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Research Title and Summary: From One Slum to Another : A Journey of Understanding and Redefining Informal Districts in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

At a time where Saudi Arabia undergoes many mega development plans, Jeddah, located in the western region of Saudi Arabia, continuously aims to adjust the urban development strategies in an attempt to accommodate the future vision of the country. However, it suffers from the increasing numbers of informal districts where it currently adds up to sixty-six documented informal districts. This built environment has been vulnerable to socio-cultural implications and considerable complications. The community in these areas suffer from lack of proper housing, amenities, water supply, safety, and basic accessible healthcare. Living in closed clusters depending on and not limited to ethnicity and affordability. Saudi and non-Saudi people have inhabited informal districts for generations. For many years, policy makers along with governmental officials have put in action strategies to infiltrate these zones and prevent the spread of this architecture scar. Consequently, a bird eye view of the situation with no consideration to the communities needs and struggles have led to two types of people: landowners who refused to move and low-income communities who relocated to other informal low-income areas. 

Previous research investigated the informal districts crises, the root cause, the history and possible solutions. However, this historical crisis still reoccurs today. The oil boom, the mega projects, the rise in population and cost of living all have aided in the process of replacing, reproducing these slums. This research will shed the light on previous reasons of the crisis, However, it aims to investigate the mechanism of the informal districts and characteristics influenced by the behavior of different sociocultural aspects and to identify the variables that define these areas in Jeddah. 

Aims and Objectives:

This research aims to reveal the actual characteristics of Jeddah’s informal districts highlighting the different building and spatial dimensions. It aims to layer the social, economic and space relations to highlight the consistent power of such districts and the growth of this particular economy and space. 

The architecture of these zones in Jeddah can be abstracted into many indicators that differ from one district to another despite the close distance they are from each other. Considerably, the urban fabric and socio-cultural characteristics also differ from one zone to another. This is an understanding on how housing conditions and living challenges implicate the socio-culture nature of inhabitants. The research is an empirical analysis of the factors influencing the social and cultural patterns affected by the built environment that aid in the occurrence and recurrence of informal districts. 

Many descriptions have been mentioned in research and media talking about the problem of slums. The root cause, the history and possible solutions. However, a historical issue still reoccurs today. The oil boom, the mega projects, the rise in population and cost of living all have aided in the process of replacing and reproducing these slums. This research does aim to extensively explore previous reasons of the crisis. It aims to investigate the mechanism of the informal districts and characteristics. The aims are as following: 

  • To research the history of the urban fabric and the development of the built environment of Jeddah.  
  • To research the history of the existence and recurrence of informal districts in Jeddah. 
  • To investigate the different types of informal districts in Jeddah. 
  • To examine the current situation and analyze the relationship between the city and informal districts.
  • To examine the inhibitors socio-cultural background and economic status. 
  • To define the characteristics of the informal districts’ built environment where they differ in terms of culture, architecture, and economy. 
  • To set new indicators that categorizes the districts based on physical and social differences according to the previous definition. 
  • To propose recommendations for new strategies to enhance the built environment to accommodate inhabitants needs 

Why did you pursue a PhD, and what made you choose University of Liverpool?

Honestly, I have never thought I would. In 2013 I finished my master’s degree in Sustainable Architecture from the Catholic University of America. I was very eager to start working in the field. I went back to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and worked at Dar Al-Hekma University as a lecturer, alongside I founded with my husband Vertix Design Studio where I worked as an Architect and Interior Designer. In 2017 I moved to teach at Jeddah University. I taught various subjects during my years at both universities such as design studios, sustainability, and computer aided design. Teaching was a very enriching experience and as a result I have been very enthusiastic about research and exploring new methods of developing the built environment. During COVID-19 lockdown, a worldwide crisis affecting humanity, I realized that the aftermath of this would lay within us for a very long periods of time. I started to research with my colleague Dr. Sherin Sameh, a former chair of the School of Architecture at Dar Al-Hekma University, about pandemic lockdowns and space layout in houses in Jeddah according to new resident’s needs. Research revealed how this pandemic affected the more vulnerable low-income society and how houses and neighborhoods were not equipped to deal with such events.

After exploring many prominent universities, I have chosen University of Liverpool because the School of Architecture is one of the excellent schools across the United Kingdom, and the areas of research I am interested in are compatible with the vision of the wonderful staff. Liverpool is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited in the UK, the very welcoming atmosphere and the beautiful architecture has made the decision much easier. 

What have you found the most fun part of the PhD, and the most challenging?

Exploring my city and meeting people from different backgrounds has been the most rewarding part of the PhD so far. Although I have lived most of my life in Jeddah, I had the chance of visiting areas for the first time. Seeing the city from a different point of view has been an eye-opening experience. 

The most challenging part has been starting my PhD online during the COVID-19 lockdown. Although e-learning has proved to be a revolutionary mechanism managing to bring people together in one room despite the physical distance, it has been challenging to build actual work/study relationships. As a new student, it takes time to be familiar with the new system and new instructors, nevertheless having to do it online made it challenging as there is limited time during online meetings and the importance of using that limited time effectively. However, I have been very fortunate that my supervisors have been very encouraging and supporting throughout time and I have been very motivated to work hard after each online meeting. 

Post-Phd? Any ideas of what you’d like to do next?

Although teaching has been a huge part of my career, I look forward to research further solutions for the constant rise in informal settlements in Saudi Arabia. I would like to effectively implement strategies that deal with such zones with consideration of the society living there. Finding sustainable solutions to eliminate such occurrences in the future for a more resilient country. I aim to influence and implement polices that would help mitigate this situation. 

Any advice for others interested in doing a PhD?

The dilemma I had in the past was constantly asking myself why do I want to do a PhD? Every time I thought about applying, I asked myself that, and only when I was able to answer I knew I was ready with a purpose. Don’t be afraid to be curious – the more you are – the better researcher you become. I have always seen myself since I started as more of an investigator researching for answers in the field. Choose a topic that you feel passionate about and do not be discouraged when you reach dead end, it just means there is an alternative road you need to take. Enjoy the journey. 

We’ve been making good progress on our latest research on the UAC architecture. Here’s a quick selection of material from our recent twitter feeds. Next week we’ll be joined by Dr. Michele Tenzon which will finally bring the entire research team together in one place. You can expect to see some of Michele’s maps and visual representations of the UAC activity here very soon.

Corrugated iron mosque, Bansang Gambia. C1958.

From a collection of photographs taken by the United Africa Company @LivUniArch @iaindjackson @RixtWoudstra

Originally tweeted by Ewan Harrison (@EwanMHarrison) on September 22, 2021.

It’s a major design departure from the old Kingsway on Lagos Marina. Any ideas who designed this building? #UacArchive #Lagos #Kingsway

Originally tweeted by iainjackson (@iaindjackson) on September 30, 2021.

From the 1950s to the late 1980s, the politics and economies of foreign aid — instigated by both the ‘capitalist West’ as well as the ‘communist East’ — gave rise to a whole infrastructure destined to assist the progress of ‘developing countries’ on their ‘path to development’. The various North-South exchanges that took place in the name of ‘development’ have left a deep imprint on the geopolitical landscape of postcolonial Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

(1) Bertil Melin, the Swedish director of the Nordic Tanganyika Project in Kibaha, showing a model of low-cost housing to (2) President Julius Nyerere, c. 1963-64. To the far left, (3) Mr. Dennis, the carpenter who made the models, co-designed the housing project, and “test-lived“ in the first constructed house with his family. From Torvald Åkesson, ‘Education – In Marble Halls or Under Trees. Low-Cost Houses in East Africa, Especially Ethiopia and Tanzania’, compiled self-published report, c. 1965, Stockholm. Collection KTH Library.

Largely instituted through bilateral relations between individual states, these ‘aid’ initiatives involved not only financial and material resources but also various forms of knowledge and expertise; as such, the modalities of this global, foreign aid-funded infrastructure boosted the creation and reinforcement of all sorts of institutional actors to efficiently exchange knowledge — largely through training courses, educational programs and/or research projects. In the light of widespread rural migration and intensive, rapid urbanization processes, expertise on the built environment was a particularly salient form of knowledge to the aims of foreign aid. Hence, architecture, urbanism and planning were no strangers to an emerging foreign aid-funded knowledge economy — a context in which the production and circulation of knowledge were intimately tied to the political-economic value attributed to them by foreign aid diplomacy.

How did architectural knowledge figure in foreign aid-sourced international relations, and what frameworks were set in place to efficiently exchange that knowledge?

For this two-day symposium, we seek scholarly work that critically analyzes, contextualizes, or theorizes the establishment and functioning of such institutional actors, training courses, educational programs, research centers, and other infrastructures for knowledge exchange that emerged under the aegis of development and targeted ‘Third World’ clients. We welcome a wide range of methodological and creative perspectives as well as less empirical (but well-informed) theoretical approaches that interpret this phenomenon from a postcolonial or decolonizing perspective. We also encourage contributions that scrutinize the intersections of these histories with discussions of gender, race, religion and nationalism.

More information and Register here: https://www.architectureforeignaid.arch.kth.se

Name: Heather Lynn McGrath Alcock 
PhD Research Title: Beyond the Village: The Global Value of Port Sunlight 

Dissertation Supervisors: Professor Iain Jackson, Dr Ataa Alsalloum and Dr Cheryl Hudson 

Research Question: Does Port Sunlight village express Outstanding Universal Value and if so, what material and intangible aspects of the site express its influential, unique, and exemplary character? 

Aim: The aim of my research is to define the heritage values of Port Sunlight village in a comparative global context.

  

Figure 1: Mapping global planned worker villages. Sites are mapped by latitude and longitude and key characteristics are recorded for each site, including dates for development, designer, industry, and heritage site management indicators such as statutory protections.  

Objectives: 

  • Identify, map, and analyse the transmission of ideas and images for Port Sunlight village and two similar sites Bournville and New Earswick from 1889-1939. 
  • Complete desk-based research to identify, map and briefly describe global planned worker settlements, garden suburbs, and Garden Cities. 
  • Compare transmission of ideas and images research against the development of planned worker settlements, garden suburbs and Garden Cities research to identify and describe possible connections and influences. 
  • Undertake case studies for more in-depth comparative analysis, including archival research, field work and interviews with stakeholders.  
  • Analyse findings to determine if there is a correlation between the transmission of images and ideas and the development of planned worker villages. If so, would it be possible to identify the primary influence? Were direct or indirect forms of transmission most prevalent? What methods were most effective or enduring? Lastly, is it possible to directly trace Port Sunlight’s influence? 
  • Define Port Sunlight’s heritage values within UNESCO’s framework for world heritage site inscription.  

Figure 2: The model worker village at Port Sunlight was both a highly local and ‘tied’ manufacturing community and a global phenomenon. Foreign visitors toured the site regularly and Lever Brothers had a global business operation by 1900. This 1901 quote from the Crown Prince of Siam featured in the opening pages of the 1905 “Souvenir of Port Sunlight” by Lever Brothers Limited. (Held by Port Sunlight Museum, Collection Reference S13 1905) 

Background to Port Sunlight 

Port Sunlight is a planned worker village created by industrialist William Lever (1851-1925) for the workers in his soap manufacturing company Lever Brothers, which later became global manufacturing corporation Unilever, plc. Port Sunlight holds a unique place in the history of British town and country planning, where two significant traditions meet: picturesque town and country planning and improved housing and amenities for working class people”.1  

​​Construction of the Lever Brothers’ works started in 1888 and the first houses were occupied by 1889. By 1891, Lever Brothers had built their first community facility, Gladstone Hall and they were publishing visitor ‘guidebooks’ to promote the works and village. 

By the start of the first world war, the village had a wide range of facilities, including two schools, cottage hospital, an open-air swimming bath, 3000-seat auditorium, gymnasium, library, savings bank, social clubs, shops, church, tennis and bowling lawns, football pitch and pub.​ The houses and facilities were set in a generous landscape with passive green spaces, designed landscapes and allotments. ​ 

Figure 3: Plan of Port Sunlight as it was in 1938 by historian Michael Shippobottom in consultation with Edward Hubbard. The plan, reproduced in Hubbard and Shippobottom’s A Guide to Port Sunlight Village (3rd Edition, Page 34, Figure 32) illustrates the village at its first Jubilee.  

Port Sunlight village became a conservation area in 1978 and includes over 900 Grade II-listed buildings within 130 acres of parkland and gardens.  

Research Justification 

Port Sunlight faces many challenges, articulated in a suite of evidence-based strategic documents developed from 2018-2021 by Port Sunlight Village Trust (PSVT), the independent charity charged with the care and promotion of the village.2 PSVT, working in partnership with key stakeholders, plans to undertake significant projects and to advance key business objectives to address these challenges and to ensure the long-term sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity of the site.3 The research will support PSVT, village stakeholders, academics and practitioners to better understand the global value and significance of the site and to make more informed decisions about its future.  

Research Methodology 

My work will be informed by extensive archival research, case studies and oral histories, and my professional experience and understanding of heritage values (including current dialogue challenging the processes for identification and management of heritage sites), but it will also engage with the theoretical, contextual and historiographic approaches of others who have studied the design, development, transformation and impact of planned worker villages from multiple disciplines.  

Figure 4: Bridge Street and Park Road terraces houses in Port Sunlight by Douglas and Fordham, 1893. Digital version from the Drawn Together collection under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. Original drawing held by Unilever, plc.  

What did I do before the PhD Research? 

As a British-American citizen and a mature student, I enjoyed twenty years in built heritage practice in the USA and UK. My academic degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania led to private heritage consultancy in New York City. There I worked for Building Conservation Associates, Inc. on many aspects of built heritage practice across the country. In New York, I developed a practical approach for the creative adaptation and conservation of listed buildings for tax credit projects, which resulted in the regeneration of at-risk heritage sites. Research underpinned my practice, including heritage policies for the United Nations Headquarters in New York and a serial listing for the New Canaan Moderns.   

Before starting my PhD at Liverpool, I served as the Heritage Conservation Officer for PSVT, where I had the opportunity to draft one of England’s first Local Listed Building Consent Orders, to design and implement a conditions and integrity survey of the 923 listed houses in the village, co-authored the Conservation Management Plan (2018) and managed Drawn Together, a Lottery-funded partnership project to digitise original drawings for Port Sunlight. It was through my work for PSVT and direct engagement with village residents that I developed an appreciation for my research site and its stakeholders.  

Why did you pursue a PhD and what made you choose the University of Liverpool? 

Since immigrating to the UK in 2009, I had felt the pull towards further education, particularly in a British context. I found time during the disrupted life of the pandemic to apply for both a PhD and research funding. The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB) awarded me their Graham Child Scholarship, so the question of funding was very happily and gratefully resolved. My choice of university was straight forward. I was well-acquainted with the School of Architecture, the excellent reputation of its researchers, its facilities, and resources. Both the Architecture and Planning departments had ties to Port Sunlight and the archives hold significant collections for the transmission of ideas research. I had met both Ataa and Iain through my work at Port Sunlight and felt they would make an ideal team to supervise my cross-disciplinary dissertation. Everything fell into place! 

What are your first impressions of life as a PhD researcher and what do you think you will do after you have finished? 

I am perhaps one of the most grateful and fortunate people in Wirral as I am being paid to learn, think, and write about Port Sunlight. Working with Ataa and Iain has been incredibly rewarding as their global expertise and experiences in architecture, history and heritage connect and complement my own experiences and practice. Our differences make for lively and enjoyable discussions, and I always go away feeling a bit daunted but inspired. 

However, there is no denying the dramatic change of pace and the different daily rhythms I experienced when I became a PhD researcher. In my professional life, there were meetings, colleagues, volunteers, emails, public engagement, and strategic considerations. In short, there were people. Now, my world is quiet and contemplative (when my children are at school). My ‘to do’ list is long and exciting, but undeniably solo. I rather like working with a team and know that once my dissertation is finished, I will welcome back the noisy collaborative world of heritage practice and possibly the even noisier world of teaching.  

Crucibles, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning the Modern City

Hosted online across two days in March 2021, the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational and Liverpool School of Architecture’s “Crucibles, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning the Modern City” seminar investigated 20th century identities for postcolonial and post-independence cityscapes in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.

Convened by Iain Jackson, Professor at the Liverpool School of Architecture, Clara Kim, the Daskalopoulos Senior Curator for International Art at Tate Modern and Nabila Abdel Nabi, Curator for International Art at Tate Modern; the seminar explored stories from these ‘highly charged moment[s] in the history of city making or shaping’.[1]

The seminar specifically positions cities as incubators for the generation of national identity and for ‘Modernity’. However, were individual cities sufficient for such grand objectives, or were they more isolated and fragmented sites for local, yet innovative gestures? Presenters demonstrated examples where both centralised urban contexts (including major urban planning initiatives and more piecemeal developments) and wider networks proved valuable in creating or indeed reasserting national and regional identities.

The destructive process of creating mid-century urban environments defined many global contexts. Whether in response to the need for new national identities in postcolonial contexts, reconstruction and housing following the devastating effects of war and a baby boom or strategies to address perceived ‘blight’ and urban flight, urban renewal, with its top-down, Bauhausian, car-focused, and federally funded backbone epitomised Modernity.

Some cities benefitted from a relatively early reconsideration of the blank slate approach to city planning. Lukasz Stanek described how Miastoprojekt, a Krakow-based state planning office of designers envisioned the future of post-revolutionary Baghdad through their experiences with reconstructing historic Warsaw after the Second World War.[2]

Using architectural and design services as a politically and financially motivated form of state aid during the Cold War, the Miastoprojekt plans rejected key aspects of Baghdad’s first modern city plan, including the demolition of the city’s Ottoman era historic and vernacular architecture, and tripling the size of the city at a local level without consideration for expansion through regional developments.[3]

Miastroprojekt’s legacy continued beyond the Baghdad planning commissions through design work and education with Polish and Czechoslovakian architects teaching Polish perspectives of Modernism in Iraqi universities. By the 1990s, with the fall of communism, Polish designers reversed Miastroprojekt’s strategy and were thinking Warsaw through Baghdad to revitalise their cities.

Big plans were not constrained to single urban environments. Fahran Karim’s ‘archaeology of the future’ presentation explored the role of a foreign designer in creating Pakistani nationalism; Greek architect and planner Constantinos Doxiaidis. Karim asks, “How do you represent a country without a past. Fractured geographically into East and West wings… 1000 miles of India between it?”[4]

Doxiaidis preferred stark Modernism, justified through statistical analysis and designed without classical Islamic aesthetic details. He utilised plan forms, practical details and building types that he believed (or presented) to be essentially Islamic.[5] Doxiaidis planned refugee settlements and Islamabad to include ’gossip squares’, souks, Dochala huts and central mosques.

Despite conducting ethnographic fieldwork and survey (aerial photography), Doxiaidis imported his understanding of Islamic community planning and architecture from his research in the middle east and projected the needs and traditions of widely dispersed refugees on narrow local contexts. Unsurprisingly, the communities adapted or removed many of Doxiaidis’ design features or simply did not use the spaces created for them, preferring to adapt their homes or build vernacular sites suited to their cultural preferences instead. While in practice, many of these adaptations and rejections were practical, Doxiadis’ technical expertise and foreign perspective failed to deliver built environments that suited and sustained the needs and preferences of Pakistan’s new citizens.[6]

Considering what was happening between East and West Pakistan, Ram Rahman shared a richly illustrated and personal view of the cultural and political context for his father Habib Rahman’s contributions to the ‘Nehruvian post-independence renaissance of Delhi.’

Habib Rahman, a young MIT-trained Bauhausian architect, was recruited by Nehru to work in Delhi, where he organised an international low-cost housing exhibition in 1954, including plans and a model for his own design for low-cost housing. Rahman’s house design was reproduced across India 100,000’s of times to address a critical housing shortage.

Rahman was a prolific designer and his work, including the World Health Organisation headquarters building of 1963 (demolished) and later designs for three monumental tombs epitomised Indian modernity.

Professional training and architectural education were key vectors for transnational exchange and development in postcolonial contexts. However, as Patrick Zamarian described in his presentation, the development of the Department of Tropical Architecture (DTA) at the Architectural Association (AA) in London was related as much to the independent administrative structure of the AA and its struggling economic position in the 1950’s as it was to meeting the challenges of Modern design in foreign contexts.

Zamarian recognised the problematic and homogenizing term ‘Tropical Architecture’ and then described the global networks of designers, patrons and educators who delivered training for a generation of British and international students, with a curriculum based on technological solutions for climatic design and a Modern design aesthetic that disregarded local aesthetic and cultural traditions.[7]

When the department visited Ghana, “these ideas for Tropical Architecture fell apart. [The curriculum] shifted from a generic science-based approach to a local and sensitive one, focused increasingly on housing, planning and eventually sustainable development.”[8]

Ola Uduku’s exploration of Modernist Lagos focused on the cumulative impacts of the DTA trained architects, engineers and Italian contractors who contributed to the rapid development of the marina district for independent Nigeria’s first capital city.[9] Although Lagos benefitted from major infrastructure improvements, the architecture described in Uduku’s presentation was piecemeal and demonstrated the evolution and intensification of development for the district from colonial centre to financial district.

Examples include Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew’s Co-operative Bank Lagos (1959) and the Architects Co-Partnership’s Bristol Hotel.[10] A Lagos building that encapsulated the international design collaborations for the time is the James Cubbitt and Partners’ Elder Dempster Lines building (1961), which introduced sleek modern lines, natural cross-ventilation, engineering innovations (pile foundations) contributed by Ove Arup and a distinctive funnel-shaped top structure alongside a notable collection of Nigerian artworks in the lobby. Nigerian designs for the time include Oluwole Olumuyiwa’s Crusader House (1955) and elegant villas outside Lagos by Obi Obembe Associates.

In other contexts, a national approach to recreating identity was accomplished through the redevelopment of pilgrimage networks and tourist destinations, including hotels and museums.

Talinn Grigor introduced the Society for National Heritage (SNH) and the role of the Shah’r in asserting the hegemony of the ruling class and Iranian elite (and recreating national identity) through the demolition and reconstruction of over 40 historic mausoleums to encourage secular and cultural tourism.[11] Examples include the mausoleums of Ferdawsi (1934) in Tus and Hafiz (1938) in Shiraz. Grigor argues that these new Modern mausoleums were integral to the creation of an aspirational middle-class culture in Iran, becoming a network for national tourism that remains today.

The Shah’r and the tremendous wealth generated by the Iranian oil industry funded the design and construction of avant-garde Modern environments and later more traditionally inspired art and architectural contexts, culminating in the uniquely Iranian expression of modernism inspired by traditional wind towers for the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (Kamran Diba, 1977).[12]

Lahbib el Moumni and Imad Dahmani’s presentation on post-independence Moroccan architecture included a second example of state-sponsored activities to promote tourism with Modern architecture. This was developed through hotels constructed outside urban centres in the country’s dramatic landscapes. Examples of exquisite and richly contextual forms from architects Abdeslem Faraoui and Patrice de Mazieres include the Hotel Les Gorges du Dadès (1974) and Hotel at Taliouine (1971-72) were shared, both to demonstrate the value of these sites and to explore the challenges of engaging communities with their recent past. [13]

The expressive and contextual Modernism of Morocco was certainly not isolated for post-colonial contexts. Amin Alsaden’s presentation demonstrates how urban renewal programmes in Baghdad in the 1950s created a sense of cultural and heritage loss, which predicated a culturally specific interpretation of Modern art and architecture for the city. He focused particularly on the work of architect Rifat Chadirji who merged globalism and regionalism in his designs.[14]

Alsaden described Rifat’s earliest buildings as somewhat derivative but noted that through the 1960’s his designs evolved to incorporate traditional shapes and plan forms, marrying social needs to social forms, and incorporating the narrow round arch form, in both elevation and plan.

Anna Tostoes’ presentation on the work of Amâncio (Pancho) Guedes in Mozambican cities clearly demonstrates how the architect’s designs coupled global technical, aesthetic, and cultural movements for the time with traditional and vernacular forms to create unique buildings for Maputo which continue to engage with local communities, including the Saipal Bakery (1954), Smiling Lion Building (1954-55) and the Abreu Santos and Rocha Building (1953-56).[15]

These Guedes landmarks remain relevant to 21st century contexts, but many other postcolonial buildings have been heavily altered or demolished. In my experience as a built heritage professional, architecture of the recent past, whether in postcolonial contexts, Europe, or the Americas is especially vulnerable to inappropriate alterations and loss.

Coupled with the experimental, academic, inefficient and sometimes foreign or dehumanising aspects of mid-century Modern architecture and urban renewal, it can be difficult ‘to love’ and costly to restore for sustainable 21st century purposes. Outside losses from the traumatic impact of military conflict or political maneuvering, it comes as no surprise that the architecture that has sustained and remains relevant to local communities is the architecture that originally engaged with its local context and traditions.

These landmark buildings need champions like Mémoire des Architectes Modernes Marocain’s (MAMMA) and DoCoMoMo to promote their value against ever greater development pressures. “Crucibles, Vectors and Catalysts” moved the discussion forward, but there are clearly collaborative opportunities for research and advocacy to be progressed.

Heather McGrath Alcock is PhD researcher at University of Liverpool’s School of Architecture studying the global development of planned company towns. Heather returned to academia after twenty years as a built heritage practitioner based in New York City and later London and the Wirral. Heather had the opportunity to work on landmarks of the Modern movement, including the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, a thematic survey of mid-century modern houses in New Canaan, Connecticut started by “the Harvard Five”, and the former Pan American Building at 200 Park Avenue, Manhattan.

References

Daechsel, Markus. 2011. ‘Seeing like an expert, failing like a state? Interpreting the fate of a satellite town in early post-colonial Pakistan.’ in Marcel Maussen, Veit Bader and Annelies Moors (eds.), Colonial and Post-Colonial Governance of Islam (Amsterdam University Press).

Talinn, Grigor. 2004. ‘Recultivating “Good Taste”: The Early Pahlavi Modernists and Their Society for National Heritage’, Iranian Studies, 37: 17-45.

Uduku, Ola. 2006. ‘Modernist architecture and ‘the tropical’ in West Africa: The tropical architecture movement in West Africa, 1948–1970’, Habitat International, 30: 396-411.


[1] Jackson, Ian. “Introductory remarks for Crucibles session” from “Crucibles, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning the Modern City”. Online. 2nd March 2021.

[2] In his presentation, “Rupture, Transition and Continuity in Baghdad’s Master Plans: From Minoprio to Miastoprojekt” on 2nd March 2021, Stanek noted that the Iraqi coup which toppled the monarchy in 1958 instigated a new era of collaboration with Eastern European architects and planners; networks established to “compete with and confront Western European and American hegemony to establish a new independent Iraq through its capital city Baghdad.”

[3] Baghdad’s first modern city plan was completed in 1956 by the British architect and town planner Sir Charles Anthony Minoprio, Hugh Spencley and Peter Macfarlane for the country’s Western aligned Hashemite monarchy.

[4] Karim, Fahran. “Archaeology of the Future: Constantinos Doxiaidis in East and West Pakistan”, from Crucibles, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning the Modern City seminar, Session 2, Vectors; 2nd March 2021.

[5] Ibid. According to Fahran Karim, Doxiaidis’ patron Ayub Khan “subscribed to a social theory of development but weakened democracy to validate his authoritarian rule because he felt that the poor, uneducated [masses] couldn’t participate in democracy.” 

[6] According to Markus Daechsel in his 2011 contribution ‘Seeing Like an Expert, Failing Like a State?

Interpreting the Fate of a Satellite Town in Early Post-Colonial Pakistan’, in Colonial and Post-Colonial Governance of Islam, ed. by Marcel Maussen, Veit Bader and Annelies Moors (Amsterdam University Press, 2011), p 159-160, there were many problems associated with the rapid and uneven development of the refugee settlements (lack of basic services (running water, electricity, sewers) and infrastructure (storm sewers), unfinished civil engineering works and the relatively poor refugee communities could not afford rents for the shop spaces, so were not used.

[7] Including Michael Pattrick, Director of the AA in the 1950’s who saw the new department as a way to improve the Association’s finances and academic standing, to Maxwell Fry who supervised the first few years of the department and then culminating in Otto H. Königsberger’s (1908 – 1999) leadership. From Zamarian, Patrick. “Global Perspectives and Private Concerns: The AA’s Department of Tropical Architecture”, from Crucibles, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning the Modern City. Online. 2nd March 2021. 

[8] Ibid. 

[9] Lagos was the original capital city for independent Nigeria. However, it is now the capital of Lagos State since the Nigerian capital city moved to Abuja in 1991.  

[10] Ola Uduku, ‘Modernist Architecture and ‘the Tropical’ in West Africa: The Tropical Architecture Movement in West Africa, 1948–1970’, Habitat International, 30 (2006), 399.

[11] In ‘Recultivating “Good Taste”: The Early Pahlavi Modernists and Their Society for National Heritage’, Iranian Studies (2004), Talinn Grigor noted that “For the modernists, therefore, the control over the physical and conceptual “heritage” enabled them to erase the immediate past to construct the “progressive” future. Destruction of building-as-representation [traditional sites of religious pilgrimage] proved central to the construction of the pending utopian future. Architecture was imperative to the success of the [Society for National Heritage] SNH’s modernizing agenda.”

[12] The Museum opened months before the revolution started which saw the monarchy overthrown and exiled from the country.

[13] While more ancient histories and built heritage are preserved and underpin 21st century cultural identity in Morocco, the architecture of the mid-twentieth century has been over-looked, inappropriately altered or destroyed. Mémoire des Architectes Modernes Marocain (MAMMA) was created in 2016 by young architects concerned with the loss of these sites. 

[14] Alsaden noted in his 9th March 2021 presentation “Syntheses Across Disciplines: Rifat Chadirji and Art-Architecture Liaisons in Modern Baghdad” for Crucibles, Vectors and Catalysts: Envisioning the Modern City, Chadirji was part of the elite bohemian culture of Baghdad, which included artists and architects who were educated in Europe and America. Against the backdrop of political turmoil, they created a vibrant, creative society that embraced Modernism ‘as an act of rebellion against the legacy of British architects who had used Neo-classical designs with orientalist tropes’. 

[15] Tostoes, Ana. “Correspondences, Transfers and Memory: Maputo’s ’Age of Concrete’”, from Crucible, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning the Modern City seminar, Session 2, Vectors; 2nd March 2021.

Join Joe Osae-Addo, Coleman Jordan and Jacopo Galli as they introduce the latest ArchiAfrika Pavilion and exhibitions, followed by a series of presentations from the https://registerarchitecturelandscape.uk/course-of-empire . This is going to be a rare treat, and it’s all live via Youtube if you can’t get to Venice in time.

Online Modernist University Campus Architecture Writing Workshop: A Ghana-Nigeria-UK collaboration

The third iteration of the African Architecture Writing Workshop has involved multi-disciplinary teams of young students and Early Career Researchers (ECRs) from Universities in both Ghana and Nigeria in developing a series short written articles focused on personal views of university campus buildings in Ghana and Nigeria. The ECRs worked directly with the young students as mentors to encourage and develop their writing style. 

The ECRs have also been tasked with compiling and editing student work to create a series of gazette entries for the Modernist University Campus Buildings in West Africa project.  Aside from the written component the ECRs and students have also taken a set of photographs which will form the basis for a future planned photography workshop to be run in association with the International Documentation of Modern Buildings and Landscapes, (Docomomo) team Germany.

The British Academy-funded workshop took place over two weeks starting at the University of Ghana, Legon led by Co-I Dr Irene Appeaning Addo, with support from ECRs Kuukuwa Manful, Emmanuel Ofori-Sarpong, Dr Ayisha Baffoe-Eshun, and Yaw Asare; as well as guest mentor Dr Joseph Oduro-Frimpong. There was a guest lecture from Professor Lesley Lokko. Students from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Ghana, and Central University College took part in the workshop. Arc Ruth Anne Richardson, Arc Tony Asare, Dr Edem Adotey, and Professor Iain Jackson reviewed the students’ final written pieces that were focused on three buildings on the University of Ghana Campus; Commonwealth, Volta and Legon Halls. 

After a hand over day the Nigeria team’s workshop was led by Co-I Dr Nnezi Uduma-Olugu, and involved three institutions, the University of Lagos, University of Jos and the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. Each institution had a number of ECRs who worked at mentoring the interdisciplinary group of students who had enrolled at each of the workshops. As with the Ghana workshop a number of guest speakers including Prof Bogdana Prucnal-Ogunsote, (University of Jos) Kofo Adeleke (Legacy-92 organisation Lagos) and Dr Onyekiekwe Ijeoma, Nigeria commission for Museums. For the Nigerian final critical reviews attended by Prof Lukasz Stanek (University of Manchester) and Dr Joseph Oduro-Frimpong (Asheshi University Ghana) the ECRs presented their edited summaries of the student-written work and views on campus buildings in the three cities.

ECRs then presented their workshop experience at the Lagos Studies Association International Online Conference at a roundtable panel on conservation challenges in Africa chaired by Profs Uduku and Lawanson, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester Metropolitan University, and University of Lagos respectively. 

Whilst students and ECRs met in covid secure ways at their respective campuses all lectures and reviews took place entirely online, with students and ECRs able to work from ethernet-wifi equipped room spaces at the University of Ghana, and all three Nigerian collaborating Universities.  

Currently ECRs are working on the editing and production of the initial phase of the Modernist African University Campus Buildings Gazette, this will be critically reviewed by Prof Miles Glendinning, Docomomo Scotland and Director SCCS University of Edinburgh. Watch this space…      

This film documents work songs of a fishing community in Ghana, the West-African roots of the work-song tradition shown in the films “Afro American Worksongs in a Texas Prison” and “Gandy Dancers”. The film shows the community singing as it pulls fish nets onto the shore and men on boats in heavy surf singing to pace their rowing. It was shot 40 miles northeast of Accra, Ghana, January 7th or 8th, 1964.

The film material is part of the Seeger collection at the Library of Congress. 

Full film available here: https://www.folkstreams.net/film-detail.php?id=123