The Project of Independence

Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985

Feb 20–Jul 2, 2022


Hall of Nations, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, India. 1970–72. Demolished 2017. Architect: Raj Rewal (b. 1934). Engineer: Mahendra Raj (b. 1924). Detail view. 1974. Photograph: Madan Mahatta
  • MoMA, Floor 3, 3 North The Philip Johnson Galleries

“Independence brings in the greatest opportunity for a nation to express its thoughts, talent and energy…. Now, we the architects can construct the right and distinct kind of architecture for an independent people,” said Bangladeshi architect Muzharul Islam. Following the end of British rule in 1947/48, architects in the territories of today’s India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka embraced the language of modernism as a means of proclaiming their autonomy, articulating their national identities, and enacting social progress. Focusing on work conceived and realized by local, rather than international, architects, designers, and planners, The Project of Independence presents more than 200 works that showcase South Asia’s groundbreaking modern architecture.

From the concrete governmental complexes of Dhaka to the climate-adapted houses of Colombo, new approaches to architecture offered a break from the British colonial past. While new capital cities rose up in Chandigarh and Islamabad, local architects leveraged the region’s craft traditions to produce innovative and experimental buildings. The exhibition highlights such key figures as Indian architect Balkrishna V. Doshi, the only South Asian winner of the Pritzker Prize in Architecture; Minnette de Silva, the first woman architect of Sri Lanka; and Yasmeen Lari, the first woman architect of Pakistan, among many others. Original sketches, plans, photographs, audiovisual materials, and films are featured alongside newly commissioned images by photographer Randhir Singh and models constructed by Cooper Union students.

Organized by Martino Stierli, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art; Anoma Pieris, guest curator and professor, University of Melbourne; and Sean Anderson, former Associate Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art; with Evangelos Kotsioris, Assistant Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art. The curatorial team consulted with leading scholars of modern architecture from the region, many of whom also contributed to the accompanying exhibition catalogue.

The exhibition is made possible by Allianz, MoMA’s partner for design and innovation, and supporter of programs that look to a more sustainable future.

Leadership support is provided by Xin Zhang and Shiyi Pan.

Generous funding is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art
and by Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis.

Additional support is provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.


  • The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985 Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 248 pages
  • Press release 0 pages
  • Press release 0 pages


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].