Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Modern Architecture and Capitalist Patronage in Ahmedabad, India 1947-1969
by Williamson, Daniel, Ph.D., New York University, 2016, 614; 10025620
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the architectural patronage of a small cadre of industrialists, textile millowners, who controlled the city of Ahmedabad, India economically and politically between Indian independence in 1947 and 1968, the year communal riots shattered that city's self-image. It examines the role modern architecture played for these elites in projecting Ahmedabad as a modern, cosmopolitan city, though one steeped in a unique history and culture. On the one hand, modern architecture was used to promote the city as a node in the global network of capital and industry that developed after the Second World War. As such, most of the architects selected by these industrialists came from the ranks and institutions of the global modern movement, mirroring the industrialists' attempt to place the city's industry into global networks of capital and development. On the other hand, the millowners employed modern architecture as a way to naturalize Ahmedabad's sweeping social changes, so that they appeared as an inevitable outgrowth of Ahmedabad's and India's own history. In this, the modern architecture of Ahmedabad was suffused with references both to Ahmedabad's textile industry and India's imagined and historical past.

The first chapter examines projects that represent the industrialists' earliest overtures towards the global network of modern architects and institutions. The goal of the projects, which included an unbuilt store by Frank Lloyd Wright, a store inspired by Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes, and Achyut Kanvinde's Gropius influenced ATIRA headquarters, was to instantiate a capitalist model of modernity in Ahmedabad through the fostering of consumer markets and the rationalization of industry. The second chapter delves further into the millowners' use of modern architecture for the instantiation of capitalist values and self-representation by comparing the city's two most famous modern projects: Louis Kahn's Indian Institute of Management and Le Corbusier's Millowners' Association Building.

The third and fourth chapters turn to the cultural and domestic sphere, exploring projects that negotiated modern, Indian identity in the public and private context. Cultural institutions by architects like Le Corbusier, Charles Correa, and Balkrishna Doshi interrogated the relationship between the elite's new vision for Ahmedabad and the city's history. Meanwhile houses by many of the same architects for industrialists showed a modern domesticity that negotiated between community, the joint family and the individual by fusing modern forms to older domestic spatial organizations.

This dissertation contributes to the growing body of research focused on the role modern architecture played in shaping postcolonial Indian identity and subjectivity. While previous research has often focused on the patronage of the socialist state, the examination of the patronage of an elite group of capitalists shows how modern architecture became the locus for debates about the direction of modern Indian society. Further, the dissertation's focus on capitalist patronage places this dissertation in a larger body of research that traces the connections between capital and modern projects, though such issues have rarely been explored in the Indian context.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cohen, Jean-Louis
School: New York University
Department: Institute of Fine Arts
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 77/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history, Architecture
Keywords: Ahmedabad, Architecture, Modern
Publication Number: 10025620
ISBN: 9781339520926
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