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‘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.

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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.

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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, Keynote 2

Elizabeth Darling, ‘The Conditions for an Architecture for To-day: A discussion of the inter-war architectural scene in England’

Taking its cue from the title of a 1938 lecture by Wells Coates, this paper considers the conditions that created the generation of architects in inter-war England that included Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry. Its ultimate concern is to offer some conclusions about how such conditions shaped Fry and Drew’s desire to transform space and society in particular, and, at a broader level, the nature of English modernism as a whole.

The paper will explore several conditions in order to achieve this goal. Chief among them are the educational contexts in which Drew and Fry studied, and hence what this might tell us about the modernisms they would practise. Among the earliest of the generation of women to train professionally, Drew attended the Architectural Association at a time when it was just beginning its shift towards a more avowedly ‘modern’ stance. Fry, by contrast, was a product of the Liverpool Beaux-Arts system that the AA would eschew not long after Drew graduated.  Important too, were the intellectual milieux which the pair inhabited, and their friendship networks. This is evident in the comradeship of Coates and Fry, an alliance forged following their first meeting some time in 1923-4. Out of this emerged a commitment to training themselves in modern culture and to make connections with allied avant-garde groups, a strategy which allowed them to become the natural leaders of an institutionalising English modern movement. Drew, likewise, shared a network of progressive friends – such as the Communist architect Justin Blanco White –an engagement particularly with modern art, and an equal skill at organisation and propagandising, something which did much to keep the movement alive during the war years.

Referencing other collaborations, and key inter-war architectural projects, particularly by Fry, the paper concludes its concern to contextualise the English side of Drew and Fry’s modernism.

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Elizabeth Darling works on 20th century British architectural history with a particular interest in inter-war modernism, social housing, and gender. She has published on the nature of authorship in the design process; the innovative practices of the inter-war voluntary housing sector, the housing consultant Elizabeth Denby and the relationship between citizenship and the reform of domestic space in inter-war Britain. Her book, on British architectural modernism, Re-forming Britain: Narratives of Modernity before Reconstruction, was published by Routledge in early 2007 while an edited volume (with Lesley Whitworth), Women and the Making of Built Space in England, 1870-1950 was published by Ashgate in autumn 2007. Her research focuses on three main areas: the link between urban renewal and social (especially child welfare) reform in the slums of Edinburgh in the early 20th century; the arena in which progressive ideas about design and space were developed and disseminated in 1920s Britain, and an in-depth study of the work and life of the architect-engineer Wells Wintemute Coates, which research is supported by funding from the Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art and the RIBA Research Trust. She is most recently the author of Wells Coates, published by the RIBA in collaboration with the 20th Century Society & English Heritage (2012).

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 6

Barnabas Calder, ‘Cohabitation or collaboration? Drake and Lasdun of Fry Drew Drake and Lasdun’.

After the termination of Berthold Lubetkin’s Tecton partnership in 1949 two of the partners, Lindsay Drake and Denys Lasdun, accepted an offer from Fry and Drew of a new partnership. This lasted until the retirement of Drake in 1959, at which Lasdun left too to establish Denys Lasdun & Partners.

Drake & Lasdun seem to have maintained a considerable level of autonomy within the partnership, publishing their work separately, invariably as ‘Drake and Lasdun of Fry Drew Drake and Lasdun’. Letters from the time reveal that Lasdun actively resisted closer architectural involvement with Fry and Drew, and he always maintained later that the relationship was purely an office-share for reasons of expedience. Yet a publication of Drake and Lasdun’s work in Architectural Design, February 1958, includes projects which were never again acknowledged by Lasdun, and which, in stylistic terms, look much closer to the oeuvre of Fry and Drew.

The decade-long existence of Fry Drew Drake and Lasdun was a productive one for both sides of the partnership. A number of the buildings of this period for which Lasdun led the design process have been continuously recognised since as amongst the most original and interesting buildings of British modernism – Bethnal Green “Cluster Block” social housing exhibited at CIAM, Hallfield School, and the outline design phases of the Royal College of Physicians and a block of luxury flats in St James’s Place.

This paper will explore the dynamics of the partnership, drawing on interviews with surviving assistants in Fry Drew Drake and Lasdun, and on the limited archival evidence, to investigate how Drake & Lasdun operated within the shared offices, and whether the cohabitation had any influence on the architectural output of the partners.

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Barnabas Calder is Lecturer in Architecture at the Liverpool School of Architecture. His research centres on the architecture of Denys Lasdun, about whose National Theatre he wrote his PhD, before spending two years cataloguing much of Lasdun’s archive at the RIBA. He is currently researching and writing a complete works of Lasdun funded by the Graham Foundation, to be published as a web resource by the RIBA. Lasdun Online will be composed of illustrated discursive entries on each of Lasdun’s projects, accompanied by thematic essays on aspects of Lasdun’s practice and its context.

Barnabas is also writing a book on British Brutalism for William Heinemann, and a single-volume story of architecture for Penguin. His other research interests include Cedric Price, on whom he curated an exhibition at the Lighthouse, Glasgow, in 2011 and the Bartlett, London, 2012.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 4

Christine Hui Lan Manley, ‘Modern City versus Garden City: Housing at Harlow New Town’.

During post-war reconstruction debates, Garden City supporters promoted low-density housing, while modernist architects advocated high-density high-rise regional planning. As members of the MARS Group, E. Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew fell into the latter camp, with Fry playing a key role in the development of the MARS Plan for London. The post-war New Towns program provided the ideal opportunity to test these new planning concepts, especially since a number of MARS Group members were commissioned to design the towns. Gibberd was selected to plan Harlow and was determined to create a modernist town with an urban character. Naturally, he turned to fellow MARS Group member Fry to design housing in the first neighbourhood, Mark Hall North.

In partnership with Jane Drew, Maxwell Fry designed housing groups ‘Tanys Dell’ and ‘The Chantry’ at Harlow. However, hampered by the low density recommendations, the housing in Mark Hall North was considered a ‘failure’ in 1953 by The Architectural Review. This paper seeks to examine the process involved with the design of the neighbourhood to show that a modernist agenda was, in this instance, compromised by the overpowering influence of the Garden City model.

By analysing the distribution and layout of housing in Mark Hall North, this paper will reveal how Gibberd, Fry and Drew sought to create higher density housing groups in an attempt to orientate the New Town toward the modernist high-density vertical city paradigm and away from the low-density Garden City planning model. However, government design publications and Ministry officials had envisaged Garden City type planning for the New Towns. This paper will argue that despite the various strategies employed by Gibberd, Fry and Drew at Mark Hall North, ultimately, the prevailing inclination toward Garden City planning restricted the creation of a modern urban character at this first neighbourhood in Harlow.
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Christine Hui Lan Manley is currently completing her PhD at the Mackintosh School of Architecture. Her research centres on the concept of ‘urbanity’ – a notion which developed in Britain through architectural discourse during the 1940s and ’50s. Christine’s PhD research investigates how urbanity was defined and understood by the architectural avant-garde, and how the idea was applied to the design of housing in the Post-War New Towns.

Christine became interested in housing design whilst working for a London-based architectural practice, where she designed plans for high density sites and worked on innovative social housing schemes. Her interest in the development of housing in a historical context arose during research carried out during Diploma and Masters studies at the Mackintosh School. Christine is a member of the C20th Society and currently edits their ‘Building of the Month’ feature. Her PhD research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The Bauhaus Effect

In late 1934 Walter Gropius left Nazi Germany with his wife, Ise. Taking up Jack and Molly Pritchard’s offer to stay in one of their Isokon flats, at Lawn Road in Hampstead, Gropius joined Maxwell Fry in a partnership that would last until his appointment at Harvard University in 1937.

Fry and Gropius worked with Jack Pritchard on a series of projects for Isokon buildings – at sites in Manchester, Windsor, and Birmingham – although all went unrealised. The ‘Isokon 3’ scheme at St. Leonard’s Hill on the outskirts of Windsor was the most developed of these and featured in a 1935 article entitled ‘Cry Stop to Havoc – or preservation by development’ by the Architectural Review. The article’s alarmist title reflects contemporary debate regarding the spoilation of the English countryside by suburban sprawl, which new organisations such as the Council for Preservation of Rural England sought to address. Fry and Pritchard were familiar with such ideas through their involvement with the Design and Industries Association, and used this debate to push forward their plans for a modernist development; as Pritchard wrote, Isokon aimed ‘to make a profit from building in the country without spoiling the countryside’.

13.6.11_F&G

Page showing ground floor plan of Isokon 3, from ‘Cry Stop to Havoc’, Architectural Review, 1935.

Situated amidst 33 acres of parkland of a ruined Elizabethan country house, the article demonstrates how the Isokon 3 development might preserve 32 acres of the park as open space. With the historic setting and views out towards Windsor Forest, the combination of English heritage and modern European architecture was promoted as unique. The AR article is full of photographs of existing camellia bushes and references to Eton and Windsor Castle, alongside seductive sketches of light, airy rooms with unobstructed views. Pritchard wrote: ‘The combination of Gropius and Fry should be important … Fry’s own very English point of view combined with Gropius’ experience should produce a fine scheme.’ This anglicization of Gropius’s Bauhaus ideas was a canny move and the scheme was given approval – unlike many modernist projects of the period. However the company was unable to raise the necessary funds, despite Pritchard’s best efforts, and Isokon 3 remained unbuilt.

Call for Papers Reminder

Jane and Max on beach in N Wales001

** DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTS: SUNDAY 2ND JUNE 2013 **

‘THE INFLUENCE OF FRY AND DREW’

THURSDAY 10TH – FRIDAY 11TH OCTOBER 2013

SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY, U.K.

For over fifty years, E. Maxwell Fry (1899–1987) and Jane B. Drew (1911–96) were integral members of the English architectural avant-garde. The Fry and Drew partnership – in its various incarnations – was a magnet for architects and architectural students from all over the world, giving the practice a distinctly international outlook. Their built works, from the 1920s to the 1980s, cross the globe from Europe to South-east Asia.

This conference seeks to investigate the themes and movements of twentieth century architecture and town planning that have been influenced by the work of Fry and Drew, and vice versa. What is the context of Fry and Drew’s architecture? Is it possible to identify a FryDrew strand of Modernism or a house style? What is their architectural legacy?

We welcome papers from scholars and practitioners, and encourage proposals from early career researchers and graduate students. Papers might address, but are not limited to:

  • Inter-war Modernism – early influences, the rise of Modernism in England, collaborators and creative networks (such as contractors, engineers, artist, patrons).
  • Post-war Modernism – the Festival of Britain style, the Brutalist movement and younger British modernists, questioning the modernist agenda, the work of Fry and Drew’s former employees.
  • Colonialism – comparisons of colonizers in architectural and theoretical terms, war-time postings, colonial frameworks (for example, the role of the Public Works Departments).
  • Post-colonialism – tradition and modernity, design and identity, cultural colonialism. For example, Fry and Drew’s work at Chandigarh, in West Africa, throughout the Middle East.
  • Tropical Architecture – the use of new technologies and design ideas, its network and legacy, reassessment of the tropical, tropical architecture pedagogies at the Architectural Association and beyond.
  • Town Planning – the Garden City model, the neighbourhood unit, modernist planning schemes, the New Towns and post-war rebuilding, the spread and implementation of CIAM guidelines.
  • Fry & Drew’s wider influence – their patronage of art, Drew’s significance for women (in architecture), influential personal or professional relationships, their published texts, their involvement in architectural design education.

We invite abstracts of up to 300 words for 20-minute papers. Please email Jessica Holland and Iain Jackson at fryanddrew@gmail.com by Sunday 2nd June 2013.

See the conference page for further details.

Keynote Speakers Announcement

13.3.21Max and Jane

We are delighted to confirm the following invited speakers for the forthcoming conference on ‘The influence of Fry and Drew’, to be held at Liverpool School of Architecture, 10th – 11th October 2013:

  • Hilde Heynen, Head of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning at KU Leuven, Belgium
  • Elizabeth Darling, Senior Lecturer in Art History at Oxford Brookes University, UK
  • Jiat-Hwee Chang, Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture, University of Singapore

See the conference page for the call for papers.

The Influence of Fry and Drew

Jane and Max on beach in N Wales001

CONFERENCE CALL FOR PAPERS

THURSDAY 10TH – FRIDAY 11TH OCTOBER 2013

SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY, U.K.

For over fifty years, E. Maxwell Fry (1899–1987) and Jane B. Drew (1911–96) were integral members of the English architectural avant-garde. The Fry and Drew partnership – in its various incarnations – was a magnet for architects and architectural students from all over the world, giving the practice a distinctly international outlook. Their built works, from the 1920s to the 1980s, cross the globe from Europe to South-east Asia.

This conference seeks to investigate the themes and movements of twentieth century architecture and town planning that have been influenced by the work of Fry and Drew, and vice versa. What is the context of Fry and Drew’s architecture? Is it possible to identify a FryDrew strand of Modernism or a house style? What is their architectural legacy?

We welcome papers from scholars and practitioners, and encourage proposals from early career researchers and graduate students. Papers might address, but are not limited to:

  • Inter-war Modernism – early influences, the rise of Modernism in England, collaborators and creative networks (such as contractors, engineers, artist, patrons).
  • Post-war Modernism – the Festival of Britain style, the Brutalist movement and younger British modernists, questioning the modernist agenda, the work of Fry and Drew’s former employees.
  • Colonialism – comparisons of colonizers in architectural and theoretical terms, war-time postings, colonial frameworks (for example, the role of the Public Works Departments).
  • Post-colonialism – tradition and modernity, design and identity, cultural colonialism. For example, Fry and Drew’s work at Chandigarh, in West Africa, throughout the Middle East.
  • Tropical Architecture – the use of new technologies and design ideas, its network and legacy, reassessment of the tropical, tropical architecture pedagogies at the Architectural Association and beyond.
  • Town Planning – the Garden City model, the neighbourhood unit, modernist planning schemes, the New Towns and post-war rebuilding, the spread and implementation of CIAM guidelines.
  • Fry & Drew’s wider influence – their patronage of art, Drew’s significance for women (in architecture), influential personal or professional relationships, their published texts, their involvement in architectural design education.

We invite abstracts of up to 300 words for 20-minute papers. Please email Jessica Holland and Iain Jackson at fryanddrew@gmail.com by Sunday 2nd June 2013.

Please check the conference page for regular updates.