Mrinalini Rajagopalan


221 Frick Fine Arts

Assistant professor, South Asian architecture and urbanism; global modernisms; history of preservation; history and theory of contemporary architectural production

Constellation(s): Environment


Mrinalini Rajagopalan is an architectural historian of India and is particularly interested in the impact of British colonialism on the architectural, urban, and preservation cultures of modern South Asia. Her first monograph Building Histories: The Archival and Affective Lives of Five Monuments in Modern Delhi (forthcoming University of Chicago Press) traces the modern lives of five medieval monuments in India’s capital city and brings attention to their contested histories, unexpected uses, and ideological appropriations by state and non-state actors. She is currently developing two new research projects. The first traces the architectural oeuvre of Begum Samru—a wealthy dowager who rose from modest beginnings as a dancing girl to become the independent ruler of a prosperous territory in nineteenth-century North India. The second, and more ambitious project, investigates the various architectural products built, commissioned, and patronized by the Tata Corporation during India's long twentieth-century transformation from a European colony to a socialist nation and most recently to an economically-liberal state eager to participate in global markets.

At Pitt, Rajagopalan offers courses on modernist architecture in Western and non-Western contexts; global urbanisms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the history of architectural preservation; and the history and theory of contemporary architecture. Since 2014 she has been an active member of and contributor to the Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative (gahtc.org)—a digital humanities initiative that offers peer-reviewed lectures on the built environment through an open-source platform.

Before coming to Pitt, Rajagopalan held fellowships at Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. She holds a professional undergraduate degree in Architecture and practiced for four years as an architect in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Ahmedabad, India.


PhD, University of California, Berkeley (2007)

Selected Publications


Building Histories: The Archival and Affective Lives of Five Monuments in Modern Delhi (forthcoming University of Chicago Press, 2016). Part of the South Asia Across the Disciplines series.

Colonial Frames, Nationalist Histories: Imperial Legacies, Architecture, and Modernity (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012). Co-edited with Madhuri Desai.

Journal Articles and Essays in Books

“A Nineteenth-Century Architectural Archive: Syed Ahmad Khan’s Asar-us-Sanadid” in The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (forthcoming, 2016).

“From Colonial Memorial to National Monument: The Case of the Kashmiri Gate, Delhi” in Mrinalini Rajagopalan and Madhuri Desai, eds., Colonial Frames, Nationalist Histories: Imperial Legacies, Architecture, and Modernity (Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012).

“A Medieval Monument and its Modern Myths of Iconoclasm: The Enduring Contestations over the Qutb Complex in Delhi, India” in Richard Brilliant and Dale Kinney, eds., Reuse Value: Spoliation and Appropriation in Art and Architecture from Constantine to Sherrie Levine (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2011).

“Preservation and Modernity: Competing Perspectives, Contested Histories and the Question of Authenticity,” in Greig Crysler, Stephen Cairns and Hilde Heynen, eds., The Handbook of Architectural Theory (Sage Publications, 2011).

“From Loot to Trophy: The Vexed History of Architectural Heritage in Imperial India” in The Newsletter of the International Institute of Asian Studies (University of Leiden Press, 2011).

Selected Awards

Internal Faculty Fellow, Humanities Center, University
of Pittsburgh, Fall 2016

University of Pittsburgh UCIS Faculty Fellowship, Spring

Paul Mellon Center for Studies in
British Art, Summer 2012