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

Drawing Agency LLC is a design and research practice based in New York City founded by Galen Pardee (Assoc. AIA), with projects in New York, California, and Colorado. Drawing Agency’s work has been published widely and exhibited in the United States and abroad, including the Chicago Architecture Biennal and the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Director Galen Pardee teaches at Columbia University GSAPP; he was the 2019-2021 LeFevre Emerging Practitioner Fellow at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture, and has taught architecture and landscape architecture studios at Barnard University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of Tennessee. Galen holds a Masters in Architecture from Columbia University GSAPP where he received the Alpha Rho Chi Medal, and a BA in Politics cum laude from Brandeis University.


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