Monthly Archives: September 2013

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 15

Vanessa Vanden Berghe, ‘Aspects of collaboration in the work of Oliver Hill and Maxwell Fry’

This paper seeks to explore through an examination of the work of two twentieth century architects Maxwell Fry and Oliver Hill how their work can shed new light on the existence of alternative forms of modernism.

At first sight, this unlikely comparison would suggest that Fry’s development follows the conventional path of architectural modernism whilst Hill’s work tends to be seen as deviating from such a modernist trajectory putting himself and his work at the margins of architectural history. However, on closer inspection we can see that both Fry and Hill offered ‘different’ architectural approaches that underline the existence of wider manifestations of modernism in England. Their collaboration on the Dorland Hall exhibition (1933) suggests that these differences in approach were underpinned by their shared commitment to bringing good design to a wider public. Other collaborations reinforced this sense of creative partnership between friends, partners and clients. This is evidenced in Fry and Gropius’s collaboration on Impington Village College (1939) and Hill’s Thatched House at Knowle (1925) in which regionalist influences in their oeuvre reveal how both architects early on in their careers sought to increasingly create buildings with a distinctive sense of place and identity.

Analysing various aspects of Hill’s and Fry’s collaborations and the influence that these projects have had subsequently on architectural production, I will argue that such a wider approach not only adds to our knowledge of alternative expressions of modernism but that it also increases our understanding of how these architects commonly sought to integrate modernism within the larger cultural and regional frameworks of interwar Britain.


Vanessa Vanden Berghe has studied History of Art at the University of Ghent, Belgium. She completed an MA in the history and theory of architecture at the University of East London in 2001, where she also lectures and is currently in the final stages of her MPhil (also at UEL) researching the Enigma of British Modernism through the work of Oliver Hill. She most recently contributed a chapter entitled: ‘Oliver Hill: a window on Regionalism in Britain during the interwar period’ in Regionalism and modernity during the interwar period (edited by Leen Meganck, Linda Van Santvoort & Jan De Maeyer) published by KADOC-Artes.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 14

’Yemi Salami, ‘Fry and Drew’s Influence on Colonial Public Works Architecture in Nigeria’

This study examines the influence of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew on the architecture of Nigeria’s Colonial Public Works Department (PWD).  Mostly referred to as Fry and Drew, literature provides accounts of their coming to work in West Africa as architects and professional advisors during the mid-twentieth century. They are also deemed to have pioneered alongside other private architects of the time, the climate responsive design that has come to be known as ‘tropical architecture’.

The literature equally provides a glimpse into operations by the Public works Department (PWD). The department had largely produced the country’s earlier colonial buildings, as well as a good number of its mid-twentieth century buildings. The period therefore experienced a blend of designs by the new private architects and by the PWD. But did the designs of the new entrant private architects generate an impact on colonial building? How did the PWD build before this time? Did it have a design tradition by which it operated? Was this tradition affected by the new influences, particularly from Fry and Drew?

To answer these questions, the study will examine two Fry and Drew buildings and their application of tropical design principles. It will then explore two building types done by the PWD – a courthouse and a post office. For each building type, the study will examine its design in the earlier colonial years, as well as during the tropical architecture trend.  Changes arising in the new design will then be identified and discussed, particularly those most likely based on fry and drew influences. The purpose therefore, is not only to establish if Fry and Drew influenced PWD designs, but to also know what features they had influenced.


Yemi Salami is a PhD student at the Liverpool School of Architecture, University of Liverpool. Her research investigates British colonial architecture in Nigeria between 1900 and 1960. Specifically, the research aims to understand the colonial administration’s Public Works Department (PWD), and the architecture which it produced within the period of study. Yemi held a faculty position at Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria, before enrolling for her PhD in November 2011.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 13

Jorge Figueira and Bruno Gil, ‘Dry and Humid and Everywhere: The work of Amâncio (Pancho) Guedes in Mozambique’

In the seminal Tropical Architecture in the dry and humid zones, published in 1964 by Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, the work of Amâncio Guedes (“Pancho” Guedes, Lisbon, 1925), in Mozambique, appears recurrently as an example of the themes aimed by the authors. The relationship between Pancho’s work and the concerns of Fry and Drew is umbilical, even if the Portuguese architect is more corrosive and incendiary than pedagogical.

Our presentation aims to contextualize and problematize the works of Pancho Guedes referenced by Fry and Drew, as part of his vast production between the early 1950’s and 1975, an itinerary that ends with the decolonization process of the “Portuguese Africa” ​​in 1974. Pancho’s work refers to the condition of Portugal as a colonial power blasted by a great artistic, experimental, “climatological” voracity, which Fry and Drew capture in Tropical Architecture…, demonstrating a particular geo-culture within the colonial process in Africa. Accordingly, we sustain that the general invocation of the post-colonialism – “can the subaltern speak?” – finds in Pancho Guedes a particular resonance. Pancho is a colonizer colonized by modern architecture, from which he is always in a desire/rejection process. All his work is envisioned, in the manner of Team 10 and beyond Team 10, and certainly under the influence of the theses by Fry and Drew, to mourn the more dogmatic aspects of modern architecture, showing affection towards the locality, using techniques and styles that aim to adapt or lacerate the modern canon towards the local. The archaic, primitive and vernacular recurrently appear in his work, more in the manner of an “automatic writing” than an analytical mode. The high point of this trip is the publication that he imagines of 1001 portas do caniço (doors from the slums of Lourenço Marques/Maputo), photographed relentlessly in very beautiful slides.


Jorge Figueira graduated in Architecture at the University of Porto, 1992. PhD Degree at the University of Coimbra, 2009, with a thesis entitled The Perfect Periphery. Post-modernity in Portuguese Architecture, 1960-1980. Director and Assistant Professor at the University of Coimbra’s Department of Architecture. Researcher at the Social Studies Centre (University of Coimbra). Professor at the PhD Programme in the Faculty of Architecture of University of Porto. Coordinator at the University of Coimbra of the Red PHI Patrimonio Historico-Cultural Iberoamericano. Curator of international exhibitions such as “Álvaro Siza. Modern Redux”, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2008. Editor of Álvaro Siza. Modern Redux, Hatje Cantz (Berlin). Author of several books on contemporary architecture, including O Arquitecto Azul, Coimbra University Press, 2010. Has published texts in Arquitectura Viva, Casabella and A+U and has a column on architectural criticism in Público newspaper.

Bruno Gil graduated in Architecture at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, 2005. Following the graduation thesis entitled “Architecture School, Today” he continues research in that subject. Currently, he is developing his PhD at the Centre for Social Studies and at the Department of Architecture of the University of Coimbra, with a grant from the Foundation for Science and Technology, Portugal. His thesis focuses on issues related to the practice of architectural research, identifying disciplinary specificities, research cultures, topics and methods. He is a contributor at the University of Coimbra to the Red PHI Patrimonio Historico-Cultural Iberoamericano. He has participated in diverse international conferences and workshops, published texts in architecture magazines and was co-founder of the NU magazine and its director between 2003 and 2004.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 12

Claire Louise Staunton and James Price, ‘Subverting modernism through autonomous urbanism’

The film Corrections and Omissions (2013, James Price) presents two cases of anarchic urbanism in contemporary Chandigarh. The first concerns the domestic dwellings built for low and mid-rank government employees in Sector 22, designed by Jane Drew & Maxwell Fry. Residents have defied the Chandigarh edict on a small scale by adapting the buildings to their individual and family needs; by altering the room size, use and the building shape as well as permitting “homeless” low caste families to squat on their allocated land in exchange for services such as cleaning, guarding or ironing.

Secondly, the film introduces to the viewer the off-grid village of Burail. In a struggle to keep perfect order and perfect form within the 56 sectors that make up the city, the temporary slums which appear on the fringes of the grid are systematically flattened by the state. The exceptions to this are the villages that pre-date the arrival of Le Corbusier and his team, and still exist enclosed by the masterplan. Burail lies in the centre of sector 45. Its community has persistently defied all planning regulations, is built along an irregular, diagonal axis; its thoroughfares and alleyways missing from the official city map.

The paper unpacks and allies these two examples of anarchic architecture as a subaltern creation of complex spaces, which subvert the grid, and disrupt several current narratives that de-politicise or renew colonialism. Such urbanism operates within an alternative economy outside of the dominant forces of capital and development and is an inherently political act. The paper proposes that these practices expose the contradiction between the principles of indigenous architecture (Drew 1963, Drew & Fry 1964) which insisted upon learning from the vernacular thus adapting designs for the needs and habits of future Chandigarh residents and the modernist imperative to uphold the truth of materials, which guards pure design from “from whims of individuals” (Chandigarh Edict). Furthermore, this paper suggests that the increasing heritagisation of Drew & Fry’s buildings are antithetical to their ambitions for their architecture and renders the planned districts de-politicised.


Claire Louise Staunton is the director/curator of Inheritance Projects and Flat Time House, London. Inheritance is a small group of independent curators and researchers (Laura Guy, Becky Ayre) that organises exhibitions, events, new commissions, publications and research projects. Initiated in 2007 as a vehicle to interrogate museological schemata, the narrations of history and personal and national heritage Inheritance has developed into wider territories of investigation. Inheritance works with artists, musicians and writers in collaboration with institutions to produce new knowledges and develop politically informed, critical discourses around particular topics or situations. The exchange between Inheritance curators with filmmakers, artists, writers, residents and historical artefacts offers a multiperspectival narration by a number of speakers from different places and times.

Inheritance leads a long-term investigation of the visual culture of intentionally planned urban areas (New Towns) and their migrant populations. This research project has involved a project space in Shenzhen which served to question heritage and art history in a new migrant city, an exhibition and ‘Research Lab’ unpacking the theoretical and practical applications of community at MK Gallery, Milton Keynes and more recently a performative presentation concerning the willing blindness of new developments, at Sarai, New Delhi. Other key project areas include the destabilisation of heritage through artists’ activities often redressing colonial, feminist and wider political histories in the contemporary. This has included a residency programme with the National Trust, a radio show and exhibitions in traditional museum spaces.

James Price is a documentary and experimental filmmaker who has been working with Inheritance Projects since 2010. Price’s films have been shown on the BBC, Channel 4, and More4, in art exhibitions and international film festivals. Television projects include the mini-series What is Freedom? (Channel 4, 2009) a critical investigation of liberty and freedom in USA, and A Piece of the Moon (Channel 4 / More 4, 2008) an exploration of the capitalising of outer-space and the agents who are establishing the market. The People In Order series (Channel 4, 2006) has gone on to be shown at festivals in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Australia and the USA and was the first series of 3 Minute Wonders to be selected by Channel 4 in their annual review of work. James Price has also exhibited video installations and photography in the UK. His 2006 installation, Conversation, an exploration of human interaction and judgment, has shown in the UK, Canada, the USA, and Iran. This work is being distributed as an educational aid in the UK, Australia and North America. In 2012 he produced The Body Adorned a semi-permanent installation in the Anthropology Department at the Horniman Museum, London.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 11

José Luís Possolo de Saldanha, ‘Luís Possolo – The Portuguesespeaking Architect at the 1st AA Course in Tropical Architecture’

Luís Gonzaga Pedroso Possolo (Lisbon, 1924) was the only Portuguese‐speaking architect at the 1954/55 first edition of the Architectural Association’s Course in Tropical Architecture, held under Maxwell Fry.

Possolo’s performance seems to have been of a high standard there. In his report for the Portuguese Overseas Affairs Undersecretary of State, he points out that from all 120 designs by the students in class, only seven were selected for an exhibition at the AA ‐ Possolo being the only one to have two designs shown.

The grading panel at the course was made of Fry, Jane Drew, and J. Mckay Spence (who was Deputy Director for the Department). All grading reports on Possolo’s designs are extant, as well as his AA Diploma and a number of interesting documents ‐ such as his letters to, and from, Fry, Drew, Drake & Lasdun, upon finishing his Course at the AA, that show he was close to being hired by the office. However, he chose instead to return to Portugal, where he worked at the Overseas Planning Office (Gabinete de Urbanização do Ultramar) and produced a number of fine designs for Portuguese Africa.

Possolo’s auspicious period at the GUU then led him to privately design a number of highly creative projects – two of which were particularly important in Mozambique and Angola’s development and modernisation: the buildings for the Cambambe Dam, in Angola, and the Nacala Cement Factory, a mile north of the Mozambican city and port of Nacala.

In Possolo’s papers, we also find sketches deriving from projects by Fry and Drew, and a number of black‐and‐white photographs of tropical architecture by British offices. These provide evidence of the young architect’s keenness in following tropical architecture along the guidelines of the AA course. This also clearly comes through in his own built projects for Africa.


José Luís Possolo de Saldanha graduated in architecture at the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa Faculty of Architecture in 1990. He held a scholarship (1999–2002) from Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian for his PhD, which he presented in 2003 at the University of Seville Superior Technical School of Architecture.

He has lectured in Architecture since 1996, and is an Assistant Professor with tenure in the Architecture and Urbanism Department at ISCTE-IUL (University Institute of Lisbon), where he has been teaching since 2006. He is presently President of the Pedagogic Council of this Higher Education Institution for the 2013–2014 biennium.

José Luís Saldanha is a member of the Dinâmia-CET Research Centre at ISCTE-IUL and has presented papers and authored, or co-authored, articles, books and chapters of books on a wide range of architectural themes, such as landscape, building design and tropical architecture. He has also been active in designing architecture for private and institutional clients in continental and insular parts of Portugal.

Contemporary Architecture in East Africa: An Empire of Good Practice[i] or Shadows of Neocolonialism?

Killian Doherty

The expression of individual and collective black identity flourishes in various diverse cultural endeavors. Architecture seems to have been circumvented by this program of intense cultural expression; one wonders whether this is a result of a latent bias within the processes of architectural discourse or merely a time lag before an important and creative awakening.

Edward Ihejirika, “Identity as Intensive Continuity”[ii]

Throughout the mid to late twentieth century the former colonies in Africa were viewed as a fecund terrain, a creative test-bed for architects eager to “cut their teeth” on modernism. European architects practicing under the auspices of postcolonial religious and state powers, in a quasi-missionary capacity, built churches, schools, and cultural institutions. These have since become regarded as “powerful symbols and logical citadels” attesting to the “prestige of western knowledge.”[iii] A 2011 documentary entitled Build Something Modern captures this period in which architects working during the 1950s were inspired and eager to replicate the monumentality of Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh in India across East and West Africa. These architects referred to themselves as “card-carrying modernists” and regaled with frenzied zeal about the joys of being able to build nearly whatever one wanted at that time.

In 1946 the German architect Ernst May moved to East Africa, initially to work as a farmer, but then was drawn back into architectural practice in order to complete several large housing, educational, and master planning commissions across Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda (notably a cultural master plan for Kampala), mainly for British clients and expatriates.[v] However, it was actually with the work of the British architectural duo Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew in West Africa, some ten years earlier, following World War II (Fry and Drew worked on Chandigarh with Le Corbusier), that European modern architecture was transposed to Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo. This delicately revised modernism fuelled desires of these decolonized states to become first world countries and alluded to a superiority of Western architectural methods, particularly evident within Maxwell Fry’s abrasive comments on the impossibility of anything else.

A Nigerian aesthetic? On what would it be based that is as solid as the plywood techniques, the old timber traditions of Finland?

Ola Uduku, “The Colonial Face of Educational Space”[vi]

Dubbed “an Empire of good practice,”[vii] Fry and Drew’s work in West Africa forged the basis of teachings that became the Department of Tropical Architecture at the Architectural Association in London. This work of this period however, “fabricated a mythology”[viii] that architecture as a cultural artefact was somehow independent from political influences; the modern built environment across Africa was and since then has been irrevocably influenced by this period.


Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, Mfantsipim School, Cape Coast, Ghana, 1947 / Alfred Edward Savige Alcock, How to Plan Your Village (London and New York, 1953), front cover

Today, rapid growth in East African cities has brought about intense urban redevelopment, with modernity still held aloft as the panacea. This has consequently bifurcated the agenda of those working in architecture and urban planning, resulting in built work based on lofty neoliberal urban visions replete with an imported, bland modernism (such as in Kigali[ix] and Nairobi[x]), as well as of those working in the field of humanitarian aid and development. It is within the latter field of development that a wave of contemporary architectural practice has emerged, which is also being acknowledged by the exhibitionAfritecture – Building Social Change.[xi] 


New building in Kigali as part of the city master plan. Courtesy Killian Doherty

Given that Maxwell Fry’s “Empire” is readily acknowledged for its limited ability to legitimize African modern architecture[xii] and that the majority of architectural NGOs from the West are still very much disseminating modernism within Africa, one has to ask whether any lessons have been learned. How can Western practice outrun the ghosts of the postcolonial and come closer to a modern African architecture? As interests between local governments, international NGOs, and architectural projects are inextricably intertwined, is this contemporary mode of practice simply the newest facet of neocolonialism?

Quite simply it is the design in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.

—Chinua Achebe, “An Image of Africa”[xiii]

As a Western architect in Africa, I feel perpetually tainted by the postcolonial legacy, the remnants of which obscure one’s ability to practice with clarity. Looking at recent projects, it is abundantly clear there is still relative freedom to experiment in (East) Africa. Considering that, in the past, Africans have “had little to say in response” to architecture, the question remains whether this wave of contemporary architecture has emerged from an engaged, local critical dialogue, or from one that remains entrenched in Western discourse.


Much in the way that the modern movement heralded the promise of social improvements, the same ideology is very much at the root of humanitarian design and evident within today’s developmental lexicon. This is a lexicon with which one is constantly bound by the reality that interests are never truly neutral. As such, we as architects might be accused of being fluent in NGO rhetoric, something that the urbanist Kai Vöckler calls “Donor Speak.”[xiv] Here, interventionist work does not emerge from a “neutral system of values,” but, in fact, “[its] goal is to align everything with the political aims of the donor” or stakeholders, who, more often than not, consist of a first-world audience.

“Architecture is business as well as culture,”[xv] Fredric Jameson has claimed, and as such, projects are permanently locked into conflict between the tangible and the intangible, between that of costs and programme versus the articulation of local identity and culture. This is an exasperating paradox whereby the programmatic factors within the process of architectural design are prioritised, obfuscating an understanding of particular cultural practices. A paradox which Christopher Cripps, a practitioner in Ghana, also acknowledges suggesting “a slice from the budget of any construction project be used to force attention on its cultural context.”[xvi]

Form and aesthetics tend to dictate conversations about architecture and local identity. The architect and theorist Neal Leach acknowledges the complexity of how cultural identity may, or may not, influence architectural form, stating that “cultural identity, therefore, emerges as a complex field of operations that engages with—but is not defined by—cultural artifacts such as architecture.” Also addressing this issue, Homi Bhabba, a cultural theorist who writes about postcolonial identities, suggests an approach of “hybridity,” whereby a combination of multiple identities, not a fusion of them, is considered as a method to acknowledge divergent practices and traditions; in the case of architecture, as a consideration of contextualizing built form.[xvii]

As culture becomes increasingly globalized, and African identity subsequently becomes more watered down, it is much harder to define the purpose and give clarity to one’s work within these muddied contexts. As such, the risks of running aground are greater as architecture, when done wrong, is incongruously invasive and culturally deleterious.

With these complexities and constraints in mind, it can be difficult to dispel fears of neocolonialism. To dispel the legacy of the so-called superiority of Western architectural practices one must make an effort to engage in a more meaningful manner. New architectural agendas, for instance, call for an attuned reflexivity toward the respective socioeconomic contexts in which they operate, yet still manage to deal with budgetary limitations and aesthetic, form-related inquiries into identity. Therefore, the approaches exhibited by new agendas of contemporary practice throughout Africa, in which the “application of universal principles to local conditions”[xviii] is no longer the dominant mode of thinking, are all the more critical.

It is this era’s underwriting of service to society within architecture as a profession that sets it apart from the former, postcolonial Empires of good practice. A forceful mode of practice that combats the legacies of colonialism impedes the threats of a globalized culture, but, most importantly, hopefully, stirs an elusive “creative awakening”[xix] in an emerging generation of African architects.


Community centre under construction, Kimisagara. Courtesy Killian Doherty


[i] R. Windsor Liscombe, “Modernism in Late Imperial British West Africa: The Work of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, 1946–56,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 65, no. 2 (June 2006), pp.188–215. Taken from Maxwell Fry’s biographer.

[iii] O. Uduku, “The Colonial Face of Educational Space,” in White Papers, Black Marks, ed. L. Lokko (London, 2000).

[iv] Nicky Gogan and Paul Rowley, Build Something Modern (Dublin, 2011), film, 70 min.

[v] K. Gutschow, “Das Neue Afrika: Ernst May’s 1947 Kampala Plan as Cultural Program,” in Colonial Architecture and Urbanism in Africa: Intertwined and Contested Histories, ed. F. Demissle (London, 2009).

[vi] Uduku, 2000.

[vii] Liscombe, 2006.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] The Kigali Conceptual masterplan, Rwanda.

[x] Tatu City Masterplan, Kenya.

[xi] At the Munich Architecture Museum.

[xii] Liscombe, 2006.

[xiii] C. Achebe, “An Image of Africa,” Research in African Literatures 9, no. 1, Special Issue on Literary Criticism. (Spring 1978), pp. 1–15.

[xiv] K. Vöckler, Volume issue 4 (2010).

[xv] F. Jameson, “Is Space Political?,” in Rethinking Architecture, ed. N. Leach et al. (London, 1997).

[xvi] C. Cripps, (2003) “Architecture in Europe and the South: Some African Experiences,” paper delivered at the N-AERUS Annual Seminar, Beyond the Neo-Liberal Consensus on Urban Development: Other Voices from Europe and the South, Paris, 2003, Network-Association of European Researchers on Urbanization in the South (website), (accessed on June 5, 2013)

[xvii] N. Leach, “Belonging: Towards a Theory of Identification with Place,” Prospecta 33 (2002), pp. 126–33; and “‘Belonging,’ London: Postcolonial City,” AA Files 49 (2003), pp. 76–82.

[xviii] Liscombe, 2006.

[xix] E. Ihejirika, “Identity as Intensive Continuity,” in White Papers, Black Marks, ed. L. Lokko (London, 2000).


This post appears in full in the catalogue accompanying the forthcoming exhibition ‘Afritecture – Building Social Change’ to be held at Munich Architecture Museum, 14 September 2013 to 12 January 2014.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 10

Rachel Lee, ‘Searching for the Social in the Tropical’

Tropical architecture was institutionalised as a professional field in the metropolis of mid-twentieth century London. Drawing on theories developed over two centuries by military and medical experts, and augmented by the experiences of modern architects and planners who had worked in Britain’s colonial territories, tropical architecture is generally understood as a climate-centric approach to building in the ‘tropics’.

This conception, however, may be too reductive. Several of the key protagonists involved in the institutionalisation of tropical architecture were not exclusively concerned with the climatic aspects of building in tropical regions. Perhaps in contrast to the hygiene engineers who preceded them, they shared a commitment to creating buildings that attempted to understand and respond to the social needs of the users e.g. in the West Indies Robert Gardner-Medwin endeavoured to create buildings that suited the social customs as well as the climatic conditions and the building materials; in Chandigarh Fry and Drew made social surveys, the results of which influenced the designs of buildings such as shops, houses and cinemas; and in 1950, as the Federal Republic of India’s Director of Housing, Otto Koenigsberger began conducting an extensive social survey of Delhi.

With a view to creating a more nuanced understanding of the history of tropical architecture, this paper will attempt to illuminate the role that social issues played in the development of the field. While taking into account recent scholarship that has highlighted tropical architecture’s inextricable links to decolonisation, it will address to what extent tropical architecture was stripped of social concerns and examine why, despite the more inclusive interests of some of the figures key to its development, it was reduced to a climate-based technoscientific field.


Rachel Lee is a research associate at the Brandenburgische Technische Universitaet Cottbus and a lecturer at the Technische Universitaet Berlin, where she is currently completing her doctorate on Otto Koenigsberger’s works and networks in exile. She is also a member of MOD Institute – an urban research and design collective based in Bangalore and Berlin.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 9

Antony Moulis, ‘Designing with landform and climate: Fry and Drew’s contribution to the Chandigarh master plan’

In the book Tropical Architecture in the Humid Zone (1956) Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew strongly criticise both ‘Garden City’ and ‘grid-iron’ layouts as ‘unrealistic’ to housing and town planning in the tropical context. Key to their own planning precepts is a practical concern for the relationship of landform and climate – the prevention of erosion, the securing of road drainage and respect for the natural contours – leading to housing layouts subtly adjusted to the prevailing conditions. For Fry and Drew such an approach emerged productively from their work begun in the British government’s West African colonies in 1944 and continued at Chandigarh, India, between 1951 and 1954. Their specific critique of both Garden City and grid-iron forms – the prevailing planning approaches in mid-20th century modernism – could be viewed as a direct legacy of their experiences in Chandigarh, where the partners found themselves working within the constraints of the city’s famous master plan, drawn by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, which was broadly understood as a rational gridded revision of the original Garden City plan devised by the US planner Albert Mayer. Yet subtle adjustments of the city’s gridded layout to account for features of the land reveal the greater agency of Fry and Drew in the master plan’s formation and speak of their knowledge and experience of planning in the tropics already gained from their West African work up to 1950.

Based on research of the architects’ archives held by the RIBA and the V&A Museum, this paper gathers evidence of Fry and Drew’s contribution to the Chandigarh master plan, drawing upon testimony of both partners of events surrounding the master plan’s making in early 1951. By seeing Chandigarh’s overall layout in context with the architects’ own strategies for housing and town planning in the tropics published between 1947 and 1956 the paper will argue the key role of Fry and Drew in substantiating the Chandigarh master plan as more than simply an abstract conceptualisation of city form.


Antony Moulis is Associate Professor and Director of Research in the School of Architecture at the University of Queensland, Australia. His research on practices of design in mid-twentieth century modern architecture includes archival research at the Fondation Le Corbusier, the Alvar Aalto Academy, and the Canadian Architectural Archives. His architectural writing for professional and academic journals appears in ARQ, AA Files, Architectural Theory Review, Architecture Australia, Monument, Architectural Review Australia, and The Journal of Architecture. He is currently a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Discovery project on eminent Australian architect John Andrews, known for his work in North America in the 1960s and ‘70s, including Gund Hall at Harvard. Moulis co-convened the 2011 Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia & New Zealand, and was awarded Best Paper at the Society’s 2010 Conference for his research of the collaborative links between Jorn Utzon and Le Corbusier.

Workshop and Roundtable discussion: 28th November 2013 Liverpool School of Architecture.

This workshop is concerned with the architecture, design and planning proposals developed by architects/planners from Poland during the mid-late twentieth century. In particular it seeks to address how people and ideas have migrated beyond national borders and with what effect. Without the networks of empire and trade that aided so many British and Western European architects to practice around the world in the twentieth century, how and why did so many Polish architects obtain commissions beyond the immediate reach of Eastern Europe?

One answer to the above question was the placing of a Polish School of architecture within the Liverpool school during World War Two. In 1942 the British Council approached the university with the proposal that was part of a broader plan that saw other academic disciplines placed in other UK universities, such as a veterinary school at Edinburgh.

The Polish School of architecture was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Poland and Commander-in-Chief, General Wladyslaw Sikorski in November 1942 – although the school had actually been in operation from June 1941. Staff and students worked on theoretical schemes such as for the rebuilding of a specified Polish village, along with designs for hospitals, blocks of flats, factories, town halls and the like. Professor Budden commenting on the Polish School’s tenure in Liverpool noted that although ‘the work…is in the mainstream of contemporary architectural thought and practice, it is yet distinctively expressive and national in character. The forms employed are in the main familiar, but they are given an unmistakably Polish inflection – and the result is the more interesting and vigorous for that…’

What was this inflection that Budden observed and can we begin to discern a specific Polish approach to twentieth century architecture and planning?

The Polish School is but one of the many networks, vectors and agencies that facilitated the export of Polish architecture and architects. What other modes of migration were pursued? What happened after the Polish School and where did its graduates go on to practice?

These are the most basic questions that we hope to discuss and address, but suggestions, other case studies and individual biographies are very welcome.

Papers and work-in-progress are most welcome. 20 minute papers followed by 20 minutes discussion. For further information or to submit abstracts of 200 words please email Iain Jackson  or Peter Richmond  Deadline for abstracts is 14th October 2013.