At the beginning of 2022, curator Lesley Lokko announced the title of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia: “The Laboratory of the Future.” The theme’s intention is to highlight the African continent as the protagonist of the future, a place “where all these questions of equity, race, hope, and fear converge and coalesce,” in the words of the curator. As the fastest urbanizing continent, Africa is viewed as a land of potential, but also of challenges, where matters of racial equity and climate justice are played out with a significant impact on the world at large.
Yet in the late 1950s, another laboratory of the future was taking shape, one where the novel ideas of Modernism produced grand monumental designs and complete urban structures at an unprecedented scale: India. In the search for a modern and democratic image, the newly independent country welcomed Western architectural masters such as Le Corbusier and Louis I. Kahn and entrusted them with a wide range of commissions, from the urban layout of Chandigarh and its major governmental buildings to universities, museums, and smaller scale domestic projects. The result is a mixture of cultures, influencing one another to unexpected results.