Indian Connections: Current Research

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.

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