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Theory and Criticism
 
Architectural identity and diversity
What is the architectural identity in a multi-racial country like Malaysia? With a multi-diversed society culture traditions and customs, is it possible to pinpoint a certain racial group as source of inspiration for an *identity*? Or, does it exist at all?
Chin Shuyii
Responses
 
Architectural identity and diversity
Chin-this is a good question and one that many societies have to struggle with. I think that this goes beyond just a question of architectural identity. It touches on the broader and more important topic of cultural pluralism. This question was the focus of an International Seminar held by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, in 1983, entitled "Architecture and Identity". The proceedings of the seminar are available in the ArchNet Digital Library and can be downloaded. (Each chapter can be downloaded individually to reduce file size.)

"The seminar brought together forty participants from nine countries in South-East Asia and further afield to discuss the issue of Identity in Architecture. In the past many countries have been under the influence of colonisation and foreign culture and today are assailed by international and multi-national pressures. Against this background it is particularly relevant to study the nature of Identity related to cultural change, philosophy and ritual. There are common threads that bring together the people of the South-East Asian region. timeless elements which come from the people. the environment and the climate and which are symbolic of common origins." (from the preface).
Shiraz Allibhai
Architectural identity and diversity
The article featured in the digital library is a proceedings from a conference back in 1983! That was way before I was born, I am not quite certain if the context is relevant to the current issues, which is 20 years from then on? Any other updated information on this topic anyone knows of? Will gladly appreciate suggestions comments or personal views, as I am doing this for my dissertation topic, would be a great help if I could conduct an interview or something -- but that's just an initiative suggestion! Thanks!
Chin Shuyii
Architectural identity and diversity
Chin, before you dismiss the the proceedings, please check them out. Many of the problems and issues that were relevent in 1983 are still present today. I wouldn't steer you to a useless resource. I do believe that many of your questions were addressed in the Seminar.

Architecture students still read Palladio, Alberti, Sullivan, and Corbusier to name a few. One can still learn lessons from the past.
Shiraz Allibhai
Architectural identity and diversity
Chin, I doubt if you realise it, but the words "multi-cultural" and "multi-racial" have quite different meanings.

Anyone using the word "multi-racial" to means "multi-cultural" is (however unwittingly) using racist language. Race is not culture and culture is not race. Similarly, nurture is not nature and nature is not nurture.

To describe the differences between these concepts I use this analogy:- Culture is software, race is hardware and nationality is the office space...

The issue of human identity is cultural not racial because all of the human races are of the same species, so race becomes a redundant issue.
Frank John Snelling
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