The Emergence of Contemporary Architecture in Asia

The Emergence of Contemporary Architecture in Asia
2A Magazine Issue 32 / Summer 2015

Ahmad Zohadi
Lately, architectural traditions and cultures on the continent of Asia have started to stray from modernism. Architects in Asia are now offering alternatives relevant to their specific geographies and cultures. 2A Magazine has always attempted to avoid the extinction of cultural identity in architecture and emphasis on these unique distinctions rather than global modernism. To glorify the importance of cultural identity, the first 2A Asia Architecture Award (2AAA) 2015, with the theme: “The Emergence of Contemporary Architecture in Asia” was designed and will be held by 2A magazine.

The 2A Asia Architecture award goal is to avoid the extinction of cultural identity in architecture and emphasis on these unique distinctions rather than global modernism. The competition is the context to highlight and recognize essences of Asian Architecture and present them to the audience. For example cultural memory, continuity and integrity is of the essence. Cultural identity is related to history, spirituality, ethnicity and beliefs. Cultural identity is not a rigid identity causing separation from the cosmopolitan movement in architecture but the question is how to see national identity as an open one. As Rem Koolhaas’ proposition for Venice Architecture Biennale asks whether national identity has been, ‘sacrificed to modernity’. In this sense modernism has often been more an enemy to a genuine cultural identity than an expression of it. Another essence that 2A magazine constantly accentuated is the spirituality; there are moments that architecture offers more than the physicality; it is an experience and meaning. To illuminate the essence of spirituality, I would like to refer to a private interview that I had with Krishna Doshi in 2012 where he strongly emphasizes on the sense of wonder in architecture. “Do we recognize it or do we feel it? When you feel something sacred, when you feel something that surprises you, when you feel the sense of wonder and you know it is not done by you, then it happened. So the sense of wonder or the sense of surprise is spiritual because it is unknown (you can feel it but you can not touch it, or smell it) but you feel there is something that you call intuition. For us, it is the intuition that is part of spirituality.... For me spirituality is something that affect your inner core”. Understanding the significance of spirituality and other non-physical aspects of architecture, which have been neglected or in some places completely ignored, 2A decided to focus more on this theme, because we believe the future of architecture can be enriched if we incorporate the non-physical aspects into the physical designs. 2A as an international media in the Middle East wants to be a pioneer and promoter of this process.

In my point of view, the relation between cultural identity and modernization should be a dialectical and eventually an agreeable one. A viable and sustainable identity should continue to guide architects and urban designers in their quest for what is truly good, and modernization should basically supply more effective means for that search rather than dominate the whole investigation. Therefore, in 2A Asia Architecture award, jury members will thoroughly review the submitted projects to recognize these viable quests and identify essences of Architecture in Asia. 2AAA organizing committee deeply believes in AIA statement about architectural design competition that “design excellence is often the result of a well-planned and clearly executed design competition.” Accordingly, the whole process of this award, developing criteria and jury procedure has been professionally designed and executed.

To conclude, I would like to invite individuals or groups that have done substantial contribution to today’s architecture in Asia in terms of contemporary challenges of the field and region and influenced on the theory and practice of architecture to participate in the 2A Asia Architecture Award. In this case, 2AAA will be a landmark and turning point allowing practitioners to pause and reflect upon what Asia, as part of global community, have achieved in the field of Architecture, what we have done wrong, and where we go from here.