TDSR 26.2 Spring 2015

TDSR 26.2 Cover

Editor’s Note

Architecture and Urbanism in Slumdog Millionaire: From Bombay to Mumbai
Vandana Baweja
Rise and Fall of the Qilou: Metamorphosis of Forms and Meanings in the Built Environment of Guangzhou
Jun Zhang
Beyond the Invariable Style: The Development of Residential Architecture in Yanxia Village, China
Wei Zhao
Differing Relations to Tradition Among Australian Indigenous Homeless People
Paul Memmott
Understanding the Urban Form of China’s Jiangnan Watertowns: Zhouzhang and Wuzhen
Jeffrey Wenji He and Mark Henwood

Book Reviews


Editor’s Note

Architecture and Urbanism in Slumdog Millionaire: From Bombay to Mumbai
Vandana Baweja
This article proposes that the film Slumdog Millionaire depicts a key moment in the urban history of India — the transformation during the 1990s of Bombay into Mumbai. In the film, the life trajectories of Jamal Malik (its Muslim protagonist), his Hindu love Latika, and his older brother Salim play out against the metamorphosis of the city from conditions of modernity to postmodernity. Recent scholarship has suggested this transformation involves the erasure of Bombay’s former cosmopolitanism, and the article argues that Slumdog Millionaire constructs an urban narrative that spatializes and critiques this change. The narrative is built on two tropes. First is the erasure of Bombay’s complex local histories to facilitate its reinvention as monocultural, neoliberal Mumbai. This is expressed through the use of settings where the city’s former architectural palimpsest is being razed to create homogenized redevelopment areas. Second is the increasing exclusion of the poor from public space. The film makes this point through its selective use (and avoidance) of traditionally emblematic public spaces, overturning many of the conventions of Hindi cinema. Overall, the film narrates Bombay/Mumbai’s recent urban history as a class war between what Rahul Mehrotra has called the “kinetic” and the “static” cities. The article also builds on Nezar AlSayyad’s argument that cinematic representations frequently draw on urban discourses in narrative construction — and, conversely, that cinema may serve as a lens through which to examine the cultural foundations upon which these discourses are built. In this regard, Slumdog Millionaire refers to three urban/architectural spaces invested with specific ideological meaning: Dharavi, an organic settlement of vernacular architectures used to represent old Bombay; Lake Castle, an apartment building used to depict Bombay’s neoliberal transformation into Mumbai; and Victoria Terminus, the Gothic Revival train station which serves as a site of contestation between those who would preserve the city’s multiple histories and those who would overwrite them.

Rise and Fall of the Qilou: Metamorphosis of Forms and Meanings in the Built Environment of Guangzhou
Jun Zhang
This article examines how narratives surrounding qilou (arcaded buildings) have changed through three very different moments over a period of almost a century in Guangzhou, China. As a result, what public discourse once perceived as a new, modern form now serves as a symbol of traditional local culture. The metamorphosis of the qilou narrative in response to different visions, social circumstances, and practices provides a good entry point for understanding the contestations and dynamics that have shaped priorities in seeing and thinking about urban space in South China. By relating subjective experiences with physical environments, the case of qilou also challenges the predominant framework of the nation-state as an anchor for understanding contemporary China, and points to the significance of regional dynamics within and beyond international borders.

Beyond the Invariable Style: The Development of Residential Architecture in Yanxia Village, China
Wei Zhao
The study of historic Chinese architecture typically identifies the archetypes and commonalities that persist across periods and regions. This article offers a different perspective, emphasizing the evolution of spatial relations, spatial quality, and uses of space in vernacular houses in China. Drawing upon archival research, building surveys, and ethnographic fieldwork, it examines the development of residential architecture in Yanxia by studying five houses built between the mid-sixteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. It argues that the changing values and social status of residents, combined with the growth of pilgrimage activities, resulted in the introduction of new programs, spaces and ideas.

Differing Relations to Tradition Among Australian Indigenous Homeless People
Paul Memmott
This essay explores a growing, visible form of Indigenous homelessness in contemporary Australia that can be termed “spiritual homelessness,” but which has not been adequately defined or understood using empirical evidence. Selected case studies provide a means of understanding the distinction between two categories of public-place-dwelling Aboriginal people: those who are reproducing their traditions in foreign places in a way that corresponds with the 2014 IASTE conference theme “Mobility and the Reimagination of Traditions”; and those who are unable to reconnect with their traditions and are spiritually bereft, corresponding with those who have no effective “Anchor to their Traditions in Place,” another conference theme. It concludes by offering suggestions for further research and project implementation in the area of Indigenous behavioral settings.

Understanding the Urban Form of China’s Jiangnan Watertowns: Zhouzhang and Wuzhen
Jeffrey Wenji He and Mark Henwood
China’s Jiangnan region has been home to distinctive watertowns for centuries, and elements of this urban culture are still present despite industrial and commercial development over the past century. These remaining elements give the region an identity that is currently threatened by new forms of urbanization and uniform development, which overlook local culture and import overseas concepts with little historical relevance. This report argues that an analysis of urban morphology and spatial typology using the Conzenian method may provide a valid alternative by which to understand the urban culture of Jiangnan’s heritage watertowns. It may further provide a valuable resource for the design of new development in this unique region of China and beyond.

Book Reviews
The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City, by Erica Avila
Reviewed by Jonathan Gifford

Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle, by Yasser Elshestawy
Reviewed by Samia Rab Kirchner

The Public Space of Social Media: Commercial Cultures of the Network Society, by Therese F. Tierney
Reviewed by Kelsey Brennan

Nomadic and Indigenous Spaces: Productions and Cognitions, edited by Judith Migglebrink, Joachim Otto Habeck, Nuccio Mazzullo, and Peter Koch
Reviewed by Gordon Clarke

Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture, Modernity, edited by Sarah Edwards and Jonathan Charley
Reviewed by Gretchen Head

Identities, Cultures, Spaces: Dialogue and Change, edited by Fernando Kuhn
Reviewed by Ayda Melika

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