Post-War Urban Theories and Modernism in Asia

Department: Architecture
Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: 2014 to present
Principal Investigator: H. Koon Wee
Funding Body: Seed Fund for Basic Research


This research project is an effort to trace the transnational formation of urban theories in various parts of post-war Asia. There was a unique moment in the development of national identity and national culture during the period of mass decolonization and globalization. This is an emergent scholarship aimed at stitching together fragmented accounts previously narrated from national centers of discourse. This research shows that the broad participation by multiple international actors and agencies pushed the national remit of each urban condition. This discourse was made complex by the leveraging of soft power and diplomacy through international technical aid in the Cold War era, transmission of ideas through urban design and planning education, and the advocacy and collaborative efforts of local intelligentsia and regional think tanks. The histories of modernization and urban renewal relied heavily on the progressive image of the modern city and the economic viability of its infrastructure. These accounts can no longer be narrated and controlled within national boundaries and interests. Transnational accounts are particularly crucial in contrasting the realities between accounts found in national archives, and the archives of international agencies, consultants and private practitioners on urban modernization or technical assistance projects. These projects are often supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE), UN University, Asian Development Bank, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and other international organizations focused on rebuilding Asia.

Recent Publications

Recent Conferences Papers:

  • H. Koon Wee, “Fumihiko Maki and the Asian Planning and Architectural Collaboration (APAC) Part II,” A Glocal Approach to Urban Design: Maki Fumihiko, Group Form and East-West Dialogue, International Planning History Society (IPHS) Conference, Yokohama, Jul 16, 2018.
  • H. Koon Wee, “Fumihiko Maki and the Asian Planning and Architectural Collaboration (APAC) Part I,” Fumihiko Maki’s Idea of Group Form and Urban Design: The Integration of Theory, Practice, and Place, Society of American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) Conference, Cleveland, Oct 26, 2017.
  • H. Koon Wee, “Incomplete Urbanism: Local Intelligentsia, Global Planning Movements and the State,” Incomplete Urbanism: Attempts of Critical Spatial Practice Symposium, Center for Contemporary Art, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, Nov 25, 2016.
  • H. Koon Wee, “William Lim’s Golden Mile Complex and the Vicissitudes of the Stepped Megaform,” New Local / Global Infrastructures, Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Annual International Conference, Pasadena, Apr 6-10, 2016.
Enlarge Photo: Post-War Urban Theories and Modernism in Asia 1