the decolonization of education

online symposium

12 november 2021

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Our fourth and last online symposium on 12 November 2021 brought together six speakers from Singapore, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Cambodia, and the United States. The Decolonization of Education discussed what ideas, programmes and formats are needed to facilitate new and criticalperspectives in education – in Southeast Asia and beyond.

00:00:00 Introduction
00:08:03 Site of Value: Architecture Education for Asia
00:25:57 Mind the Gap: Colonial Architecture History in Dutch Academia, and Beyond
00:57:26 Art Pedagogy, Experimentation, and Making: Mediating Agency (with/in) the White Building Community
01:21:12 The City as a Living Room
01:43:47 The Legacy of Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya and Beyond
02:19:07 The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985

The topics education, knowledge and learning were present at the projects Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism and Contested Modernities on many levels. Over the course of the project, we became familiar with several institutions and initiatives that are developing spaces, situations, and environments of learning about postcolonial architecture and beyond.

These Southeast Asian networks in architecture, art, and culture often challenge common narratives about and responses to modernity. The spectrum ranges from academic studies to artistic actions to research-based cultural work and outreach. The question of decolonization in teaching is also an issue here, as the curricula for architecture at Southeast Asian universities have often been adopted from Western institutions. Furthermore, where and how are such issues discussed outside university circles? What approaches already exist, and what formats are needed to facilitate new and critical perspectives? What political, social, and cultural hurdles must be overcome? How can cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural exchange be strengthened in the future? Finally, how can discourses in Asia be included in a global narrative of architectural history, education, and exchange?

Christian Hiller welcomed the guests on behalf of the team of artistic directors, introduced the interests, ideas, and developments of Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism and the Contested Modernities programme.

Ho Puay-peng, Professor, Head of Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore then presented the topics of the symposium and moderated the event. He also contributed with the first lecture to the programme.

Site of Value: Architecture Education for Asia

Ho Puay-peng, Professor and Head of Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore, discussed in his lecture whether and on what basis a specific architectural education could be anchored in East and Southeast Asia.

Mind the Gap: Colonial Architecture History in Dutch Academia, and Beyond

Pauline K.M. van Roosmalen, a Dutch architectural historian specialized in Dutch colonial and postcolonial architecture in Indonesia, discussed the position of colonial architecture and planning in Dutch academia.

The Legacy of Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya and Beyond

Eko Prawoto, Architect, from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, introduced us to the work of Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya. Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya (1929–1999) was a priest, architect, educator, novelist, activist, and much more, providing inspiration and encouragement in very different fields. He studied architecture in Aachen, Germany. His socially engaged approach revitalizes Indonesian architectural discourse and practice to this day. His work includes numerous churches and ecclesiastical institutions, cultural buildings, and housing for the urban poor.

The City as a Living Room

Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of NTU CCA Singapore, and Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, contributed to the symposium with a lecture about the ideas of visionary Singapore based and Hong Kong-born architect and urban theorist, WILLIAM S.W. LIM.

Art Pedagogy, Experimentation, and Making: Mediating Agency (with/in) the White Building Community

This contribution by Vuth Lyno, artist, curator and co-founding Artistic Director of Sa Sa Art Projects presented Sa Sa Art Projects as a multivalent approach in art engagement that interweaves art pedagogy, experimentation, and making to facilitate an agency with/in the White Building community in Phnom Penh.

The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985

Martino Stierli, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, presented an ongoing research and exhibition project at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The concluding discussion was multifaceted, complex, and full of insights. The event ended with a heartfelt thanks from the artistic directors to all those involved in the symposium and all those who contributed to the achievements of the project Contested Modernities.