Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Alan Vaughan Richards Archive Project

Ola Uduku and Hannah Le Roux

13.4.30_AVR House Interior

Alan Vaughan-Richards House Main Living Room Interior, photo for Nigerian Interiors Magazine.

The Alan Vaughan Richards archive project seeks to preserve, record and archive the works of the late British-Nigerian Architect, Alan Vaughan-Richards (1925-89). Its ultimate aim is to make available a digital and physical archive of Vaughan-Richards work to the public. This archive, comprising drawings, artefacts, and texts will be made accessible to the public to view online, or by visiting the renovated Alan Vaughan-Richards house in Ikoyi, Lagos. The Vaughan-Richards House, built by the architect in the 1960’s, is acknowledged as a unique example of West Africa tropical modernist architecture.

The archiving project is being funded by the British Academy with a further University of Edinburgh research grant held by Ola Uduku, at the University of Edinburgh, with Hannah Le Roux, at the University of the Witwatersrand, along with financial and logistical support from the Goethe Institute in Lagos and Remi Vaughan-Richards, Alan’s daughter. In 2012 over 300 drawings and other artefacts were brought from Alan Vaughan Richards’ home office in Lagos to be digitized and preserved for archiving. In September 2012 a short exhibition showing the work completed in digitizing the first batch of artefacts, and documenting Alan Vaughan-Richards’ career and life in Lagos was presented at the Matthew Gallery at the University of Edinburgh. This digital archive is held in the name of the Vaughan-Richards family in Edinburgh. The Alan Vaughan Richards blog was created as part of this process.

At the same time as the exhibition, Candice Keeling from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven documented the condition of the existing house in-situ and created as-built drawings. It is hoped in the future to develop the house as an artists’ residence and the home to a physical archive, accessible by appointment to academics and West African architecture enthusiasts. There are ongoing plans for the renovation and redevelopment of the Vaughan-Richards house in Lagos to enable its transformation into the archive and art residency space planned.

The project throws a number of challenges. The harshness of the tropical climate has contributed to considerable decay of materials such as carpeting and textiles. The cost of restoring the structure and aesthetic of the house requires the transformation of use of part of the property in ways that will sustain the conservation of its elements and intentions. These challenges will be addressed by ongoing design and research. On a broader note this project is hoped to generate interest in conservation in West Africa, where many other modernist buildings are in need of maintenance, conservation and reappraisal of use.

The archival work, residency proposals and related information on the Vaughan-Richards family form the material for an exhibition proposed to coincide with the ArchiAfrika conference in Lagos in December 2013.

The project welcomes participation from with researchers and modernist conservation practioners in West Africa, as well as anyone who has further information on the architecture and other work of Alan Vaughan Richards, as a partner in the  Architects’ Co-Partnership and later as an architect in Lagos.

Contact email: and


Permission to publish all images on the blog for educational purposes, has been granted on behalf of the Vaughan-Richards Estate, by his daughter, Remi Vaughan-Richards, a film director, whose feature films and documentaries throw a sharp lens onto contemporary Africa.

Tropical Architecture in … Massachusetts

Jane Drew

From February to June 1961, Jane Drew took up a visiting professorship at MIT in Boston. Ostensibly this was to allow an uninterrupted period of work on the manuscript for Tropical Architecture in the Dry and Humid Zones (1964), yet it also allowed Drew to undertake lucrative television and radio interviews, and she toured Canada giving lectures in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Perhaps most significantly, the post enabled Drew to participate in the lively modernist architectural community in New England. She wrote to Maxwell Fry back in London:

‘I have seen everyone lunched with Gropius dined with Serge [Chermayeff], drinks with Sert breakfast with Gidion [sic]. Have started my class taken part in a jury with Kahn its all very stimulating and interesting and I am learning at quite a rate.’

She also worked with Eduardo Catalano (1917-2010), the Argentinian-born architect and a professor at MIT. Drew was perhaps already acquainted with him through his six-year post at the Architectural Association (AA) in London, which began in 1945. Their collaboration was an important one: Drew and Catalano established a MIT Tropical Architecture course using the AA’s Tropical Architecture programme as a model. Established by Fry and Drew in 1955, the AA course was the first of its kind  and the couple evidently saw it as a blueprint for other institutions to use and develop. At MIT Drew and Catalano did just that as Drew later wrote to Fry:

‘Catelanno [sic] and I have worked hard and produced a course on tropical architecture for M.I.T. very different from that at the A.A. and I think better but life has to evolve slowly.’

PhD Studentship ‘Envisioning the Indian City’ (ETIC)

If you would like to pursue a PhD  at Liverpool University that relates to our understanding of the Indian City, then please consider applying for this studentship (fees only).

Further details about the application process can be found at:

The main objectives of ETIC are to examine the following broad areas of inquiry:

(1) how and why the city has functioned as the focus of cross-cultural exchanges in both colonial and post-colonial India;

(2) the nature of the marks that such exchanges have left on the socio-cultural and imaginative identities of the cities in question;

(3) the ways in which they have shaped, and been shaped by, the urban space and the physical fabric of the city in each case; and

(4) the ways in which the nature of such exchanges vary both synchronically, across geographical regions in the same period, and diachronically, across historical periods (sixteenth century till the present).

ETIC involves scholars from English literature, History, Architecture and Modern Languages, with specialisms covering the sixteenth century till the present. The exact PhD topic is open to discussion with potential applicants, but must be related to furthering our understanding of the Indian city. Projects that work across disciplinary boundaries (such as attending to both cultural and spatial/architectural traces of encounter in sixteenth century Goa or twentieth century Pondicherry or Chandigarh, for instance), or those that work across one or more of the selected cities, are especially welcome. Responsibilities will also involve providing some support to the ETIC project, such as helping with meetings, organising reading lists, helping to organise small symposia and gathering source material, uploading data to blog/website.

Applications are invited from students with a good first degree (First, 2:1 or equivalent) or a post-graduate degree in a relevant discipline.

The Doctoral scholarship is available for up to three years full-time study starting on or before September 2013 which will cover the cost of University tuition fees at UK/EU rates, as well as providing tailored early career development training within a thriving intellectual and social community of over 800 researchers and 300 postgraduate researchers.

For more information or to discuss possible research projects further, please contact

Indian Connections with the Liverpool School of Architecture

I’m hoping to uncover more connections, exchanges and networks between India and the Liverpool School of Architecture. Please feel free to get in touch if you know of any other Indian Architects and Planners who studied in Liverpool during the early-mid twentieth century, or were directly influenced by Reilly, Budden, Gardner-Medwin, Abercrombie, Holford.This post focuses on three architects who came from India to study at Liverpool; Srinivasarao Harti Lakshminarasappa (BArch in 1921), T. J. Manickham (BArch in 1940) and D. V. R. Rao (BArch in 1950). In all three cases their careers have adopted a tripartite approach of practice, teaching and writing.  In the cases of Manickam and Rao they also worked in the West Indies and Middle East, respectively, with the UN. Gardner-Medwin had taken a similar role in India during the early 1950s. The role of the UN in terms of development/welfare/self-build is an interesting and under-researched component of ‘Tropical Architecture’ in the post WW2 era. Furthermore as demonstrated in these two cases, non-European professionals were advising on planning and architecture matters in other parts of the world, illustrating a shift in power-knowledge relations and a more complex network of exchange than the polar colonizer-colonized model would suggest.

Srinivasarao Harti Lakshminarasappa. Born circa 1885.

Lalit Mahal Palace, Mysore, circa 1930s

He was the chief architect to the Maharaja of Mysore and worked on the ostentatious Lalit Mahal Palace, completed around 1930, along with  E. W. Fritchley.He also worked on a number of other prestigious projects, including Mysore Town Hall and the Municipal offices, known as the BBMP building (built 1933-36) and was also involved in education as the Principle of the College of Engineering, Bangalore.

T. J. Manickam (1913-1974) Manickam studied at University of Mysore before studying at Liverpool where he completed the BArch degree in 1940 and the Post Graduate Diploma in Civic Design in 1946. He then returned to India, and took up office in the substantial Public Works Department (PWD) before establishing the School of Town & Country Planning in Delhi in 1955.


T. J. Manickam, circa 1970s.

In conjunction with the ITPI he established the Planning Campus in 1958 and merged with the Architecture department of Delhi polytechnic in 1959 to form the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA). This is a prestigious school and is ranked amongst India’s top architecture schools. Manickam designed a new campus in 1965.
Aware of the importance of disseminating his findings and the reputation of the school, Manickham also founded the journal, Urban and Rural Planning Thought in 1958 (based on the Town Planning Review). He also wrote several articles for Urban & Region al Planning, “Housing Crisis in the east” (1971) for example, and the books New Towns in India, (SPA, 1960), and Housing Crisis in the East, (SPA, 1970)

Furthermore he served as a UN co-ordinator in the West Indies (Trinidad and Tobago) and was a UN Advisor to the Government of Jamaica between 1963-66.

D. V. R. Rao: Prof. Rao has been kind enough to write some of his memories of Liverpool and career highlights and these are included below (email correspondence with Jackson, 2012)

DVR Rao Liverpool University

D.V.R. Rao graduation photograph, Liverpool, 1950

“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to reminisce on my Liverpool days and answer some of the questions posed by Dr Iain Jackson

Why I chose Liverpool– After graduating in civil Engineering from Bangalore University I decided to go to the UK for further studies under the Tata scholarship. Prof Manickam and Mr Lakshminarasappa were both graduates from Liverpool practising in Bangalore at that time. Both spoke highly of the quality of education at the Liverpool School of Architecture which is why I decided on Liverpool and travelled there after the war

Prof Budden –I studied under Prof Budden whom I remember as an excellent teacher and particularly proficient in classic architecture. I graduated from Liverpool university in 1950.There were no other Indian students at the time. Liverpool University was not particularly well known in India except to a small section of post graduate students teachers and academics

Subsequent career– I returned to India in 1950 did a few small assignments and was subsequently appointed to IIT Kharagpur as architect to the campus and assistant professor of the Department of Architecture and Regional Planning. I was fortunate enough to meet Prof Vishwanath Prasad who had earlier worked with Prof Abercrombie, planner of Greater London and Prof Matthews of Clyde valley Regional development. I was promoted to Professor and Head of department of Architecture

In 1963 I took over as officiating director of the SPA, Delhi during the absence of Prof Manickam who was away on a 3 year foreign assignment [Ed – on the UN mission to West Indies].  On Prof Manickam’s return I continued in the SPA as Professor and Head of Department of housing studies  as I had developed a keen interest in social housing which had become a serious issue.  I initiated research into the sociological and economic aspects of massive social housing programmes for disadvantaged people. This drew the attention of UN organizations who were conducting similar studies in other developing countries

Following the sad and untimely passing away of Professor Manickam I took over as director of the school.I developed a strong research centre on rural housing and construction of demonstration houses to help improve the quality of houses in rural areas. Meanwhile I had also worked towards getting the School elevated to the status of a deemed university

In 1977 I was invited by the United Nations to serve as technical advisor in Town and Regional planning in Saudi Arabia . I worked mainly in Riyadh and other Emirates for 9 years from 1977 to 1986 .During this time our team (comprised of a number of international architects and planning consultants) undertook planning and development of major cities alongside a national spatial strategy for equitable distribution of the population. This became the basis for all further and future development in Saudi Arabia.

I retired in 1986 and returned to India. Since then I have been associated with a few consultancy groups.In recent years I have withdrawn from any active participation on grounds of advancing age and deteriorating health”.

I would like to express my thanks to Prof. Rao and his family for helping with this research and for providing the photograph above.

Keynote Speakers Announcement

13.3.21Max and Jane

We are delighted to confirm the following invited speakers for the forthcoming conference on ‘The influence of Fry and Drew’, to be held at Liverpool School of Architecture, 10th – 11th October 2013:

  • Hilde Heynen, Head of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning at KU Leuven, Belgium
  • Elizabeth Darling, Senior Lecturer in Art History at Oxford Brookes University, UK
  • Jiat-Hwee Chang, Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture, University of Singapore

See the conference page for the call for papers.

A.E.S. Alcock and the planning of Asawasi, Kumasi

As part of our research into the architecture and planning in West Africa we have uncovered some important work undertaken by Alfred Edward Savige (“Bunny”) Alcock. He worked as  Town Engineer in Kumasi, 1936-45, and then as Gold Coast Town Planning Advisor from 1945-56. Whilst working in Kumasi, Alcock was a pioneer in developing self-build villages. He set up small scale production lines where the villagers could produce ‘swishcrete’ blocks, prefabricated roof trusses and various sanitation devices such as latrines and communal laundries.


This work was all carefully documented by Alcock and his hand-made photo album survives in the National Archives, London.  Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew worked with Alcock on this ‘experimental village’ (they were credited in Alcocks album) and went on to plan the larger second phase of the development, known as Asawasi. Fry described how the project grew, ‘from being a little experiment has become a big scheme spawning all over the hillside.’


The plan above shows the complete development arranged into ten compounds (housing groups). The area coloured pink was the original village planned by Alcock with the remaining areas designed by Fry and Drew. Alcock proposed a terraced (row) housing approach to create ‘interior’ courtyards, or ‘open compounds’. Alcock described it as a ‘ a repetitive pattern of garden and service compounds alternating… this pattern is adapted to curving contours in the main estate.’ There was a low-tech thrifty approach to the development as Alcock describes,

‘door and window furniture was made from scrap iron by blacksmiths. It was stronger and cheaper than imported furniture.’ In the kitchen a hood and flue were provided by using ‘old tar drums covering all four fire places shared by eight tennants’
Fry and Drew’s Village Housing in the Tropics is indebted to this early development. Alcock proudly noted that his designs could exceed the current building regulations and reduce costs. The big idea was for the government to supply the materials (and technical knowledge) with the villagers providing the labour. It was a system that became very popular throughout West Africa, although it was not always a fair and equitable solution.


Alcock took over from Fry as the Town Planning Advisor in Accra and was instrumental in the initial planning of Kwame Nkrumah’s Volta River project, new port and town Tema. He (along with Helga Richards) published his findings in a series of ‘How to’ building guides. Although less commercially successful than Fry and Drew’s acclaimed Village Housing in the Tropics manual, Alcock’s books were far more pragmatic and explanatory. There is also an element of humour in his books. How to Plan your Village for example is all about an educated villager returning to his old village and helping them to restore it – the character is named ‘Kwame’  – an overt reference to Nkrumah and a metaphor for the radical changes he was proposing.


The Influence of Fry and Drew

Jane and Max on beach in N Wales001




For over fifty years, E. Maxwell Fry (1899–1987) and Jane B. Drew (1911–96) were integral members of the English architectural avant-garde. The Fry and Drew partnership – in its various incarnations – was a magnet for architects and architectural students from all over the world, giving the practice a distinctly international outlook. Their built works, from the 1920s to the 1980s, cross the globe from Europe to South-east Asia.

This conference seeks to investigate the themes and movements of twentieth century architecture and town planning that have been influenced by the work of Fry and Drew, and vice versa. What is the context of Fry and Drew’s architecture? Is it possible to identify a FryDrew strand of Modernism or a house style? What is their architectural legacy?

We welcome papers from scholars and practitioners, and encourage proposals from early career researchers and graduate students. Papers might address, but are not limited to:

  • Inter-war Modernism – early influences, the rise of Modernism in England, collaborators and creative networks (such as contractors, engineers, artist, patrons).
  • Post-war Modernism – the Festival of Britain style, the Brutalist movement and younger British modernists, questioning the modernist agenda, the work of Fry and Drew’s former employees.
  • Colonialism – comparisons of colonizers in architectural and theoretical terms, war-time postings, colonial frameworks (for example, the role of the Public Works Departments).
  • Post-colonialism – tradition and modernity, design and identity, cultural colonialism. For example, Fry and Drew’s work at Chandigarh, in West Africa, throughout the Middle East.
  • Tropical Architecture – the use of new technologies and design ideas, its network and legacy, reassessment of the tropical, tropical architecture pedagogies at the Architectural Association and beyond.
  • Town Planning – the Garden City model, the neighbourhood unit, modernist planning schemes, the New Towns and post-war rebuilding, the spread and implementation of CIAM guidelines.
  • Fry & Drew’s wider influence – their patronage of art, Drew’s significance for women (in architecture), influential personal or professional relationships, their published texts, their involvement in architectural design education.

We invite abstracts of up to 300 words for 20-minute papers. Please email Jessica Holland and Iain Jackson at by Sunday 2nd June 2013.

Please check the conference page for regular updates.

Three Buildings by the Architects’ Co-Partnership

Iain’s last post mentioned Leo De Syllas, one of the founders of the Architects’ Co-Operative Partnership (ACP) created in London in 1939. The practice originally consisted of 11 members recently graduated from the Architectural Association who wished to work without office hierarchies and on projects of a predominantly social character. They were strongly influenced in their methods by Berthold Lubetkin’s Tecton. The original members other then De Syllas were: Kenneth Capon, Peter Cocke, Michael Cooke-Yarborough, Anthony Cox, Michael Grice, A. W. Nicol, Anthony Pott, Michael Powers, Greville Rhodes and John Wheeler.

De Syllas was the African mastermind of the firm that set up a studio in Lagos in the early 50’s. Their contribution to Tropical Architecture has never been fully studied and is greatly underestimated. De Syllas was one of the most important figures of the second generation of tropical modernists alongside other designers such as James Cubbitt, John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood. Works from Architects Co-Partnership are largely displayed in Fry and Drew’s masterpiece, Tropical Architecture in the Dry and Humid Tropics in 1964. This shows how Tropical Architecture was intended as an innovative design system used by a small group of designers willing to disseminate their design ideas, in an article on Architectural Design in 1959 De Syllas stated: the work shown on the following pages is a record of the adaptation of the principle of tropical architecture to various requirements and some of the lessons learned in the process may be universally useful. 

Architects CoP - Ansarur Deen School - Lagos - Nigeria

I would like to present three buildings by the Architects Co-Partnership that show their highly experimental attitude. I believe that the appliance of scientific principles and climatic design tools such as solar diagrams and wind charts is highly sophisticated and a perfect example of the tropical design approach. The first building (above) is the Ansar-Ud-Deen School in Lagos, it is a simple design with a concrete structure common to many of the school buildings built in those years. The interesting part of the design is the usage of a single device, simple but yet highly effective. It consist of an horizontally pivoted timber framed shutter that can change position in the different time of the day and become a shading device while assuring cross-ventilation.

Architects CoP - House - Kano - Nigeria

The second building is a private house in Kano, in northern Nigeria. I see this building as the direct architectural result of the appliance a periodic heat flow diagram. The materials used, the type of openings and the general concept are all chosen in order to control the diurnal variation of temperature inside the building. The first floor, where the daily life takes place, has 60cm thick stone walls and small openings while the first floor with the bedrooms is a light timber structure with floor-to-ceiling openings. This structure, alongside the use of the double height internal patio, allows to reduce the time lag period in the diagram assuring a longer comfort period. In this case we can assume the whole building as a single climatic device acting towards a specific purpose.

Architects CoP - Department of Marketing exports - Ibadan - Nigeria

The last building is the Department of Marketing Exports in Ibadan, a t-shaped building with facades facing all four of the cardinal points. A different device was used in each facade: in the east and west facades we find vertical pivoted shades, in the south facade fixed overhead shades and a system of openings assuring cross-ventilation and in the north pivoting storm shutters. The facades reach highly sophisticated solution dealing at the same time with sun-protection, air flow and protection from occasional rainstorms. In the north and south facade in particular we can see the usage of mixed devices: shutters, shades, venetian blinds both movable or steady. The highly experimental will of this building is demonstrated by the fact that it was first built on two floors and then after experiments were made on the function of the different devices increased to three floors.

I’m currently conducting a deeper investigation and a re-drawing of many other Architect Co-Partnership buildings and I would love to be able to get in contact with someone who works or worked in the firm. Have you worked in the office? Have you got any information on this African designs? I’d love to hear from you, feel free to contact me!

Exports Only?

Export Architecture. To the casual reader, this phrase may come across as almost self-explanatory, devoid of any further need for clarification. Export, most will reason, literarily connotes the transfer of a product from its source of production to a foreign or external recipient, usually in exchange for a fee, charge or emolument. As for Architecture, the reader might almost think, well, we all know what architecture is! Caution is however advised, as such perceived ‘knowledge’ on architecture could often be very superficial.

In spite of the lack of complexity to the reasoning described above, it does provide a basic insight to export as a means of product transfer. The ‘Product’ here, is however largely limited to a perception of manufactured (or material) goods, but which exportation clearly transcends. Culture, lifestyle, language, and fashion among other things, are immaterial endeavours also exported across borders. Architecture, possibly rated material in terms of the physical building components it employs, and immaterial with regards to construction methods, building forms and functional requirements – has been exported all through history by explorers, adventurers, and new settlers.

Lagos European Quarters

The architecture established in Nigeria during the British colonial era could well be assumed a classic example of export architecture, with features that reflected architectural traits from the heart of empire and were alien to the prevailing indigenous buildings of the time. It may however constitute a very hasty and almost erroneous judgement to assume that all British colonial buildings were export products. Could there perhaps, have been instances where indigenous architectural style and features were adapted, or even wholly copied in colonial building?

Writing on the building works carried out by European builders in Nigeria, Arthur M. Foyle in a 1951 The Builder Journal, had noted the character of early houses for government staff in Nigeria. He observed that while they were built of timber in the south, in the north and in the more inaccessible areas, staff housing were usually constructed of local materials and often by local labour using traditional methods of construction.


Hausa Built form, Northern Nigeria

This ‘Type Mud brick European quarters’ designed by Nigeria’s colonial Public Works Department presented here, was sourced from a 1933 technical paper of the department, and rightly corroborates Foyle’s observation. The European quarters’ adapted features may perhaps, be better understood if analyzed on surviving Hausa built form models of Northern Nigeria. Although its plan retains a European model with a garage, hall, pantry, store and dressing room on the ground floor, and features a bedroom and bathroom upstairs, the quarters design largely adapts local form and materials to accommodate the colonial lifestyle.


1933 Drawing of European Quarters at Katsina