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In‐dependence: Otto Koenigsberger and modernist urban resettlement in India

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This article investigates the universalist problematic in Modern Movement town planning predominantly through the Indian phase of the career of Otto Koenigsberger (1909–99). Educated in Germany during the Weimar Republic but subjected to Nazi persecution, Koenigsberger migrated via Egypt to Bangalore and employment by the Tata Dynasty in 1939. Upon independence, he was appointed to Director of Housing in charge of New Town Development across India, including the organization of the Chandigarh commission. Koenigsberger's architecture and town planning, in particular for Jamshedpur, mobilized current transatlantic modernist practice. It was predicated on the potential of abstract aesthetic and functionalist form to embody radical socio-political change that surmounted both pre-colonial and imperial conventions. While accommodating some features of Indian architectural tradition, Koenigsberger espoused non-sectarian and standard solution, especially for housing. This thinking was most evident in his partially realized scheme for pan-regional prefabricated dwelling units. The failure of this enterprise and ensuing political controversy caused him to resign and move to London. It is argued here that Koenigsberger's experience in India informed his inauguration in 1957 of the School of Tropical Architectures at the Architectural Association and the department of Development Planning at University College London in 1972; these teaching posts coincided with successive reconsideration of his concept of urban design that culminated in the locally conditioned concept of Action Planning. The analytic is discursive, reading shifts in design thought out of Koenigsberger's photographic and textual archive as well as his architectural and urban design work in India.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, University of British Columbia, 403 ‐ 6333 Memorial Road, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6T 1Z2

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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