Following the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004, scenes of destruction overwrote representations of a benign tropical landscape on the eastern periphery of the Indian Ocean. The incongruous coupling of luxury resort hotels with devastated indigent fisher settlements in international media coverage had exposed the global inequities embedded in a tropical tourism industry subscribed to and abetted by states, institutions, developers and architects. As post-tsunami reconstruction commenced, it became evident that the climatic trope through which regionalist aesthetics had been filtered thus far was incapable of providing expedient solutions to real social problems. In academia and in the profession, the complex discourse of so-called tropical architecture shaping the debates has yet to be untangled and problematized. Implicating and haunted by colonial, nationalist, developmental and political renderings, and more recently by issues of globalization, such representations continue to undergird architectural debates and production. In the wake of recent reconstruction projects and provoked by related architectural student designs in Sri Lanka, this paper reviews the politics of the tropical agenda in architecture and some considerations for its demise.
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