Thompson in India: Links

Here’s the idea in a nutshell: scientific development will solve all of our problems. It will make us richer, more democratic and dissolve centuries of traditional inequities. I don’t know if D’Arcy Thompson believed in that claim, but he came to India on the invitation of Nehru himself.

Note the crucial line:

The Indian Science Congress Association is meeting in Delhi during January 2-8 under the presidency of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The general theme of the meeting is research and national planning.

The incumbent Prime Minister is chairing a scientific event designed to adopt science for national development. But there are plans and there are plans. The five year plans were abstractions only loosely connected with reality, but architect’s plans have a more immediate consequence. The modernist impulse, like any other ideology or imperial glory, is most powerfully inscribed in the land itself - in buildings, infrastructure, landscaping and urban design - development is developerment.

Punjab was Nehru’s tryst with modernity - he built a temple to modern India at Bhakra and an entire city in Chandigarh.

  • Unsurprisingly, that ambition finds many admirers in the West, ““It is an event of global import, and it may cause talk for centuries,” as the New Yorker put it in 1955.” Some gossip: “its government picked Le Corbusier over an American rival, in part because it could not afford to pay fees in dollars.”

  • Of course, creating cities from scratch is not an exclusive Indian pastime. Skyscrapers I understand as a hyper extension of a penis, but why a whole city? The only answer I can give is that cities are the greatest expression of human dominion over the nonhuman world.

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