Pappal Suneja is a Design Researcher, Architect, Journalist, and a Ph.D. Scholar based in Weimar, Germany. He is the founder and curator of the Architectural Journalism and Criticism Organization, as well as Team Leader for the Research project: “Bauhaus & Beyond: A Global, postcolonial perspective”, funded by Forchungswerkstatt, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.  In addition, he is teaching a course on “Charles Fabri – a critic building bridges between India and Europe” as a part of Bauhaus.Module, methods category. Pappal is an alumnus of Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Germany and currently associated as Visiting Researcher & Lecturer with the University of ‘TorVergata’ Italy, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences Dessau, and the University of Banja Luka Bosnia. Suneja curated two seminars during his visits to Brighton in 2022/23 as a Visiting Research Fellow and reflects on his research.

The first seminar curated by Pappal Suneja on 10th October 2022, explored the legacy of post-independent India and unfolded the Design (1957-1988) periodical. In this seminar workshop, the participants engaged with selected editorials of Design as examples of the critical architectural discourse. The aim of the activity was to talk through –postcolonial contribution to the western narrative of modernism related to art, architecture, and design.

The Doctoral research by Pappal Suneja entitled: “Modern Indian Architecture and the Emergence of a Post-Independence Discourse, The Case of Design (1957-1988)” documents the case of Design journal that formalized institutions of discourse in Nehruvian-modern India, alongside magazines like Marg, The Indian Architect, Illustrated Weekly, Femina and Filmfare. Design emerged as a ‘transnational’ agent that challenged the ideas of aping the West to bring engines of western modernism to India. It rather portrayed the role of architecture, especially modernism, for the development of society and the modernization of the country. The periodical identified national and global projects, examples and issues that could be seen as potential instances of intended change in the modernization of India. Architecture, and Design itself were displayed as a medium for envisioning the ideas into the public domain.

The attendees explored the ways through which the Design editorials revealed about history, politics and architecture practical of India. They had fascinating revelations as to how the various themes of Design intersected. Here are some of the reflections and thoughts of the participants –


Jeremy Aynsley, Professor of Design History

One of the issues of Design magazine that we considered during this fascinating seminar led by Pappal Suneja was dedicated to the “Le Corbusier Controversy”. This was published in October 1987 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Swiss-French architect. Le Corbusier made an important contribution to modern architecture in India as designer of the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, the first planned city in post-independence India. Editor Patwant Singh opened the issue with his polemical editorial, questioning the previous entirely positive reception of Le Corbusier’s modernism. With criticisms that chime with many of our contemporary concerns, Singh argued that the designs for the three major buildings lacked sensitivity to the local and regional building traditions in terms of scale and use of materials, disregarding historical or cultural associations. Pappal extended our discussions by adding details of how Le Corbusier’s plans for the capital city controversially caused social division by separating the homes of the highly and more lowly-paid workers.

Annebella Pollen, Professor of Visual and Material Culture

I read a few editorials from Design journal, and specifically focused on one from Jan-March 1985, entitled “Images of What India Can Be”. The editorial reflected on recent bloodshed in India, including the assassination of Indira Gandhi the year before (1984). The editorial said it would not provide a political account of the current situation but then it did so. Design and architecture were barely mentioned, bar the title, a short paragraph that reflected on art as a metaphor for vision (and therefore for problem-solving), and finally this sentence: ‘No responsible Indians, irrespective of whether they are architects, planners, artists and designers… can afford the luxury of ignoring the issues facing India.’

Dr Megha Rajguru, Co-Director, Centre for Design History

I read the Design editorial “Conserving Areas of Conservation” from a 1976 issue. The piece was a combination of critique and reportage on the new developments happening at the Delhi National Zoological Park. The Editor Patwant Singh examines the existing environment and the importance of the park and laments the development of a new railway that would bring visitors to the park in great numbers, disrupting the peace that, he states, the animals require. He compares the new development to Coney Island and other theme parks. The rest of the issue contains articles on The Builder, but other article really focus on a needs model – the needs of animals and humans, which is quite striking.

Dr Sue Breakell, Archive Director / University of Brighton Design Archives

I worked with the issue of Design for July-Sep 1985, guest edited by Sayed S Shafi (who was a member of the editorial board).The theme of the editorial (and the issue) was “Urban Conservation and Inner City Renewal”.  The editorial argued strongly for the need to address the neglect of urban centres and referred to a crisis was manifesting in cities across India, as a focus on new developments was leading to the neglect and mis-management of older inner city areas, with historic centres not being valued and protected. The rest of the issue included articles on both new development and questions of cultural heritage in India’s built environment.

Clarissa Harding-Crook, Student

Looking at the December 1962, Design editorial – “A People on Trial”, I’m immediately struck by how outspoken the magazine is about the political issues. It challenges the government to take steps forward in the production of defense resources rather than simply ‘shuffling’ papers around. The editorial recommends that the government should hire more creative and ‘imaginative’ people for change to be enacted. This attitude, to me, is surprising as I did not expect a magazine focused on design to be so politically outspoken.


The second seminar curated by Pappal Suneja on 13th January 2023 entitled – “Design (1946, Britain) juxtaposed with Design (1957, India)” historically compared and analyzed the two Design journals. The seminar discussions stimulated ‘transculturality’ to be interpreted from one’s own perspective. It explored intervening of the socio-economic, political communes and the production of design manifestations. The periodicals reflect a convoluted alliance of culturally and historically manifested social linkages by the influential design proponents and theorists as contributors from across the world.

As there is a vast amount of discourse reflected in the publications of both the countries (India and Britain), it is quite evident that there still is a specific relationship between the British scene and India. Thus, the key question explored in the conversations was – how and when do design discourses in these two parts of the world relate, differ or begin to get bifurcated in different directions. This calls for a breakthrough to gain an insight into the developing consciousness of cultural identity negotiated between advocates of ‘modernity’ and ‘innovation’ on the one hand and those of ‘tradition’ and ‘continuity’ on the other.

Attendees of this seminar discussed the relationship between England and India (fragmented present day South Asia) through exploration of the architectural discourse of the mid-20th century and its changing perspectives. In addition, there were interesting dialogues about the aspect of history of ideas as a discipline and converse postcolonial transactions in India and the UK.

These seminars and visits to the Centre for Design History and the University of Brighton’s Design Archives was a successful attempt to conceive architectural archives as workshops – to ideate new debates related to the architectural heritage of India and the UK. There is definitely a further scope to develop a connection with the institutions dealing with topics of Design histories, in order to explore newer scenes of public engagement.


These visits were funded by Welt-Raum-Bauhaus’s “Research Stays Abroad” program, an initiative of Bauhaus Research School as a part of the promotion of young researchers at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany.


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