Archive

British Colonial Architecture

Shared Heritage Africa: Call for Applications: Digital Fellowships March-September 2022: https://sha.architectuul.com

We are pleased to announce an open call for 6 Digital Fellowships, to be awarded to students and young professionals in architecture related fields or with demonstrable interest in architecture, who are based in Ghana, Uganda or Nigeria.

Shared Heritage Africa: Rediscovering Masterpieces

The documentation and investigation of buildings can tell us a lot about how politics works, and a lot about the nature of the relationship between state and society – a concern of all partner organisations. The project focuses on the rediscovery of post-war modern buildings from the 1950-1970s. These fall in the period of independence from colonial rule, here from the United Kingdom (Ghana 1957, Nigeria 1960 and Uganda 1962), and have a great educational and socio-political significance. One focus of our discussions with the respective universities, which were founded by the majority during this period of independence and for which new campuses were usually built, among others:

  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana (1952/1961),
  • University of Lagos (UNILAG), Lagos, Nigeria (1962),
  • University of Nigeria (UNN) (formerly Nigeria College of Arts Science and Technology), Nsukka, Nigeria,(1950s),
  • Busitema University (formerly National College of Agricultural Mechanisation), Busitema, Uganda (1968),
  • Kyambogo University (formerly Uganda Polytechnic), Kampala, Uganda (1958).Digital Fellowship ProgramThe 6 month long digital fellowship program involves participants working on documentation, investigation and representation of those post-war modernist buildings from the 1950-1970s in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. The fellowship program focuses on development of written and visual material on those buildings through scientific writing, photography and digital publishing using different media (text, photo, film and internet).The fellows will be involved in online tutoring and in-person activities undertaken over the period. They will contribute to the online platform Architectuul and the new digest/Blog “Shared Heritage Africa”, allowing for exchange with the professional actors and society, locally and globally. The results shall be presented and discussed at the 17th International DOCOMOMO Conference (IDC) in Valencia (Spain) in September 2022. Each fellow will receive a travel grant for joining the conference.

  • EligibilityPlease note the following conditions for participation:
    • –  Students and young professionals in architecture related fields or with demonstrable interest inarchitecture and other related disciplines, such as: Architecture, Urban Design, History, Social Science,Journalism, Urban Studies, Creative Writing, are eligible to participate.
    • –  If they are based in Ghana, Uganda or Nigeria.
    • –  Strong written communication skills and/or photography and/or digital publishing skills are required.
    • –  Previous experience conducting and communicating ideas or research publicly (blogs, articles,dissertations) is desirable.

Full Details and Application Form: https://sha.architectuul.com

Eager to secure the provision of raw materials at low cost to its flourishing soap factories in Liverpool, Lever Brothers and the United Africa Company (UAC) acquired land concessions from colonial states across the oil palm belt in West Africa. Beginning from the early 1910s, subsidiaries such as the Huilieries du Congo Belge (HCB, later Huilever and Plantations du Congo), and Pamol, established oil palm plantations in today’s DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Plantation workers holding a bunch of fruit of Elaeis Guineensis (African oil palm). Oil is derived from fruit’s outer layer and cracked kernel. The photo was taken near the Alberta plantation in the Belgian Congo, probably in the 1930s or 1940s.
Agronomists selected oil palm varieties to maximise the quantity of oil and facilitate the cracking of the kernels.
Plan of a plantation on the Benin river in Nigeria showing the subdivision of the planted area in square sectors; the location of the oil mill and wharfs where palm oil was extracted and loaded on boats; and the area where worker houses were built.


Historians such as Jules Marchal lengthily detailed the brutality of Lever Brother’s exploitation especially in the Belgian Congo, the forced resettlement of local population, and the violent repression of “uncooperative workers”. However, this attitude uneasily coexisted with a paternalistic, but probably genuine, hope that plantations would bring “progress and civilisation”. Such hope – Benoit Henriet argues – was compromised by the overriding need to turn a profit but it requires to be analysed beyond oversimplifying narratives of predatory capitalism.

Our initial exploration of the rich UAC archival collection revealed that plantations had been the locus of a wide array of experiments combining agronomic knowledge with political, economic, social, and cultural tools. The plans and photos of worker houses and communal facilities, and the numerous written exchanges on the social aspects of work organisation and the daily life of workers in the plantation shows that architecture played a relevant role in giving tangible form to the company’s largely unfulfilled ambitions to widespread social development.

Diorama showing two HCB oil palm plantations presented at the Ghent Universal and International Exhibition in 1913.
“Model houses” for workers in the Brabanta plantation, Belgian Congo.
Native dwelling quarters in an unidentified Huilever plantation.
Views of worker houses and public facilities in Leverville, Belgian Congo.


While the construction of villages for plantation workers such as Leverville offers the occasion for a critical reflection on the role of architecture in private colonial exploitation, other documents from the UAC archives suggest that plantations had been the testing ground for innovative spatial planning models. Indeed, over the course of the 20th century, changes in plantation management and spatial structure overlapped with the evolution of ideas on social engineering and rural development.

In the 1930s and 1940s for example – as Jonathan Robins highlights – in response to the well grounded critiques on the social and environmental sustainability of plantations in West Africa, UAC proposed plans for a reformulation of plantation organisational system. The model they proposed would later influence policy recommendations given by international organisations such as the World Bank to developing countries across the globe. The experimental plantation model, the Nucleus Estate-Smallholder (NES) model, claimed to combine the virtues of the plantation system of management with the “social attractions” of peasant agriculture. This farming system entailed a spatial structure in which a nucleus, composed of a plantation established on a land concession and managed by UAC, is surrounded by further plantation sectors operated by smallholders.

The extent to which this and other models were successful in improving the living condition of local farmers or rather were functional smokescreens for the perpetuation of colonial or neo-colonial extractivism remains an highly debated topic. Certainly, plantations remains, both at the architectural and territorial scale, a fascinating subject which we will continue to explore in the following months and an opportunity to explore the multiple intersections between development ideologies, colonial and post colonial histories, and architectural and planning knowledges.




Henriet, B. (2021) Colonial impotence: virtue and violence in a Congolese Concession (1911-1940), De Gruyter Oldenburg.

Robins, J.E. (2021) Oil palm: a global history, University of North Carolina Press.

Marchal, J. (2008) Lord Leverhulme’s ghosts, Verso. First published in French as (2001) Travail force’ pour l’huile de palme de Lord Leverhulme: l’histoire du Congo 1910-1945, vol.3, Paula Bellings.

For the past months, we have been exploring the vast United Africa Company (UAC) archive held at Unilever in Port Sunlight. The archive documents decades of commercial activity in West Africa, which left a significant imprint on the built and natural environment. The UAC extracted raw materials such as palm oil and timber, but also exported finished goods such as cars, building materials, and refrigerators. The UAC also sold British products in its department stores across Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, it operated its own shipping line, named Palm Line, that ferried goods between the UK and West Africa. We have come across a variety of different materials, ranging from maps documenting the company’s palm oil plantations in the Congo and architectural drawings showing the modern Kingsway stores in Lagos and Freetown, to detailed notes related to the design of the UAC’s port, Burutu, in the Niger Delta.

Tropical hardwood at Sapele, Nigeria
African Timber and Plywood Concessions in Ghana, ca. 1955

One aspect of the UAC I have been focusing on these past months is the company’s timber operations in Ghana and Nigeria. In the early twentieth century, the UAC founded the African Timber Company (later the African Timber and Plywood Company), located in Sapele, Nigeria. Through a range of concession agreements with local chiefs, they managed to consolidate vast areas of territory around Sapele from which they extracted a wide range of different tropical hardwoods for export to the UK. At the same time, the company began operating in Ghana (then still the Gold Coast), in Samreboi, a hundred miles inland from the port of Takoradi. After World War II, they also built a plywood factory in Sapele—the first of its kind in this area and described as ‘the largest industrial plant in West Africa’—and began producing plywood at a large scale. Using photographs and written documentation, I have begun to explore the construction of these two company towns and their wider infrastructure. While the factories and processing plants were built using prefabricated steel sheds made by Arcon (also responsible for prefabricated houses in the UK during the postwar period), the bungalows for the company’s British employees can be described as traditional. Later, a Timber Research Laboratory was added, as well as showrooms, and several local facilities such as a (plywood) cinema and clubhouse. Through felling hundreds of thousands of logs every year, the company irrevocably left an imprint on these two areas in Ghana and Nigeria and had a devastating impact on the natural environment.

The plywood factory in Sapele, Nigeria
Sapele, Nigeria, in the 1950s
The Timber Research Laboratory at Sapele, Nigeria

What is interesting is how the work of the African Timber and Plywood Company aligns with the British government’s focus on ‘empire timber’, or the push to use timber in Britain from different parts of the empire for furniture as well as architecture and interior design. While the government attempted to promote empire timber through a variety of exhibitions in the first decades of the twentieth century, the UAC archive reveals how widespread the use of tropical hardwood and plywood produced in Sapele and Samreboi was during the postwar period. Often marketed as giving ‘a feeling of warmth’, it was used for modern furniture made by the Conran Design Group, doors, window frames, and outside paneling for a variety of council housing, but also as interior decoration and flooring in buildings such as the Commonwealth Institute in London and the Commonwealth Royal Pool in Edinburgh. The former headquarters of the UAC in London, United Africa House at Blackfriars, is another case in point: the building’s interior functioned as a display of tropical timber, ranging from mahogany to African walnut and Sapele hardwood—all produced by the company.

Modular furniture designed by the Conran Design Group, made of African walnut
Different types of tropical hardwood used for the interior of United Africa House, London, 1960s

Another fascinating aspect is the shift to production for the local, West African market in the 1960s and ‘70s, after Independence. Aside from furniture, one innovation was ATP Systems Building, a prefabricated building system using tropical hardwood and plywood. The company promoted this as an affordable, quick, and flexible way to build without requiring much technical knowledge. Documents I found in the archive point out that ATP Systems Building was widely deployed in, for example, Warri, a rapidly growing oil town in Nigeria, to build houses, offices, and schools.

The ATP Showroom in Benin City, Nigeria (originally built for the Lagos Trade Fair of 1962)
An ATP employee selling an ATP Systems Building bungalow in Nigeria, ca. 1970

Overall, the archive of the African Timber and Plywood company demonstrates, once again, how (modern) architectural construction in Britain was shaped by colonialism and, conversely, how British companies continued to impact design in the former colonies after independence. Many questions, however, are still unanswered. How, for example, was the work of the timber companies related to the colonial government’s efforts to promote empire timber from Nigeria? How should we understand the widespread use of (colonial) timber in postwar Britain? What prompted the shift to focus on the Nigerian market after Independence? How successful was ATP Systems Building? Over the coming months, we will continue to explore these issues.

During the past month we’ve continued our exploratory work in the Unilever archive pursuing a broad scoping exercise to determine and survey what is contained within Storeroom Number 4. The archive catalogue is extensive, detailed, and provides incredibly useful descriptions of what lies within – but inevitably there are unexpected items and fine details that remain beyond the limits of the usual cataloguing descriptions. 

East Street, Freetown, 1905

Our sampling has examined a wide range of materials, including the large photographic albums from the late 19th and early 20thC. These carefully preserved documents reveal the early ventures in the Oil Rivers, the exploits of the Niger Company, the development of Freetown, and new buildings in Ghana. The albums have provided important details of the early trading stations that transitioned from boat hulks to riverbank factories and stores of the Niger Delta, Burutu, and beyond. The collection includes photographs of everyday street scenes, new stores, and wharf extensions, we well as major political events. The images from Freetown, Sierra Leone, by photographer Alphonso Sylvester Lisk-Carew (1887–1969) taken in 1905, reveal a systematic street-by-street catalogue of the burgeoning town, and details of new store being built for Peter Ratcliffe Ltd. Most of the various trading companies produced and retained extensive photographic records, including, for example G. B. Ollivant with its Manchester warehouses filled with calico and wax prints ready for export to the coast.  Palm oil was the main export commodity being shipped from West Africa, and William Hesketh Lever’s plantations in Congo are an essential part of this story. We’ve uncovered some early photos of the plantations and worker housing at ‘Leverville’ (now Lusanga). 

Housing at Samreboi

We’ve began to review the timber processing factories and associated settlements of Sapele and Samreboi. Trading as the African Timber and Plywood Company the archive includes an important set of material on the creation of these sawmills, processing plants, and associated staff housing and facilities. The Company was also involved in developing a series of experimental prefabricated and kit housing. We’re especially interested in the relationship the UAC had with construction and building materials companies/contractors, and we’ve reviewed the archival files connected to Taylor Woodrow. The UAC was a shareholder in this major construction company, and we’d like to examine how the two enterprises collaborated to deliver their building programmes and wider ambitions. The complex web of UAC businesses and shareholding arrangements becomes ever more complex and entangled. 

Management Housing at Samreboi

A significant portion of the UAC archive is devoted to brewing and breweries. The UAC established collaborative ventures with Heineken and Guinness to produce the famous Star beer and a range of malt-flavoured beverages. We’ve found some extraordinary designs for worker welfare facilities designed by Godwin and Hopwood at the Lagos brewery, as well as factory layouts and extensive promotional material. This is another example of the UAC working with specialist producers, spreading its risk, and also creating new business for its various subsidiaries. A similar model was deployed with UAC Motors that imported various vehicles and acted as agents, spare suppliers, and repair garages for the manufacturers in Europe and US. 

Godwin and Hopwood Lagos Brewery Welfare Block

Retail and Wholesale business remained a core part of the UAC enterprise with the Kingsway Department stores being the most prominent and well-known retailer. Some excellent work has already been done on Kingsway, but the extensive archival material reveals a lot more to examine.  Major photographic collections and architectural drawings devoted this array of shops and their lavish interior displays have been carefully preserved. The largest and most famous branches were at Accra and Lagos, but other lesser-known stores at, for example, Apapa (designed by T P Bennett, 1960) and Jos, clearly warrant further research and investigation. 

Sketch for Apapa Kingsway Store, by TP Bennett
Kingsway Stores at Jos, Nigeria

Our archival trawling exercise will continue until Christmas 2021 and we’re hoping that by that time we’ll have a clearer picture of the overall collection and the areas/themes we’ll continue to investigate to much greater depths. 

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.

Name: Widad Alis

PhD Research Title and Summary: British Malaya: Colonialism and Architecture in Federated Malay States in 1875-1941.

Preserving colonial buildings is difficult in this modern world. In Malaysia, the difficulty can be seen from the news that arises each year regarding the decision to demolish the colonial building in the name of development especially in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city (that never stops developing). However, many non-government organizations and historians are taking action to prevent it once the news appeared. This situation may possibly be a never-ending story. Concerning this issue, I believe that education is important to prevent demolishing and adding value to the colonial buildings. Therefore, to learn the importance of heritage buildings must come from the history itself. So, conducting historical research on colonial buildings will be one of the solutions to this problem.

Figure 2 one of the heritage buildings that is no longer exist

Historically, British Malaya consists of three parts of administration systems which are Straits Settlements, Federated Malay States, and Unfederated Malay States. All three parts were later merged to be Malayan Union that leads to the forming of Malaysia this day. Upon researching, I found out that Federated Malay States have less historical research done on their British colonial buildings which leads me to focus on them.

Federated Malay States was the beginning of British establishment in the Malay Peninsula. It is intriguing to see how the British developed the states to become one of the wealthiest among their other settlements. Also, to see how the architecture style is being brought from outside into the Federated Malay States. The architecture was developing through the development of Federated Malay States and each building have their own uniqueness in their design. It is interesting to see how the process of constructing the buildings was in history also what made them choose a certain type of architectural style to apply in this environment and how the architecture was finally developed into a style that comprises the culture of the community.   

Figure 4 Credit to National Archives of Malaysia

Archival research is the main data collection method for this study. The research will be conducted in several archives located in Malaysia, Singapore, and United Kingdom. Case studies also are one of the methods to explore their architecture and the development of the capital towns that were formed during the British administration in Federated Malay States. Fieldwork will be performed to observe and mapping the site also photographing the buildings with their environment.

Aims and Objectives:

  • Constructing a history of Federated Malay States through architectural production lens
  • Recording the development of colonial architecture in Federated Malay States
  • Analysing the factors that contribute to the development of their architecture 
  • Recognizing the British Vision through the architecture of Federated Malay States

What did you do before the PhD Research?

I was a practice assistant at an architectural firm in Malaysia before decided to continue my studies for Part 2 in Master of Architecture at The University of Newcastle, Australia. After completing my master’s, due to some family reasons, I was needed to work near our home, so I become a graphic designer while doing part-time architectural work. 

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

I decided to do PhD because I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I also want to upgrade my knowledge in a different way than what I was used to in the architectural field. I also got interested in heritage buildings during the time of my degree in architecture when we got to visit various heritage buildings in several countries. So, I decided if I want to do a PhD, I wish to research heritage buildings as they look remarkably unique from my perspective. 

For my PhD study, I have decided to study in the UK because I would like to explore a new environment and new system. Besides, the Malaysian government gives a lot of support for their citizen to study in the UK. So, sponsorship is not a problem. While selecting the university, I came across the university website and found an architecture PhD student testimonial on how it was like to study at The University of Liverpool. From there, I started to explore the School of Arts page and seeing that they are very active in architectural heritage research which is my research interest. Therefore, I thought that this university is suitable for me and immediately register the PhD.

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

The fun part of the PhD is the knowledge that you acquire during the process. Besides, getting to know more about history and heritage buildings in my country seems a turning point for me as it increases my knowledge about my own country wherein school the history that we have learned is missing the details. It feels like you to get to learn a new story.

The most challenging part is that sometimes I am not sure of what I am doing and feeling not confident with my own research. I also feel like time is chasing after me because there are so many things to read and if you cannot focus you have to read it again. Not only that, doing a PhD makes you feel like you are in kindergarten because you have to learn everything from the very basic in your research topic. Besides, controlling your emotions and habits without affecting the PhD journey is also very challenging.    

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

I do not have anything planned yet for what I want to do next. But the options remain either to be in academia or industry. It will still be a new experience for me if I be in academia or industry. So, I would love to see how my PhD journey ended before deciding anything because I believe that at the end of my PhD, I might know what my strengths are.

Any advice for others interested in doing a PhD?

My first advise is if you do not have any research background, you might want to do some research about it like interviewing PhD students or someone who has already graduated from PhD in order for you to have a clear view of PhD journey. It will be useful as you come prepared for this journey. Secondly, you might want to do lots of reading in a wide scope around your topic and the methodology before registering for your PhD because it will save you lots of your time when you already know the basics. Lastly, you should know how to motivate yourself and enjoy the journey in the long run as this will help you during difficult times. 

The Architecture of the United Africa Company

Following a six month delay due the COVID-19 Pandemic, our latest project to research the Architecture of the United Africa Company has finally started. With generous funding from the Leverhulme Trust, the project will run for two years and result in a series of papers, exhibition, and a monograph.

The Principal Investigator is Iain Jackson (Liverpool School of Architecture), with Co-Investigator Claire Tunstall (Global Head of Art, Archives and Records Management, Unilever Archives and Records Management). This close collaboration will allow the project to have full access to the 1000 linear metre UAC archive held at Port Sunlight, Wirral. 

The three research associates for the project are Ewan Harrison, Michele Tenzon, and Rixt Woudstra.

F&A Swanzy Store, Axim, 1903, Unilever Archive

Background

The history of West African cities has often focused on government projects, health, segregation and so on, with far less attention given to the one of the largest contributors to the built environment – the mercantile traders and their endeavours.

This project will investigate the impact of the mercantile developments across former ‘British West Africa’ starting with the late 19thC and ending with the early years of political independence of each nation.  The shops, trading centres, high streets, and factories offer an alternative view of these cities, and whilst some of these buildings are ‘everyday’ functional structures, when viewed collectively they form a large and significant assembly across the West African region. Through these buildings and wider town plans that accommodated them, the imperial mission is clearly revealed, as are changing tastes, designs, technologies, and economic positions. The architecture, interior spaces, and streetscape serves as a gauge for wider political development, as well as mapping social shifts as the quest for independence came to fruition.

J. Walkden’s Store, Accra,1920, Unilever Archive

One of the largest of these firms operating in West Africa was the United Africa Company (UAC). Whilst formally established in 1929 its constituent firms trace back to the late 18thC and include the Royal Niger Company (operating from the territory that is now Nigeria) and the African and Eastern Trading Company, as well as a whole range of other enterprises. These businesses were effectively operating in a quasi-government capacity and held immense power and influence over what became the colonial occupation of the region. Their contribution to the built environment shaped transport infrastructure, housing, town planning, as well as industrial development of docklands, warehouses, and factories. They also developed more glamorous projects including high-end department stores incorporating the latest design and retail environments; and shaped the fashions and cultural agenda of the towns through facilities such as cinema halls and community centres.

Kingsway Store, Accra, 1950s, Unilever Archive

How did the UAC contribute to the development of the built environment in West Africa, and in what way did it shape the streets, districts, and cities within this region? 

Beyond the pragmatic requirements of the business, what type of architecture and planning was it pursuing, and how did this inform the streetscape and experience of the West African city?

Objectives

To develop a new historical study of West African town and cities through the buildings, plans, and infrastructure projects of one of the largest trading conglomerates in the region, the United Africa Company. 

Archives

The primary data for this project is held in the UAC Archive, now part of the Unilever Archives, located in Port Sunlight, Wirral. This is a substantial collection and an unapparelled set of material relating to British and post-colonial West Africa. It is a largely ‘untapped’ archive, recently catalogued, and forms a unique set of documents relating to the various businesses ran and acquired by the UAC. In addition to the written sources, the collection includes an exceptional set of photographic records, company films, and recordings of interviews with UAC employees. We’ll also consult various other repositories including the UK National Archives; The Public Records and Archives Department(PRAAD) in Accra, and the National Archives in Sierra Leone (held at Fourah Bay College, Freetown); National Archives of Nigeria (Ibadan Branch). 

This congress calls for papers that will examine the movement of people and things around and across the Indian Ocean Rim and reveal instances or patterns of transfer that may complicate assumed centre-periphery dynamics, or correspond more closely to the idea of South-South cooperation. It looks to engage new political framings like the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) or the Group of 77 (G77) and the resulting New International Economic Order (NIEO) that would reconfigure the transfer of construction materials and labour, and consequently architectural knowledge, across this region. But it also hopes to discuss the potentialities for greater solidarity that emerged from broader philosophical notions of ‘neutralism’ ‘human dignity’ and ‘justice’ and how these have affected the ethics of construction in the Global South. Finally, it is expected that all these considerations will find a place in the discussion of migrant populations and their negotiations with these constructed political and cultural categories, living across and beyond them in a constant state of liminality. 

Abstracts (300 words) for proposed papers are invited to be submitted to camea@adelaide.edu.au by 20th June 2021. Congress will meet on 7th-9th November 2021.

Please see the attached Call for Papers for further details:

On behalf of co-convenors: Peter Scriver, Katharine Bartsch and Amit Srivastava

The University of Liverpool and The National Archives are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded collaborative doctoral studentship, under the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) scheme.

Using The National Archives extensive collections the project will investigate how the West African ‘built environment’ has been shaped to respond to various political, economic, and welfare demands and ambitions. The particular timeframe will cover the transition from colonial rule into independence period. After tracking these broader notions across ‘British West Africa’, the project will pursue a narrower focus on one of the four former British colonies.

How were ideas of ‘self’, identity, freedom, and so on, expressed through new construction and town planning? How did former colonisers, and other foreign groups attempt to shape and influence these developments in the ‘post-colonial’ period. How were notions of identity, nation, and ‘new beginnings’ expressed by the postcolonial nations?

The aim of the project is to investigate how political ideas, and notions surrounding identity, nationhood, and statecraft are expressed or manifest through the built environment.

Infrastructure, prestige projects, and grand architectural schemes are often used to infer power, or suggest modernity, development, and progress. Equally, more (seemingly) mundane developments, such as housing, can be as revealing in terms of power structures and wider ambition. In a problematic and contested political situation these types of projects become highly charged and significant expressions of a nation’s collective (and often contested) identity. This is even more meaningful in a colonial context, and architecture, town planning and infrastructure, in part, become symbolic expressions of the colonial power. 

The objective of this project is to examine these notions within the West African context over a period of time that spans the late colonial era and early post-colonial period. This was a particularly volatile moment, charged with excitement and optimism, and a desire to somehow ‘start again’ and rebuild a new nation with a new vision. Architecture and planning would shift from being expressions of colonial dominance and subjugation to being expressions of nationalism, hope, and modernisation. 

It is sometimes tempting to see the event of Independence as an abrupt and sudden moment. The clock strikes twelve and everything suddenly changes – and whilst this is true, it is also oversimplifying a complex event that is, to some degree, still being played-out today. There is also a sense of inertia in the built environment and existing city plans, methods of development, and networks of expertise stubbornly persist and outlast political dynasties.

The desire for the newly independent nations to express their hard-fought freedom through physical, often large-scale triumphant (sometimes infrastructure) projects was met with the former colonial power’s aspiration to continue offering technical assistance, expertise, and trade. It resulted in a complex blend of nationalism, reimagining/reinventing identity and Pan-African ambition, further mixed with the additional influences of ‘non-aligned’ socialist assistance and US, World Bank, and UN concerns. 

The independence of these nations was not an abrupt severance from the former colonial power, but a feathered, gradual transition coupled with intense global interest eager to retain or cultivate influence and trade advantage. 

It makes for a fascinating narrative that reveals the shift from overt imperialism, to one of post-WW2 ‘technical assistance’, ‘development’, and fiscal packages from an array of competing agencies and organisations, met with a desire to express African modernisation, liberation, and success. 

Start date 1st October 2021

Applications due 25th May 2021

Interviews planned for 22nd June 2021

For any enquiries please contact: Professor Iain Jackson on: ijackson@liv.ac.uk

How to Apply:
To apply for this studentship, please send the following documents to artsrecruit@liverpool.ac.uk:

 Full Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Cover Letter expressing motivation for applying and pursuing a PhD on this topic.

Project Plan: This is your chance to set out how you would like to design and plan the research project and should not exceed 1000 words. Please produce a Project Plan that includes the following headings:

  • Proposed project outline and suggested research questions
  • Proposed Methodology
  • The National Archives / other archival sources to be consulted
  • Selected Bibliography.

The project can be undertaken on a full-time or part-time basis.

CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 45 months (3.75 years) or part-time equivalent. The studentship has the possibility of being extended for an additional 3 months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to 3 months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities.    

The student is eligible to claim additional travel and research related expenses (worth up to £1000 per year for four years) during the course of the project, courtesy of The National Archives.

·      We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for a CDP studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area. 

·      Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in subjects allied to the Built Environment/Architecture/History/Cultural Geography.

·      A Masters level qualification is desirable but not essential. Applicants may be able to demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting (e.g. producing and researching written reports, public outreach and liason, working with collections and archives).

·      Experience of working in West Africa is desirable but not essential.

·      Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the archives sector and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in related areas.

·      As a collaborative award, students will be expected to spend time at both the University and The National Archives.

·      All applicants must meet the UKRI terms and conditions for funding

Who to contact

Related content

Availability

Open to students worldwideFunding information

Funded studentship

This is a joint project with AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership programme. The external partner is the National Archive, Kew. See View Website
The award pays full maintenance for all students, both home and international students. The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2021/22 is £15,609, plus an allowance of £1000 per year and a CDP maintenance payment of £550 per year.

Supervisors

https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/studentships/building-the-nation/

Crucibles, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning The Modern City 2nd March Part 1

https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/architecture/events/filmarchive/

Here are the recordings from the Crucibles, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning The Modern City, event from 2nd and 9th March 2021. Thank you to all of our excellent speakers, and for the interesting questions and discussions.

PROGRAMME: Session 1: Crucibles, 15:00-16:30 (UTC) Building the Modern City: Expressions of Identity, Change and Power, Moderated by Iain Jackson

This panel will explore state-sponsored programmes, planned cities and masterplans in cities such as Lagos, Tehran and Baghdad. It will examine architecture as expressions of nationalism and nationalist political agendas as well as its relationship to big business, corporations and mercantile ventures.

Speakers:
  • Talinn Grigor (University of California, Davis)
    • Building a (Cosmopolitan) Modern Iran
  • Ola Uduku (Manchester School of Architecture)
    • Lagos International Metropolis: A city’s adventure in tropical architecture as an expression of dynamic modernism and growth in the mid 20th century
  • Lukasz Stanek (University of Manchester)
    • Rupture, Transition and Continuity in Baghdad’s Master Plans: From Minoprio to Miastoprojekt
Session 2: Vectors, 17:00-18:30 (UTC) Connecting the Modern City: Networks, Alliances and Knowledge Production; Moderated by Clara Kim

This panel will explore the practice of modern architecture through colonial-postcolonial networks and geopolitical alliances. It will explore cities in Mozambique within the context of other Lusophone countries, post-Partition East & West Pakistan, as well as the dissemination of knowledge and technical expertise through pedagogy.

Speakers:
  • Ana Tostões (University of Lisbon)
    • Correspondences, Transfers and Memory: Maputo’s “Age of Concrete”
  • Farhan Karim (University of Kansas)
    • Archaeology of the Future: Constantinos Doxiaidis in East and West Pakistan
  • Patrick Zamarian (University of Liverpool)
    • Global Perspectives and Private Concerns: The AA’s Department of Tropical Architecture
TUESDAY 9 MARCH Session 3: Catalysts, 15:00-16:30
  • Fragments of the Modern City: Memories, Echoes and Whispers Moderated by Osei Bonsu

This panel will explore the collaborations, connections and entanglements that developed between art and architecture during a dynamic period of building in Morocco, India and Iraq. It will examine the legacy and afterlives of these projects through the investigation of under-recognised figures and narratives in art and architecture.

Speakers:

  • Lahbib el Moumni & Imad Dahmani (founders of MAMMA, Mémoire des Architectes Modernes Marocain)
    • Initiatives toward saving modern heritage of Morocco
  • Ram Rahman (Photographer/Curator)
    • Building Modern Delhi, The Nehruvian Post-Independence Renaissance
  • Amin Alsaden (Independent Scholar)
    • Syntheses Across Disciplines: Rifat Chadirji and Art-Architecture Liaisons in Modern Baghdad

This event was organised by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational and Liverpool School of Architecture.