• Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Power in West Africa and South Asia
    Christopher Turner
    John Owusu Addo, Jeet Malhotra, Samia Nkrumah, Vikramaditya Prakash, Ram Rahman, Raj Rewal, Ola Uduku, and Henry Wellington
    V&A Publishing, 2024
    Victoria and Albert Museum

Students making models at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, as part of the Department of Tropical Studies, ca. 1964. Photo: Zvonimir Žagar. Courtesy Łukasz Stanek

This V&A exhibition and accompanying publication investigates Tropical Modernism, the late Imperial architecture that was Britain’s unique contribution to International Modernism. But it has a dark history: Tropical Modernism was imposed on the British Empire after World War II in large public and social projects that sought to offset calls for Independence and create a new, modern colonial subject. Despite these associations, after Independence in India and across West Africa, Tropical Modernism came to represent the progressiveness of these new countries, distinct from colonial culture, and they appropriated and adapted the style in service to nation-building. The exhibition will interrogate and complicate this colonial legacy; and look at the many ways in which this contested heritage was appropriated and reacted against by architects in the post-colonial era to create new and distinctive regional styles.

Christopher Turner is keeper of art, architecture, photography, and design at the V&A. Turner studied anthropology, archaeology, and history of art at the University of Cambridge and has a PhD from the University of London. He was founding director of London Design Biennale in 2016, and the Artistic Director in 2018. He is a former editor of Icon and Modern Painters, and an editor of Cabinet magazine and has curated exhibitions at the V&A, Somerset House, Venice Architecture Biennale, and Manifesta 7: the European Biennial of Contemporary Art. He is curating an exhibition on Tropical Modernism at the V&A in 2024. Other recent subjects include Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin in Reverse (2018) and Three British Mosques (2021), both in Venice, and Do Ho Suh (2019), at the V&A. He writes for the London Review of Books, Literary Review, Guardian and Apollo on architecture, design, and culture.

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) was founded in 1852. Its mission is to be recognized as the world's leading museum of art, design, and performance, and to enrich people's lives by promoting research, knowledge, and enjoyment of the designed world to the widest possible audience.