Fry and Drew: Conference

‘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.

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