Transcending Citation: Exploring the Language of Power in Burmese State Architecture

"On November 11, 2005, at 11 a.m., a convoy of eleven thousand trucks carrying eleven battalions of the Myanmar Army arrived in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, from their bases on the outskirts of the city. Herding surprised bureaucrats from eleven civil agencies into trucks under the threat of arrest, these soldiers were helping Myanmar’s military government decamp to Naypyidaw, a newly constructed capital 320 kilometers to the north. Built without internationally known architects—in contrast to the international modernism of Brasilia or recent state complexes like Astana, Kazakhstan, which draw on star architects to legitimize these new capital cities—Naypyidaw’s arrival generated few headlines in the Western media beyond mild curiosity. Whereas the New York Times’ article on the relocation focused incredulously on rumored fears of Western invasion, local media lingered over the various astrological implications of the time and date of the junta’s move: a telling divergence in coverage.

Reducing Naypyidaw to an architectural curio, however, overlooks the authoritarian logics directly expressed and exercised through the city’s planning and built form. A closer reading of the political, propagandistic, and religious urbanisms that form the basis of Naypyidaw—a form of political as much as architectural design—exposes a finely tuned projective apparatus of political will and authority. Together, these three vectors laminate to form the urban fabric of Naypyidaw, elucidating the junta’s political worldview and governing key aspects of its planning."

Read in full in the June 2017 issue of The Avery Review