Tag Archives: architectural history

EAUH Helsinki 2016

European Association for Urban History 2016 Conference:

Reinterpreting Cities

24-27 August 2016, Helsinki, Finland



Deadline: 31 October 2015


Women on the Edge: Mobility and Regionalism from the Margins

 Leading Question: How did transnationally mobile female actors engage and shape the development of a regionalism discourse in the fields of architecture and planning in the twentieth century?

From the mid-twentieth century, the expanding discourses on regionalism in a globalizing field of architecture championed and eventually canonized the works of architects such as Charles Correa, Geoffrey Bawa and Muzharul Islam. In addition to working in emerging nation-states, the family backgrounds, educations and client bases of these architects ensured that they were actively involved in powerful transnational networks.

In this session we will investigate the significance of such transnational mobility in the development of the regionalism debate, shifting the focus critically from canonized male actors to “marginal” female actors—opening this term and the actors it may describe as platforms for debate—including architects, planners, patrons, and users, in order to explore the fringes of architectural and planning history. We aim to find a more inclusive angle from which to examine connections between transnational mobility, regionalism and local lived environments, as well as the geopolitical, social and economic events and processes that catalyzed their intersection.

As a factor of globalization that accompanied the modern colonial and postcolonial moments—whether a function of privileged access to international networks or the result of forced migration—transnationalism and an emerging landscape of cosmopolitan sites offered women new proving ground outside established social, cultural, and commercial spheres. We are particularly interested in the modalities of this peculiar confluence of labor, politics, and culture, noting as examples the practices of Jane Drew in West Africa, Catherine Bauer in India, Minnette de Silva in Hong Kong, and Erica Mann in Kenya, which were contoured by transgressions of the borders of colonies and new nations. We also see that the transnationalism of certain female figures—Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Margaret Michaelis—resulted in their profound discursive engagement in modernist debates on regionalism and vernacular or everyday architecture. By studying village housing in the Gold Coast and anonymous architecture in North America and Europe, establishing cottage industries in rural Kenya, or writing histories on Asian regional architecture, many of these agents operated independently of the expected dialogical frameworks between colony and postcolony.

We seek papers that explore the roles, practices, and networks of transnational female actors from the margins; the reception and transmission of their work; and their imbrication with architecture and urbanism discourses on regionalism and the vernacular in the twentieth century.


gender, global south, mobility, postcolonial, regionalism




Specialist session

Session organisers:

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi, New York University, USA

Rachel Lee, TU Berlin, Germany

Submission Guidelines:

  • Paper proposals can only be submitted online. Proposals and texts sent by post or email will not be considered. To submit a paper proposal, please create a user account on the abstract system on the EAUH2016 website
  • Abstracts of paper proposals should not exceed 300 words.
  • Deadline for paper proposals submission: October 31, 2015
  • Notification of paper acceptance: December 15, 2015

Beyond postcolonialism: New directions for the history of nonwestern architecture

Prof. Kathleen James-Chakraborty
UCD College of Art History and Cultural Policy Belfield, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland

An article first published in Frontiers of Architectural Research (2014), 3, pp1-9. Open Access and available in the original PDF format here > beyond_postcolonialism <


Overturning assumptions that nonwestern architecture has been static over time, new scholarship focused on colonial and postcolonial architecture and urbanism and on nonwestern modernism has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the history of architecture. Much more, however, remains to be done. Comparative studies of colonialism, especially between empires, attention to innovation outside Europe and the English-speaking world and more consideration of memory and migration are among the most exciting possible new directions.



Architecture; Architectural history; Colonial; Postcolonial; Modern; Globalization



1. Introduction

The notorious frontispiece of the 1905 edition of A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, written by the two Banister Fletchers, father and son, and entitled “The Tree of Architecture,” illustrated various style of European architecture emerging out of a trunk labeled “Greek” and “Roman”, while Peruvian, Mexican, Egyptian, Assyrian, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese architecture were shown as stunted branches (Fletcher 1905). Sub-Saharan Africa did not even merit inclusion. Although until the 1980s survey books continued to follow this line of thought, grouping such nonwestern examples as were included early in the text, today few remain convinced of the appropriateness of this approach (Janson, 1962). Not only has scholarship on the rest of the world mushroomed, but the key issue is no longer defining the essential core of a particular pre-modern corpus. Instead the dynamism it has exhibited over time, acquired not least through outside influence, is now increasingly widely recognized and equally valued (James-Chakraborty, 2014andMcKean, 2007). This shift has opened up an entirely new field of inquiry, that of the emphatically non-traditional architecture of the places that the Fletchers presumed incapable of change. Two generations of scholarship have made clear the importance of colonial and postcolonial buildings, as well modern ones erected in areas outside Europe that were never colonized, to the history of nineteenth and twentieth century architecture in particular. While assessing the portion of that considerable achievement published in English, this study also suggests new directions for such scholarship. In particular it advocates a comparative study of imperialism that would stretch beyond chronicling European colonization of the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries to encompass earlier and also nonwestern empires. More comprehensive challenges to the presumption that innovation moves from the core to the periphery rather than emerging at the edges of political and economic systems are also needed, as are explorations of the contribution that the study of memory might make to an understanding of nonwestern modernism. Finally, we should also be considering the way in which migrants are transforming the metropolitan centers of the so-called “west.”


  1. Historiography

For more than a generation, the history of colonial and postcolonial architecture and urbanism has been one of the most dynamic sub-disciplines of architectural history. The literature on the rest of the history of Latin American, African, and Asian architecture has also been growing, albeit at a slower pace. For many years the proportion of papers given on these subjects at the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) annual conferences held in North America has been impressively high; papers on it are so frequent as to be routinely scheduled to conflict with one another. Despite its name, the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE) has in fact focused most of its attention on the topic since shortly after its founding in 1988; by the time its second conference, held in Brussels in 2012, the situation was little different at the European Architectural History Network (EAHN) than at SAH, although more papers were on Africa than on Asia. Moreover this body of scholarship has been unusually distinguished; the SAH, for instance, has since the 1980s bestowed an increasingly high proportion of its awards for books and articles to work on these topics. Nor has the field been static. Like all historical writing, no matter how great its claim to objectivity, architectural history responds to present conditions, in its case above all to shifts in contemporary architectural style and taste as well as in the composition of the community of architectural historians. Furthermore, as a relatively new subset of that community, those who address the history of colonial and postcolonial environments as well as other nonwestern modernisms, have been quick to engage new scholarly approaches. Thus the books published in the 1980s on India’s colonial architecture (Evenson, 1989, King, 1984 and Metcalf, 1989) saw it through the lens of postmodern classicism, renewed interest in local traditions, and the writings of Edward Said, Michel Foucault, and Eric Hobsbawm (Foucault, 1977, Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1983 and Said, 1977). More recently, an updated focus on style has accompanied explorations of the relationship between modern architecture, once understood to be emancipatory and international, with both colonialism and nationalism. Outstanding examples of this approach have focused on Turkey and Brazil (Bozdogan, 2001 and Deckker, 2001). The mainstream is no longer devoted, however, exclusively to questions of style and symbolism. Instead landmark studies published in the first decade of the twentieth-century explored space, more often at the scale of the city than individual buildings. Scholars influenced by Stuart Hall and Henri Lefebvre described the way in which struggles over the control and use of specific places within the city captured larger truths about the way in which power was deployed within colonial societies (Hall, 1980 and Lefebvre, 1991). And contemporary political events, above all 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Iraq, brought to the fore the Middle East’s considerable modernist heritage, especially when written by scholars prone to challenge the new respectability of empire.

There was an explicit tension at the heart of much of the literature written in the 1980s, which was when colonial architecture in Africa and Asia first became the subject of sustained inquiry. On the one hand, these buildings beguiled because they retained an impressive amount of handcrafted detail. That they were also more obviously exotic in both setting and style than metropolitan examples of similar styles only enhanced their appeal. At the height of postmodernism’s challenge to modernism, it looked as if a return to historicist architecture enriched with ornament was inevitable, and yet there was something slightly dull about simply repeating Georgian certainties à la Quinlan Terry. Thus Lutyens’s work in New Delhi awakened more admiration than did the details of his only slightly more conventionally classical country houses, while his overtly imperial contributions to the center of London were largely ignored (Irving, 1981). Yet the work of Said and Foucault in particular, suggested that the romantic engagement with style suffused with the haze of nostalgia that characterized the first popular surveys of the subject obscured the often very ugly realities of colonialism and its legacy (Morris, 1983). The attention Said and Foucault focused on the relationship between architecture and power made it difficult to continue to hide power relations, especially when they were expressed spatially, behind the discussion of pretty surfaces. Recent work on Europe pointed as well toward the conclusion that architecture was inherently political (Lane, 1968 and Vidler, 1990). The earliest scholarship analyzing the relationship between colonial authority and built form, such as Thomas Metcalf’s An Imperial Vision: Indian Architecture and Britain’s Raj, focused on stylistic labels and the exterior surfaces of buildings. It made clear that the substitution of the Indo-Saracenic style, in many ways a transposition of the Gothic Revival into Indian conditions, for the classical styles the British had heretofore employed in India was not a sign of respect for indigenous tradition but a shrewd if unsuccessful effort to solidify political power ( Metcalf, 1989). More specifically rooted in the particularities of architecture was Mark Crinson’s perceptive Empire Building: Orientalism and Victorian Architecture ( Crinson, 1996). Crinson’s discussion of the interface between indigenous and imported ways of building set the stage for the emergence of technology transfer as a key theme in the discussion of nonwestern modernism, although much remains to be done ( Cody, 2003).

As the enthusiasm for postmodernism gradually faded at the end of the last century, historians turned their attention from the sixteenth through nineteenth century colonial architecture that served as potential sources for new postmodern buildings to the history of nonwestern modernism. What postmodernists had condemned as homogenous postcolonial modernity is now cherished mid-twentieth century modernism that may signal international savoir faire, attentiveness to indigenous precedent, or both. Published in English but often written by natives of the countries under discussion, new studies of this subject have turned the spotlight on the local context of both iconic examples of mid-century modernism and their lesser known, and often far more humble counterparts. In many cases the motive has been to emphasize the modernity of the places that had nurtured modernism in the 1930s and forties when it was under threat in Europe (Nitzan-Shiftan, 2009). The most exciting of these works, however, focused on the indigenous taste for a style that had generally been considered the handiwork of imported European talent. Sibel Bozdogan, for example, demonstrated that an architecture that was often termed the International Style could equally easily serve nationalist goals, as it did in Turkey in the 1930s (Bozdogan, 2001). Meanwhile Crinson showed that, although modern architecture was widely equated with independence, it had also been the architecture of choice for colonial officials in the 1950s (Crinson, 2003). Indeed the same architects, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, nearly simultaneously built housing in Chandigarh, the showcase of post-independence India, and in Nigeria, which became independent only in 1960 (Prakash, 2002). Tom Avermaete has further challenged the assumption that modernism was inherently politically and socially progressive. His perceptive study of ATBAT Afrique directly contradicted the rosier interpretation of the International Style in North African advanced by Jean-Louis Cohen and Monique Eleb (Avermaete, 2005, Avermaete et al., 2012 and Cohen and Eleb, 2002). Even the recent return of modernism to fashion in the 1990s has received sustained scholarly attention in the case of China (Zhu, 2009).

The scholarship described above had multiple sources. Crinson had participated in what was probably the first graduate seminar on colonial architecture, taught by Renata Holod at the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, and Bozdogan taught from 1991 to 1999 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she proved an effective and stimulating mentor. Anthony King at SUNY Binghamton was another important voice and teacher (Kusno, 2000). Others, like Zhu, were trained entirely at home and in Europe. Most of the ground-breaking literature on the colonial city emanated out of a single campus, however: the University of California Berkeley. Norma Evenson, who wrote pioneering books on urban planning in Brazil and in colonial and post-colonial India, taught there from 1963 to 1993 (Evenson, 1966, Evenson, 1973 and Evenson, 1989). Her example, eventually supplemented by that of her colleague Spiro Kostof, established Berkeley as a place where the issue of modern nonwestern urbanism occupied center stage (James-Chakraborty, 2009). The second key step in the emergence of what became a Berkeley school were the pair of books on French colonial urbanism written by Paul Rabinow, and Gwendolyn Wright (Rabinow, 1989 and Wright, 1991). By the early 1990s, a constellation of Berkeley faculty committed to the study of nonwestern modernism that included Nezar AlSayyad, Paul Groth, Thomas Metcalf, Dell Upton, and myself was working with students who would publish a string of important monographs on nineteenth and twentieth century urbanism in China, South Asia, and Turkey as well as elsewhere (AlSayyad, 1992, Broudehoux, 2004, Celik, 1986, Chattopadhyay, 2005, Chopra, 2011, Fuller, 2006, Gillem, 2007, Ginsburg, 2011, Glover, 2007, Göktürk et al., 2010, Hosagrahar, 2005, Lai, 2007, Lu, 2006, Pieris, 2009, Rajagopalan and Desai, 2012, Sen and Silverman, 2014 and Zandi-Sayek, 2012).


The work of those trained at Berkeley was distinctive for the degree to which it focused not on issues of architectural style or its relation to identity but instead on space and the social processes through which it was constituted. Although cognizant of the way in which colonial authorities had deployed their considerable authority, they were equally interested in mapping out the quite important roles also played by indigenous elites. Natives in many cases of the cities they studied, they eagerly refuted the idea, widespread in the 1980s, that there was something inauthentic about the use their ancestors had made of imported styles (Tillotson, 1989 and Sachdev and Tillotson, 2002). Moreover, having grown up in twentieth-century buildings, they were acutely aware of the degree to which their interior organization often differed from western precedent in ways that scholars with easier access to facades than plans had often missed. Informed by geography and cultural studies as much as by architectural history, their work was often alert to the distinctions between competing local actors.

More recently, the political events of the early twenty-first century have drawn renewed attention to the Arab Middle East and to the consequences of war more generally. Architectural historians have pushed back against the prominent apologists for empire in American and British policy and academic circles in two distinct ways. The first has involved detailing the degree to which in the middle of the twentieth century the Arab Middle East embraced modern architecture and thus modernism (Isenstadt and Rizvi, 2008). Designed to demonstrate that Islam was never monolithic and that fundamentalist terrorism has specific and often shallow roots, this point of view restores the equation of modernism and progress challenged by scholars like Crinson and Avermaete. The second, as detailed below, examines the damage wrought by warfare and the way in which the ruins are or are not repaired or left on display. Most of this work, however, has focused on European examples.

Postmodern architecture has long since lost its respectability in architectural circles. Postmodern intellectual theories, above all Said’s formulation of Orientalism, have, however, for well over three decades provided architectural historians with a sophisticated toolkit. They have used it to analyze environments that previously stood outside the borders of a discipline that had long opposed the progression of styles in Europe and the English-speaking world with the relatively static “traditions” of the rest of the world. Until Said, books on Chinese, Islamic, and Japanese architecture generally ended before the architecture that was their subject was “tainted” by industrialization and contact with the west. While the relationship between modernism and modernity remains a matter of considerable debate, as does that between modernism and social progress, that modern architecture was widely distributed around the world and that both ordinary as well as iconic examples of it merit study is now beyond dispute (Lara, 2008, Lim and Chang, 2012, Lu, 2010 and Nasr and Volait, 2003).


  1. New directions

The question is where to go from here. Obviously there is a great deal still to be surveyed. Organizations like Docomomo, which is dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture and has chapters all over the world, play a crucial role here. Serious scholarship on nineteenth and twentieth-century sub-Saharan Africa has lagged far behind that on South and Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The same can still be said for the architecture of the last two centuries in China and the rest of East Asia versus Japan or most of Latin America versus Brazil and Mexico, although all of this is thankfully beginning to change (Fraser, 1990, Fuller, 2006, Ginsburg, 2011, Nelson, 2007, Osayimwese, 2013a, Osayimwese, 2013b and Zhu, 2009). But the issue is also how to cover new intellectual as well as geographical ground. Four topics that appear particular promising are the comparative study of the architecture of empire, the recognition of the periphery as the location of innovation, the analysis of architecture as the locus of cultural memory, and the study of the way in which the fabric of European and English-speaking cities is changing in response to the arrival of immigrants from the rest of the world. Although a considerable literature already exists on each of these topics, none has as yet achieved the prominence it deserves.


The beginning student addressing the topic of empire and architecture might conclude that empires had been built at only two stages in human history. Ancient Rome on the one hand and the Asian and African colonies accumulated by the major European powers across the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century on the other still dominate the story. Few connections are drawn even between these examples. Nor, although many of the scholars who have written about British and French colonialism are based in the United States, Canada, and Australia, has there been much work addressing the similarities or the differences between the ways in which empire worked in the colonies where indigenous peoples were usually pushed aside by white settlers and those where they were not.

Empires have occurred throughout human history, and architecture has often been key to their construction. Did the colonies that Venice and the other Italian city states, especially Genoa, accumulate in the late middle ages along the Mediterranean and Black Sea have any bearing upon European settlement strategies in Africa and the Americas (Georgopoulou, 2001)? If, as Nicholas Canny has argued, there were important continuities between British activities in sixteenth and seventeenth century Ireland and the American colonies, what was the relationship between both of these and empire-building in India (Canny, 1988 and Smyth, 2006)? Maya Jasanoff has linked British and French colonial enterprises in the nineteenth and twentieth century, but to date Alex Bremner’s Imperial Gothic is one of the few works that ties together the architecture of the far-flung British empire ( Bremner, 2013, Jasanoff, 2005 and Jasanoff, 2011). Even the way in which British colonization of India informed its approach to the architecture and urbanism of Africa remains under-examined, although Mia Fuller has written a comparative study of Italian colonial architecture to stand beside Wright’s work on French colonial urbanism across Africa and Asia ( Fuller, 2006). And empire was never an exclusively European phenomenon, as Zeynep Celik’s study of the modernizing ambitions of the French and Ottoman empires in the Middle East makes clear ( Celik, 2008).

Much remains to be done not only on empire, but also on its dissolution. The slow breakup of the Ottoman Empire spawned independent states in Europe, as well as the establishment of European colonies in North Africa and the Middle East. How did the shared heritage of Ottoman administration affect the development of the built environment in its former provinces? And what is the relationship, if any, between the architectural strategies adopted by the new European countries created in the first three decades of the twentieth century, such as Norway, Ireland, and the countries carved out of the former Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires on the one hand and the territories in Asia and Africa that achieved independence following World War II on the other? How, in other words does one go about creating the architectural infrastructure of a modern nation state and how does it differ from the administrative armature of a colony (Sonne, 2003)? Answers to these questions will cast important light on the relationship between architecture and politics and particularly the construction of collective identities. The challenge of establishing nationhood in ways that would be legible abroad spurred many of these new governments, for example, to eschew local precedent and experiment with styles with global reach, first neoclassicism and later modernism.

Empire is only part of this story, however. Post-independence buildings around the world as well as the architecture and urbanism of countries, such as Thailand, much of China, and Japan, that largely escaped colonization all need to be better integrated into a global history of modern architecture in which it not presumed that all new ideas come from Europe or from architects of European descent (Junhua et al., 2001, Denison and Ren, 2006 and Zhu, 2009). The story of the dissemination of modernism cannot be reduced to the story of European émigrés; equally important were the local clients, builders, and in many cases architects, although professional architectural education and practice as we know it today was certainly imported, and in many cases the requisite training became available locally only in the second half of the last century (Oshima, 2009, Reynolds, 2001 and Sand, 2005). Nor are the origins of particular forms and materials always as important as the reasons for which they have been used. These do not necessarily accord, as Bozdogan in particular has shown, with the emphasis scholars of European modernism have put upon its supposedly socialist roots. Who wanted the modern, when, and why?

That the Brazilian, Indian, and Japanese governments sponsored some of the most important examples of mid-century modern architecture is known to anyone with a cursory command of architectural history. And yet too often the credit for modern architecture outside of Europe is divided only between Le Corbusier and German émigrés. Too often even writers who champion engagement with the local overlook the degree to it shaped and encouraged the new architecture, especially when they are writing mainstream histories of modernism (Cohen, 2012 and Frampton, 1980). It increasingly clear, however, that imported talent was only effective when local demand already existed for what it offered (Bacon, 2001 and James-Chakraborty, 2006). Arguably modernism only survived the aggressive challenges posed to it first in the 1930s, when it went out of fashion in its original European strongholds, and again at the end of the 1970s because clients from the fringes of Europe to the shores of distant continents found it useful (James-Chakraborty, 2008 and James-Chakraborty, 2014). Indeed, modernism was often accepted in inverse proportion to the technological modernity of the society that sponsored it, especially when the resources existed to invest in more expensive alternatives (Forty, 1986). Nowhere was it more popular than among the urban middle class in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, who were looking for inexpensive ways to signal economic progress as well as to distance themselves politically from wealthier elites.

This is hardly surprising if one considers the degree to which innovation has long flourished at the periphery (O’Kane, 2005 and O’Kane, 2013). Whether one maps the spread of technology or style, new ideas about architecture and urbanism were often adopted more quickly beyond Europe and the English-speaking world than within it. The collection of highrises clustered already by 1940 along the Bund and Nanjing Road in Shanghai, for instance, or in the center of the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo had no rival in Europe, except perhaps for Stalin’s Moscow, until well into the 1960s. Nor were these isolated examples. Rabinow and Wright explored the degree to which the French colonies in particular served as “laboratories of modernity,” places where administrators could impose the latest urban planning ideas outside of the checks upon them imposed in France itself by representative government and strong property rights. More recently Arindam Dutta has explored the way in which the English Arts and Crafts esthetic emerged out of contact with the exotic other and was used, under the guise of stewardship of indigenous handicraft, to inhibit colonial access to new manufacturing techniques (Dutta, 2006 and Scriver and Prakash, 2007). The resultant poverty was as modern as the textile mills or the railroad. Moreover the rupture with the past was arguably greater in places that were stripped by industrialization of the international markets for their finished products than in the manufacturing heart of Europe or even the United States. In the west it was often masked by recourse to invented tradition, whether the castellated homes of rich manufacturers or the Italian Renaissance palazzo from which their businesses were run. And how does knowing that the development of prefabrication in Germany was closely intertwined with its short-lived empire in Africa change our understanding of method more often associated with improving the standard of working class housing (Osayimwese, 2013a)?


Precisely because the rupture with “tradition” was so great in many nonwestern settings, the insistence often voiced during the 1980s that to deviate from it was somehow inauthentic rings hollow. Nuanced histories demonstrate that the architecture of high profile buildings, if not always of vernacular dwellings, has almost always been in flux. The mastery many European colonial regimes eventually acquired over the architectural pasts of those they colonized, quoting secular and sacred precedent alike on the surfaces of infrastructures devoted to administration, education, and health, further called into question the extent to which it was possible after independence to link the present to either the pre-colonial or indeed the pre-industrial past. Inexpensive, easy to construct concrete that bore the imprimatur of Le Corbusier was more often the preferred alternative in Beijing or Bombay than in Baltimore or Bruges. Yet we still know too little about what technologies were imported where and when, about how they were disseminated to builders who may never have heard of Le Corbusier, and why they were and remain so popular with clients.


More attention has been paid to the issue of memory than to vernacular modernism. Nonetheless there could be greater engagement with what has become one of the most rapidly expanding areas of inquiry in the humanities. What role do buildings and cities play in shaping the shifting ways in which we understand the past? How do their own histories, including changes in how they are used and even how they appear, affect our understanding of the environments we inhabit? The willingness of scholars of colonial space to consider how existing structures have been used and transformed, often long after they were originally created, has helped upend architectural history’s longstanding focus upon design intentions rather. Systematic use of the vast literature on memory, beyond chronicling the history of monuments and memorials, remains unusual, however, among architectural historians. Instead this is territory too often ceded to scholars based in departments of literature or, less often, history (Huyssen, 2003, Jordan, 2006, Ladd, 1998, Rosenfeld, 2000, Till, 2006 and Young, 2002). Indeed the very idea that the city might function as the repository of collective memory, while rightly challenged from within architectural history by Adrian Forty, is the legacy of an architect, Aldo Rossi (Forty, 2004 and Rossi, 1982). More recent work on cultural memory by Aleida and Jan Assmann has largely rendered Rossi and his own source, Maurice Halbwachs, obsolete, but historians of nonwestern modernism have not yet addressed the consequences of their analysis (Assmann, 2008, Assman, 2011 and Halbwachs, 1992).

The potential of this work on cultural memory has been highlighted by recent scholarship prompted by the destruction of cultural monuments in recent years in Afghanistan and Iraq and, more recently, Syria (Bevan, 2006, Cohen, 2011, Crane, 2011 and Hell and Schönle, 2010). Focusing on the place of ruins in the cityscape and the cultural imagination, much of this work references European conflicts. It supplements a large literature on memory in Germany, focused on events both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, that includes arguments for and against literal reconstruction (Nerdinger, 2010 and von Buttler et al., 2011). This attention to the consequences of war is far more wide-ranging in its scope than the focus on memorial and monuments that characterized earlier work on architecture and memory. In particular it highlights the way in which structures acquire the associations that make them meaningful targets and the way in which the violence done to them in turn makes them symbols of conflict itself. These approaches are equally promising for the study of colonial architecture.

Colonial architecture and post-independence modernism are both increasingly appreciated as are nineteenth and twentieth-century buildings erected in countries that were never colonized yet what these buildings mean to those who live amidst them deserves far more attention than it has as yet received. Highlighting the paradox of the fond preservation of buildings that were meant to be shockingly new and the meticulous conservation of what was often planned obsolescence is insufficient, as is the presumption that the careful conservation of buildings erected by an imperial power represents affection for colonialism. The explosion of literature on how a united Germany, for instance, inhabits the architecture bequeathed it by the Second Empire, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, and cold war divisions has no match, as of yet, in scholarship focused on Latin America, Africa, or Asia. And yet the issues raised by the adaptive reuse of Lutyens’s New Delhi for an independent India are equally profound. Memory may be socially constructed but it remains individual. The full range of associations particularly buildings acquire remains beyond the reach of any scholar, but it behooves architectural historians to trawl more than the usual suspects (most often film) for evidence of what they have meant and continue to mean. Taste plays a role here, but there are always other factors at play as well (Thomas, 2002). This also represents a new opportunity to build an architectural history that addresses the public for architecture, rather than speaking only to the profession, even as distinctions should remain between attempts to construct official public memories and the recording and analysis of more private individual experiences.

Finally, the issue of migration deserves sustained attention. Because architecture is one of the most peripatetic of professions, and the history of the architecture of almost any locale features migrant design talent and labor as well as imported ideas, a good deal of attention has justifiably been paid to the travels of architects and artisans (Akcan, 2012, James-Chakraborty, 2006 and Nicolai, 2003). Most of this focuses, however, on either the transfer of ideas from Europe to the United States or from these two to the rest of the world. The architecture of world’s fairs, where orientalist architecture often formed an exotic and entertaining counterpoint to displays of technological progress, has also received well-deserved attention (Celik, 1992, Mitchell, 1991 and Morton, 2000). Left unacknowledged, however, is the degree to which even the most celebrated western architects, such as Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, served as conduits bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives back with them (James, 1995). Le Corbusier’s adaptation of the Mughal palace pavilion as developed during the reign of Shah Jahan and Kahn’s philosophizing about brick are only two examples. Even less examined are the contributions that professionals from outside Europe and the English-speaking world have made to architecture there. An important exception is the Bengali-born engineer Fazlur Khan, who worked as an engineer for Skidmore Owings and Merrill in Chicago (Ali, 2001). Even the African girlhood and early training of Denise Scott-Brown or Zaha Hadid’s Iraqi heritage are typically overlooked in appraisals of these key figures.


Designers and builders are not the only people who move. So do clients and users (Akcan, 2010). Architectural historians, too, remain wedded to a model in which innovation is disseminated largely by architects and particularly by male political exiles. The literature on the impact of immigrant communities on the American cultural landscape is small but promising (Chow, 2002, Sen and Johung, 2013 and Upton, 1987). There is almost nothing of this kind, however, available in English on the impact that immigrants have had on the European cityscape that goes beyond decrying the impoverishment and social problems of the neighborhoods where the poorest among them dwell in the largest numbers. Middle and upper class migrants are invisible, except when they are pushing up real estate prices in New York and London (Lyall, 2013). The scholarship on European mosques is slim; that on immigrant grocery shops and restaurants almost nonexistent (Baus, 2009, Erkocu and Bucdaci, 2009 and James-Chakraborty, 2011). Left entirely unsaid is that many immigrants arrive from cities where modernism is more deeply entrenched in the communities and their mass culture than it is in their new homes. Most of their European and American neighbors are entirely unaware of any but the most traditional environments associated with the countries from which these migrants come, whose newspapers they still often read and whose television and film they almost always still watch. Also left unexplored is the impact that migrants have upon the places they left behind. Many of India’s largest cities, for instance, have been transformed by the taste of “Persons of Indian Origin,” whose expensive new apartments, kitted out with infrastructure admired abroad, often sit empty much of the year. Not all of this is yet history, of course, and some of it remains the purview of geographers and sociologists rather than architectural historians. Nonetheless discussions of globalization will become much richer if we move beyond the simplistic assumption that a homogenizing global capitalism is alone responsible for the appearance of cityscapes around the world.


  1. Conclusion

Architectural history is important for its own sake but it is also significant because of the centrality of buildings to human experience. Buildings shelter and shape daily lives; people in turn attempt to craft their environments to tell stories about the way in which they would like to be perceived and understood. Members of an academic discipline with firmly European origins, architectural historians initially devoted most of their attention to the built heritage of that continent. Those who focused on buildings of the last two centuries long assumed that the topography of technological and esthetic innovation closely correlated and that buildings that did not aspire to change the way the world looked were peripheral to the story. None of these generalizations still hold true. Instead historians of the architecture of Africa, Asia, and Latin America have shown that dynamism of the built environments of those places changes the way in which we understand buildings everywhere.

Much remains, however, to be done. Not only are there many avenues that merit a great deal more exploration, but the boldest findings also deserve much larger audiences than they have yet received. New knowledge about the people who commissioned, designed, constructed, inhabited and viewed colonial and postcolonial buildings has implications for the humanities and the social sciences as a whole, as it overturns preconceptions by no means unique to architectural historians. What does it mean if some of the most potent symbols of modernization created during the twentieth century sunk deeper roots in Calcutta and Cairo than in the suburbs of Chicago and even possibly Copenhagen? Who was the modern movement really for and why? Did it more effectively express the aspirations of working class Europeans for political empowerment or middle class Indians and Egyptians for economic progress? Was it above all the purview of a small cluster of immensely talented designers intensely aware of what each other were doing or is it the property as well of relatively unskilled labor and of housewives? And is it a living tradition, or is it time for it to be consigned to history as the tree of architecture gains a new crown in response to different concerns, such as sustainability. The answers to these questions remain to be written, but there is no doubt that they will contribute to the continued vitality of the history of the architecture of the last two centuries and the resonance of its conclusions among all those who chart human experience in the past and present.



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Scottish independence. Should there be an independent Scotland, or should Scotland remain an integral part of the United Kingdom? As the clock ticks closer to the proposed referendum on 18 September 2014, the debate rages on. Although the mid-twentieth century independence of West African nations took place under completely different circumstances, this article uses the present independence debate to re-ignite a discussion on Nigeria’s decolonization years, the attainment of independence and the architecture which emerged as a consequence.


The Governor General of Nigeria Sir James Robertson, and the new Nigerian Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on Oct 1, 1960


The clamour for independence and self-rule in West Africa gradually began after World War II.  This achieved its highpoint in 1957, when Ghana became the first African nation to attain independence and transit from colonial rule to self-governance. One feature which perhaps, became widely synonymous with the country’s drive for independence was the Pan-Africanist movement and the frontline role of Kwame Nkrumah, who later became Ghana’s pioneering president. However, a less referenced but equally important tribute to Ghana’s independence, were the architectural monuments which were constructed to commemorate the event. Chief among these is the Accra independence arch.


Independence Arch, Accra, 1957


As with Ghana, self-governance calls had pervaded different levels of Nigerian society before the October 1 1960 independence date. The most prominent perhaps were those propagated through African edited newspapers like the West African Pilot, and which echoed the voices of native elites and politicians. Nigeria’s formal decolonization process however appears to have started with the 1945 promulgation of Richard’s constitution. Not only had this constitution granted greater levels of native participation in the legislative house, it equally paved way for the much sought after regional system of governance. Nigeria was therefore reorganized along political and administrative lines into a Western region with headquarters at Ibadan, a Northern region with headquarters at Kaduna, and, an Eastern region with headquarters at Enugu, while Lagos remained the Federal Headquarters. With this new organizational structure came the formation of regional houses of Assembly and the election of its representative members.


Design for Eastern Nigeria parliamentary complex, 1960

Of equal importance were the new parliamentary complexes being built to usher in the emerging era of self-governance, beginning from October 1 1960. The new buildings may therefore be described as some of Nigeria‘s most prominent symbols of transition to self-rule, and were indeed the ‘architecture of independence’.















Call for Papers: Crossing boundaries: Rethinking European architecture beyond Europe

13-17 April 2014 Palermo

The International network “European Architecture beyond Europe: : Sharing Research and Knowledge on Dissemination Processes, Historical Data and Material Legacy (19th-20th centuries)”, chaired by Mercedes Volait and Johan Lagae, and supported by EC funding through the COST Action IS0904, is opening calls for papers for its final Conference to take place on 13-17 April 2014 at Palermo (Italy).

The conference will have the 6 following sessions:

Transnational studies and cultural transfers” (chaired by Kathleen James-Chakraborty).

Methods and methodologies: Writing the histories of European imperial/colonial architecture” (chaired by Alex Bremner and JoAnne Mancini). 

“Looking eastward, building identities. The architecture of European diplomacy beyond the Mediterranean in the age of Empire” (chaired by Paolo Girardelli and Mercedes Volait).

Tropical architecture” (chaired by Ola Uduku and Iain Jackson).

Architectures of exile: Visions and re-visions of the global modern in the age of the refugee” (chaired by Regina Göckede and Rachel Lee).

Architecture as development aid: Modernization, technical assistance and the design of institutions” (chaired by Tom Avermaete and Kim de Raedt).

The deadline for proposing a paper (300-word abstract) is 1 December 2013. Submissions to the chairs of the sessions should be accompanied by a short biographical note (max. 150 words). Acceptance decisions will be communicated by mid-December. Please note that invited speakers are expected to submit their complete paper by 15 March, 2014, to be circulated among the conference’s participants. Speakers based in countries participating in the Action (refer to the website for the complete list) will be able to claim reimbursement of their expenses. A few grants will be available for speakers based in other countries. For further information, please contact the sessions’ chairs or write to

Transnational studies and cultural transfers

Chaired by Kathleen James-Chakraborty (University College Dublin)

European architects have worked beyond Europe since the time of the Crusades.  Many architectural historians have documented these practices. In recent years particular attention has been paid to architects who emigrated to escape authoritarian regimes and who are widely credited with having brought modernism with them.  Most of this literature, however, floats independently of social science scholarship on transnationalism, and much of it focuses on the movement of forms and theories, rather than on how people structure their own identity in relationship to their experiences of other places and cultures.  Moreover, relatively little of this writing engages the role of the client, although the role of local building cultures is beginning to receive the attention it deserves.  And finally, very little of it is comparative.  What is the difference between Genoese settlements on the Black Sea, for instance, and Portuguese ones on the African coast?

This session seeks papers that rectify this situation. Particularly welcome are contributions that consider current anthropological investigations of transnationalism and theories of cultural transfer and their applicability to architectural history. What can architectural historians learn from methodologies developed largely to analyze more portable forms of artifacts, not to mention ideas?  Also desired are papers that seek to conceptualize the ways in which transnational architectural practice has changed across time.  What, for instance, distinguishes the German architects that came to the United States following 1933 from those who emigrated after 1848?  Papers might also examine the problem of determining what role biographical experience plays in the designs of any architect.   This is particularly important in the case of a profession that is profoundly collaborative, engaging clients, builders, and users as well as designers.  Other questions that might be addressed include what motivates clients to hire architects from other countries and how do these architects operate once they have such commissions.  Are they employed because of technical or stylistic expertise gained abroad, or are other factors at work?  What types of information and ideas travel with them, and under what circumstances are what local conditions taken into account?

Kathleen James-Chakraborty

Methods and methodologies: Writing the histories of European imperial/colonial architecture

Chaired by Alex Bremner (Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture) and JoAnne Mancini (National University of Ireland Maynooth)

This session seeks to explore and debate the ways in which we write (and have written) the history of ‘European architecture abroad’, particularly in the context of European imperial expansion. For some thirty years now the study of European imperial and colonial architecture has largely been refracted through the theoretical lens of post-structuralism—mainly appropriated from philosophy, literary  and cultural studies—in the form of the ‘Orientalist’ critique of Edward Said and other forms of Foucauldian discourse analysis, nominally referred to as ‘post-colonial theory’. As powerful and seductive as these modes of analysis may be, and as useful in their opening new ways of seeing and interpreting forms of cultural production such as architecture, they have become formulaic, predictable, and even orthodox. They have also received trenchant and sustained criticism from the wider scholarly community in historical studies (especially outside art and architecture circles) for their inherent limitations.

This leaves us with the question of where the study of European imperial and colonial architecture might turn next.  On the whole, other scholarly and cognate traditions, such as early modern and modern European history, have developed more diverse and wide-ranging approaches to the study of empire and culture, adapting insights from geography, environmental studies, anthropology, and other disciplines; and have devoted significant attention to integral concepts such as networks and agency. Although not necessarily opposed to discourse analysis, these scholarly frameworks—including regional approaches (‘Atlantic’, ‘Pacific’, ‘Indian Ocean’, and ‘World/Global’ histories), network theory, and ‘connected’ histories—provide new and very different insights than those provided by post-colonial theory.  However, just as architectural historians have not fully engaged with scholars in these fields, early modern historians have also been somewhat reluctant to engage fully with architecture and the built environment as agents and repositories of social practice and social change.

Can, indeed should, architectural history engage more with these alternative scholarly traditions and modes of analysis? What can we learn from them, and how might we apply them?  How might architectural historians interact more productively with colleagues in history and historical social science disciplines to encourage more architecturally-informed analysis in those fields?  Or, ought post-colonial theory remain the key concept and frame of reference that underpins our study of the colonial built environment?  This session welcomes papers that address any aspects of these key questions, either by dealing specifically with methodological approaches that enhance, progress, and/or transform our understanding of European imperial and colonial architecture, or by exploring case studies that allow for these methodological concerns to be elaborated in specific contexts. Put simply: where are we, where are we going, and where do we want to be as scholars of the colonial built environment.

Alex Bremner & JoAnne Mancini

Looking eastward, building identities: The architecture of European diplomacy beyond the Mediterranean in the age of Empire

Chaired by Paolo Girardelli (Boğaziçi University) and Mercedes Volait (CNRS/INHA)

Embassies are, by definition, representative institutions, but the share of their architectural shelters in this signifying function is a complex and still understudied issue. By transferring a fragment of the nation beyond its frontiers, embassies, consulates and other officially “foreign” architectures engage in a complex cultural dynamic of encounter, estrangement or integration. Symbolic, identitarian and political meanings may be variously inscribed in their architectural fabric; balances in social topography may be altered – all the more when
such buildings were constructed or adapted by European powers in countries with a remarkable degree of geographical/cultural distance. The stylistic heterogeneity resulting from the interactions and constraints inherent to diplomacy is all the more bewildering in such cases.

This session is meant to develop a critical and comparative reflection on a rather neglected aspect of architectural and urban history that informs the global spread of European forms and aesthetics through an unusual lens. It proposes to do so by concentrating on the geography that lies East of the Mediterranean and on places and structures located outside the direct colonial confrontation. We are interested in contributions looking at buildings related not only to the main Western European players, but indeed to Eastern and Central European agency. Empirical as well as conceptual and theoretical research on European diplomatic structures in the Ottoman, Persian and non-colonial Asian geography, as well as in peripheral cities of the Russian empire, can be presented and discussed in this session.

We invite papers assessing the ways in which European diplomacy, international relations, and changing power balances shaped important parts of the built environment outside Europe, in a space/time framework characterized by expanding European penetration eastward and corresponding roughly to the long 19th century and beyond. We are particularly interested in contributions that address the architectural embodiment of encounters and representational strategies within innovative frameworks, exploring new ground beyond the conventional critique of Orientalism. Preeminence will be given to proposals reflecting on the appropriate methods and sources for this kind of trans-national investigation, and addressing the history of diplomatic buildings as a constant reworking of images, styles, spaces and political messages, affecting each other in unpredictable ways.

Paolo Girardelli & Mercedes Volait

Tropical architecture

Chaired by Ola Uduku (Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture) and Iain Jackson (The Liverpool School of Architecture)

‘Tropical Architecture’, used as a term here to define a particular strain of construction that seeks to address the hot, humid, and dry climes found between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, is inextricably connected with the colonial endeavours of Europe. Traditional scholarship has sought to historicise the canon and to look to early encounters between travellers, missionaries, military engineers and local populations. This seems like a sensible mode of enquiry from which to begin. Participants are encouraged to present research papers that have examined how ideas have travelled, been interpreted and eventually built, with particular interest on the indigenous perspective. We are also however seeking papers that take us beyond the archive; thus in addition to examining records of the indigenous contribution to tropical architecture, what of those forced to live in tropical dwellings, or to occupy schools, courts, and other such buildings? How did they modify or enhance the tropical capabilities of the buildings they occupied and what recorded or pictorial evidence do we have that shows what they thought of their surroundings? Finally, and importantly we are interested in the domestic setting; what constituted the ‘everyday’ what were the female, (and possibly youth) perspectives, on life in these new tropical dwellings. Also how was environmental comfort and hygiene, evaluated by local residents, as compared with the plans and expectations of the tropical research establishments in the home countries?

Tropical Architecture is a blunt, but useful term. Can we begin to draw out some revealing tributaries? The architecture of Port Cities and ‘sailor towns’, will inevitably vary to that of the hinterland, hill station, administrative centre or desert. What about the island, archipelago, peninsula, and mainland as specific places of exchange, encounter, settlement and isolation- can we begin in a more concerted manner to consider the architecture of these territories and conditions whilst thinking about the tropical? The architecture of trade, railways, stations, warehouses, dock walls and shipping offices all need further investigation.

Tropical architecture ‘at the edges’ is also pertinent; beyond the cosmic boundaries imposed by Cancer and Capricorn, what happens at the edges of the tropical – the subtropics and other such regions that form the imagined boundary. Is the architecture of these almost-tropical places of note, and how does it borrow or contribute to the broader debates. Other boundaries seem to exist at The Americas and Caribbean; they have not featured to the same extent as other geographic areas in recent scholarship. Is there a reason for this? Is the architecture of Rudolph and Polevizky in Florida, or Ossipoff in Hawai’i, or Kurchan and Hardoy in Buenos Aires not the right type of tropical architecture, or is there simply less to say about these, often glamorous, projects or places?

Biography is a contested historiographical method, but can we look more closely at the indigenous architects who have contributed to this canon often working alongside European architects, or should we accept that they should retain their anonymity in light of our concerns about biographical narratives? Equally should we continue to explore the life stories of Europeans who worked in the tropics? Should we be placing them more carefully within a broader narrative? Or indeed when does biography become hagiography – to what purpose and for what audience is it really meant.

Colonies within colonies, or neighbouring territories may offer new insights. For example, was the French Indian colony of Pondicherry culturally isolated from its surroundings, or can were discern ‘knowledge transfers’ and modes of exchange? How did the French differ in their approach to tropical design to the British, or Portuguese in Goa, for example? Taking this premise to its other extreme, what characterises early Indian labour settlements in Durban, or Chinese settlement in areas like San Francisco on America’s Western Seaboard, or West Indian/returnee African settlements in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries on the West African coast.

Ola Uduku and Iain Jackson

Architectures of exile: Visions and re-Visions of the global modern in the age of the refugee

Chaired by Regina Göckede (BTU Cottbus) and Rachel Lee (TU Berlin)

The emergence of what is today known as international architecture is to a large extent related to the global impact of exiled European architects, who, scattered throughout the world, contributed decisively to its theoretical debates, institutional formations and built manifestations from the early 1920s onwards.

The historiography of exiled modern architecture has long focused on cases of purportedly successful and unidirectional cultural transfer as represented in the master narratives of prominent US immigrants such as Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. The dominant focus on individual biographies and histories of linear stylistic innovations has all too often overlooked the importance of discrepant discursive contexts (material and non-material alike), marginal geographical destinations, the effects of critical self-reflection, as well as the numerous tragedies of loss, disruption and failure under the conditions of forced dislocation. In the last two decades, there have been, however, several important studies that have contributed to a much more complex understanding and significantly extended knowledge (temporal as well as geographical) of the fragmented dynamics of architects’ and urban planners’ exilic dislocations (including re-migrations and transmigrations) and modern architecture and planning. In addition, new approaches from the fields of post-colonial and cultural studies have stimulated the emergence of conceptually de-centered and ideologically de-nationalized perspectives.

This session focuses on the intersection of exile and architectural practice as a historical phenomenon in an increasingly globalizing world. It seeks to re-examine both the exilic histories of our architectural present and the concept of exile as an analytical tool for interpretively grasping the so-called globalization of modern architecture.

We invite contributions by historians of architecture and art history as well as by scholars from related fields such as literary studies, anthropology, human geography and political history. Papers can address the many individual lives and works of 19th and 20th century exiled European architects with a view to their role in the transformation of international architecture, trace (discursive) modes of production and reception (including non-European resistance to Western cultural hegemony), test specific (historical) experiences for links with and relevance to current, or possibly earlier, exilic modes of planning and building, or investigate the research field’s historiographical overlaps and collusions with related interpretive paradigms like diasporic, (trans-)migrant, (post-)colonial, transnational, cosmopolitan, global, or international architecture. We are particularly interested in comparative perspectives and theoretical-methodological approaches that consider temporal/geographical variants, discrepant political-ideological conditions, and institutional and personal networks. We also invite papers that explore exilic careers of non-European architects within Europe or analyse the architecture produced, commissioned or inhabited by exiles who were not architects.

Regina Göckede & Rachel Lee

Architecture as development aid. Actors, networks and mechanisms in the design of institutional buildings in the postcolonial global South.

Chaired by Kim De Raedt (University of Ghent’s Faculty of Engineering & Architecture) & Tom Avermaete (Delft University of Technology)

This session deals with the theoretical and practical architecture expertise which emerged through development aid in the ‘global South’ after decolonisation. By looking specifically at development aid organisations, the aim is to unravel mechanisms of architecture and knowledge production specific to the postcolonial context, characterized by shifting political and economic conditions as a result of the Cold War. Through a particular focus on the design of institutional buildings (schools, universities, hospitals, etcetera), the session seeks to produce a mapping of postcolonial networks of expert(ise)s which substituted former métropole-colony relations.

Questions that could be addressed by the papers are: How did a specific type of ‘global expert’ arise through development aid? What was the role and position of such architect-experts within the highly institutionalized aid bodies they worked for, and to what extent could they operate autonomously within those organisations? What kind of architectural discourse was implicitly or explicitly constructed by development aid bodies? How did this lead to a particular approach to the design of institutional buildings? What was the role of African players in the production of those buildings?

Ultimately the session seeks to understand the specificity of the architecture production realized through development aid, and recognize the particularity of the role of the ‘architect-expert’ within aid organisations. This will allow identifying the continuities and shifts in discourse, mechanisms and architectural language with respect to the production of institutional buildings in the late colonial period, while also tentatively putting the increasing globalisation of the architecture practice today into a historical perspective.

Kim De Raedt & Tom Avermaete


‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 18

Ola Uduku, ‘Rediscovering Fry and Drew’s “Tropical Design” within the contemporary Frame’

How does today’s writing on climate and ‘adaptive’ comfort differ significantly from these earlier literary endeavours after more than half a century after Fry and Drew’s books and other writing on tropical building design?  Furthermore are we able to compare or undertake a critical analysis of today’s building guidance and codes as relates to climate and programme, within our current sustainable low-carbon design context? The premise that this paper proposal seeks to investigate is whether there has been real change in conception or thought about the word ‘tropical’ design, in intellectual or practical design terms, or there has simply been a reinvention of the names, tools and narratives in which this semantic theme is engaged with in the 21st century.


Ola Uduku is a faculty member at the Architecture School, at Edinburgh University, and has research interests in Environmental Design as well as Modernist Architectural History in Africa. She is a director and foundation member of the organisation ArchiAfrika, which actively seeks to spread knowledge about African architecture within and outside Africa. Ola is co-researcher on the Alan Vaughan-Richards Archive Project.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 17

Tim Livsey, ‘Fry and Drew at Ibadan: rethinking the “colonial modern”‘

This paper considers Fry and Drew’s buildings for University College Ibadan (UCI), Nigeria. These buildings have often recently been interpreted as part of a post-war ‘colonial modern’ moment, which saw a pact between rationalist urban planning and authoritarian colonial power. Colonial modern planning, including Fry and Drew’s work at Ibadan, has been interpreted as excluding indigenous voices from planning and upholding colonial power.

The paper uses the history of the UCI buildings to qualify colonial modern interpretations. It shows how Nigerian agendas influenced the planning of the buildings through a long pre-history of Nigerian thinking on higher education, and the acquisition of the site, which involved negotiations between the colonial state and local chiefs. Fractures within the colonial establishment are considered, including those between architects and client, suggesting that there was not an integrated colonial modern machine. The unexpected variety in the buildings’ reception and use is also considered, to explore the ways the buildings were interpreted by Nigerians.

However, the paper also endorses aspects of the colonial modern view, showing how Fry and Drew’s apparently apolitical ‘modern’ spaces were closely imbricated with colonial-era urbanism and constructions of whiteness. As such the buildings represented an ambivalent legacy to a decolonizing country.


Tim Livsey is an AHRC funded PhD student at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is currently completing a thesis on ‘The University Age: Development and Decolonisation in Nigeria, 1930 to 1966’, which makes special reference to built environments, including Fry and Drew’s work at the University of Ibadan.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 16

Alan Powers, ‘Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew – the Romantic turn’

The paper will start from Fry’s ‘A Letter about Architecture’ in Horizon magazine, May 1946, in which Fry addressed Drew as well as a wider non-specialist  readership. It represents a transitional period in Fry’s career that began before the war with some lesser known buildings such as the brick built house Warham’s Ash, Hereford, and the Cecil Residential Club in North Gower Street. These were more varied in materials and form than the Modernist buildings through which he first acquired fame in the years 1933-36, and anticipate, along with Goldfinger’s Willow Road houses and some other examples, the next ten or fifteen years of stylistic development in English and European Modernism. There is no accepted term for describing this romantic turn in Modernism, at least until the 1947 coinage ‘New Empiricism’. The style remained current in much of Fry and his practice’s work well into the 1950s.

In the Horizon text, and in Fine Building, 1944, Fry reveals the thinking that moved him and other members of his generation to move on to a second version of Modernism that was deliberately anti-machine and reflected the writings of D. H. Lawrence and Lewis Mumford to which he referred. In the paper, these written sources will be related to Fry’s work and that of his contemporaries in Britain, Sweden and the USA to fill out a more complete account of this change of direction.


Dr Alan Powers, FSA, Hon. FRIBA, has written widely on twentieth century British architecture, art and design and curated a number of exhibitions. He was Professor of Architecture and Cultural History at the University of Greenwich before becoming an independent scholar with a range of teaching activities. He has had a long association with the Twentieth Century Society, becoming Chairman 2007–12. He was founder editor of its journal Twentieth Century Architecture and with Elain Harwood and Barnabas Calder is a joint editor of the monograph series, jointly with English Heritage and RIBA, Twentieth Century Architects. His books include Britain, in the series Modern Architectures in History and Serge Chermayeff, designer, architect, teacher. Eric Ravilious, artist and designer will be published by Lund Humphries in October 2013. In 2011–12, Alan Powers was awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship on the theme, Figurative Architecture in the Time of Modernism.

‘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.