on histories of art, architecture, settlements, urbanism and landscapes in Southeast Asia. His publications include A Brief History of Malayan Art (1999), Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1966 (2007). His 2015 work, Through the Lens of Lee Kip Lin: Photographs of Singapore 1965-1995 won Singapore Book Award for Best Non-Fiction Title in 2016.