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Name: Adefolatomiwa Toye

PhD Research Title and Summary: Development and National Identity: Tropical Modernism in Post-Independence Nigerian Universities 

The aftermath of the Second World War brought a shift in the policies of the British Empire towards the infrastructural development of colonies in West Africa. Massive projects ranging from transportation to healthcare and including education went underway in Nigeria, the largest colony in West Africa. Various commissions from the 1940s and nationalist agitations eventually led to the establishment of the first university in West Africa in 1947- the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Colonial architects such as Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, who specialised in modernist designs for the tropics, were hired for this and other major projects. 

Ibadan University

With the country’s independence from colonial rule in the foresights in the late 1950’s, a new desire for a unified national identity arose. This aimed to erase dividing ethnic lines and create a collective identity in the culturally heterogeneous new nation. Infrastructural projects were commissioned, ranging from public buildings to higher education institutions. These projects designed and built following the tropical modernist architecture of the colonial were used in developing a new built environment for Nigeria. I am interested in examining the tropical modernist architecture of Nigerian higher education projects in the 1960s and their role in the country’s development and representing the national identity for the newly independent Nigeria.

Ibadan University

Aims and Objectives:

-examine the position of higher education projects in creating a new sense of identity and nation building

-explore the first universities established in post-independent Nigeria within the social and political context of the 1960s

-highlight the roles of Nigerian actors who championed, designed, and built higher education projects

-compare tropical modernist style of higher educational buildings before independence and post-independence

What did you do before the PhD Research?

I recently completed my master’s degree in Environmental Design at the University of Lagos, Nigeria where I also obtained my undergraduate degree in Architecture. I also worked part-time at A3: Archives of African Architecture, an organization based in Lagos that documents architecture of practices in the country and promotes documentation of endangered built environments in Africa.

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

I first made a choice to purse a PhD in the third year of my undergraduate degree. Research satisfied my curiosity and I found it interesting and fulfilling to investigate the unknown and/or under researched areas in architecture (that I could relate to) and share it to the public. I think I also had enough time to weigh the pros and cons and honestly question my reasons and be certain for my interest in undertaking a PhD.

I chose the University of Liverpool for a few reasons. The research area was of great interest to me. I was surrounded by tropical architecture in the University of Lagos and studied some of the buildings only as case studies for studio projects. It was exciting to do a PhD on this topic that didn’t study these buildings in isolation but within the wider context of the period they were designed and built. 

The programme also provided me with the opportunity to gain experience outside academia at the National Archives in London which caught my interest. I was also confident in the calibre of my supervisors and the wealth of experience they had in their fields. It also helped that Liverpool is a coastal city with beaches and waterfront views just like Lagos.

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

I am at the beginning of my PhD, and I find learning more about my research area interesting. There is something new to learn everyday and that alone excites me. 

I think the most challenging part for me is managing the scale of my research. It is still a new experience and managing my project myself is still very unfamiliar. 

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

I do not yet have a clear path post-PhD but I am sure my programme will enable me try new opportunities within and outside academia. I think this will help me make a more informed choice.

Any advice for others interested in doing a PhD?

It is particularly important to like what you want to research. When it becomes challenging, it helps to know that you are working on something that you chose and genuinely enjoy. 

You also don’t have to be very excellent in research, although experience in research helps. A PhD is a learning process, and it gets better.

In the UAC archive amongst the Public Relations files is ‘Nigeria Magazine‘. From within the mat brown cardboard of the archive box springs a collection of beautifully designed and printed set of publications. The magazine was a Government sponsored venture, published by the Cultural Division of the Ministry of Information in Lagos. It was issued quarterly from around 1937 until the mid-1980s “for everyone interested in the country and its peoples”. The focus of the editorial was varied and wide ranging, covering topics across the arts, history, architecture, literature, and culture in Nigeria. There was a strong commitment and celebration of ‘local’ art, as well as extensive articles on planning, housing, and architecture from across the ages. The contributing authors were often experts and highly regarded scholars. Ulli Beier was a frequent writer, and the quality and tone of the editorial was consciously accomplished, supplemented by some striking images and high quality graphics.

Covers of Nigeria Magazine from the 1960s, held in UAC archive

Articles were published on the history of cities, including “Ibadan, Black Metropolis” in 1961, relishing in the city’s longevity and traditions, as well as welcoming its position as a new centre for finance and media (see Design Group’s Finance building below). Other sections included biographies on key personalities, such as June 1966 with its feature on architect Alex Ifeanyichikwu Ekwueme (1932-2017).

Ekwueme studied at Washington University on a Fullbright Scholarship in 1952, and went onto to work at Nickson and Partners in London (is this Nickson and Boris?) before setting up a firm in Nigeria that grew to 16 offices. He designed the United Christian College at Apapa, Universal Insurance Building Enugu, and the Administration Building for the Nigerian Petroleum Refinery Company, amongst others. Ekwueme’s architectural career ended when he was elected Vice-President of Nigeria in 1979.

Architect and Vice-President of Nigeria, Alex Ifeanyichikwu Ekwueme (1932-2017), from Nigeria Magazine, June 1966.

Whilst there was a lofty desire to promote local art, culture, and history, other articles appear to focus on trade and industry, presenting what are effectively op-eds or public relations pieces as historical accounts. In 1960 there was a special report on The Niger River Transport Company and Burutu, “Nigeria’s Timber Industry” featured in December 1962, focusing on the work and settlements of the African Timber and Plywood company – both subsidiary companies of of United Africa Company (UAC). Again, the Company features in various other articles, such as “The UAC in Nigeria’s economic growth” in December 1965. It’s a thorough and detailed account, going to some length to stress how the company is ‘inseparable’ from Nigeria’s economic growth. The article was also eager to stress the restructuring of the company and how it now operated as a series of smaller locally managed entities ‘to encourage the growth of industry and trade in local Nigerian hands’.

It seems that the magazine had a mandate beyond art and culture, and sought to shape opinion (particularly in the emerging and educated middle classes) on business and trade matters. The seductive and authoritative format of the journal gave these opinions validity, and allowed a particular and curated message to be carefully presented. The advertisements within the journal also reinforced these messages and narratives of progress through industry.

At the same time, ‘traditional’ and ‘local’ practices were celebrated and discussed. There is something disarming in this technique. An ahistorical image was usually shown on the front cover, often a decontextualised figure in traditional dress sometimes playing an instrument – followed on the inner leaf by an advertisement for the latest fashions from Kingsway department store. The advertisers tended to belong to, or were in partnership with, the UAC group (e.g. Taylor Woodrow, Guinness, Kingsway Stores), and it seems likely their extensive patronage held some sway over the editorial content. The adverts were not geared towards selling specific products, but were there simply to bolster public opinion and shift attitudes towards modernity, progress, and societal advancement alongside a romanticised nationalist sense of history and culture.

The articles on architecture were also propagandist and concerned with presenting Nigeria as a place of rapid progress and impatient ambition. Again, the UAC story is followed with interest, and their newly proposed offices in Lagos (by Watkins and Gray) demonstrates the Company’s commitment to ongoing business in the newly independent country, and also the shift in its focus from import/export to real estate and property development.

Artist impression of the UAC’s Niger House in Lagos. Designed by Watkins Gray and Partners.

John Godwin, wrote an article entitled, “Architecture in Nigeria” in December 1966. It’s a potted history that starts with the regional building types, local materials, and climatic responses before moving onto the impact of corrugated iron sheeting (pan) and its limitations. Godwin sets out this story to demonstrate the sudden change in scale, building types, and growth of the construction industry in West Africa post-1945,

“Tower cranes were on the scene in 1955 and by 1961 two twenty-five-storey buildings had been completed in Ibadan and Lagos built by Italian firms who thirty years earlier were struggling with their labour force to build small houses”

Whilst acknowledging this rapid growth and exciting possibilities, he also goes on to caution that more ‘research’ is required, greater collaboration should exist between architects, and that building components and materials were still being imported at prohibitive costs. Overly extravagant “prestige building” was also targeted whilst low-cost housing problems remained unresolved. Whilst the claims and hopes for air-conditioning now seem somewhat out-dated, his desire for a civic pride and community spirit, tree planting, and care of the environment is pertinent and all the more urgent. Godwin’s approach was to propose an “architecture of ventilators and sun breakers”, a lexicon that he viewed as, “increasingly identifiable as West African.”

Offices and Flats in Kaduna, designed by Godwin and Hopwood, 1964

Contributing to this West African style was the Design Group’s “Nigerian Institute of International Affairs” (located on Lagos’s Kofo Abayomi Street). It was discussed at length by Alan Vaughan-Richards in the March/May 1968 edition of the magazine, where he particularly admired the sculptural mural, ‘The Art of Understanding” by Erhabor Emokpae in tooled concrete that revealed the granite aggregate. Inside the Institute are further sculptural elements, including a bronze figure representing Knowledge by Ben Enwonwu and positioned hovering above an evaporation pool. The interior includes some grand double-height spaces, dramatic cantilevered spiral staircases and travertine marble cladding (donated by the Italian contractor). At the rear of the plot there is an octagonal conference room with a dramatic star-shaped roof (still visible on Google maps).

The Institute was to promote peace and progress (the internal conflict taking place in Nigeria at that time was not mentioned), and was to operate as a centre for learning, research, and debate on global affairs.

June 1962 edition included an article on “Contemporary Nigerian Architecture” by D. J. Vickery, the former Head of Department at Singapore Polytechnic (did he then go on to work in Nigeria?). This is an exceptional article covering some of the latest construction in Nigeria, and Lagos in particular. As a gazetteer of the latest building work – including the work from recently qualified Nigerian architects – it formed one of the most detailed architectural surveys of the country. Although the crude categorisation of the works under three types; ‘Climate’, ‘Traditional Spirit’, and ‘Skyline’ is somewhat limited, it gets the message across, and more importantly illustrates what the Independence Boom meant to the towns and cities across Nigeria.

In addition to the speculative offices, headquarters and banking halls there was an impressive array of schools and libraries (many designed by James Cubitt who had also designed similar works in Sekondi and Koforidua, Ghana), but the focus here was undoubtedly on real estate and speculative construction.

Nigeria magazine illustrates how UAC and other global companies shifted their approach and emphasis during the early Independence period. UAC was presenting its suite of businesses as nationalist, pro-development, and key partners in the country’s future. They rapidly placed an emphasis on real estate, finance, and industrial development, whilst curating a sophisticated advertisement and public relations campaign, through an arts and culture journal, to bolster their local credentials and legitimacy in the history of Nigeria.

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

Corrugated iron mosque, Bansang Gambia. C1958.

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

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

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

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

Crucibles, Vectors, Catalysts: Envisioning the Modern City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] Ibid. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speakers:

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

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

Explore modern cities and architectural production in the blurred era of the independence and postcolonial period

Join us for three sessions which will bring together scholars, researchers and curators to explore architectural production in the blurred era of independence to the post-colonial period of the mid-20th century, focussing on cities in Africa, Middle East and South Asia. 

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/crucibles-vectors-catalysts-envisioning-the-modern-city-tickets-138966892717

Whether driven by socialist agendas (Nehruvian in India and Nkrumah in Ghana), monarchies (Pahlavis in Iran and Hashemite in Iraq), quasi colonial protectorates, or pan-continental aspirations, architecture (and especially Modernism) was a key apparatus for nation-building, for re-imagining identities and a means to project and invent a new image of the future. The seminar seeks to explore the use of architecture as both physical infrastructure and symbolic expression, as well as its vulnerability to the vicissitudes of changing politics and policies of the times.

The role of cities as crucibles, vectors and catalysts for developing new expressions of identity, change and power is key. Cities in this period saw the emergence of schools of thought, dynasties and collaborations were formed, networks and ideas were shared and publications were disseminated. While the desire of a newly independent nation was often to consolidate a single national collective identity, it was through the urban centres that strands of coherent, yet often multiple identities were formed. The role of figures such as Rifat Chadirji, Mohamed Makiya, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry were important as they often operated within multiple cities and cross-cultural contexts that spanned the colonial to postcolonial divide. 

These urban centres were either newly built, or they were remade and reimagined through city infrastructure, government buildings, universities, cultural institutions and national monuments. Architecture schools, state sponsored projects and external agencies feed into the discussion and warrant further exploration. The seminar explores the transnational connections, diverse political agendas and complex allegiances which informed architectural development in this period. 

Seminar convenors:

  • Iain Jackson, Professor of Architecture and Research Director, Liverpool School of Architecture
  • Clara Kim, The Daskalopoulos Senior Curator, International Art, Tate Modern
  • Nabila Abdel Nabi, Curator, International Art, Tate Modern

PROGRAMME
TUESDAY 2 MARCH

Session 1: Crucibles, 15:00-16:30 (UTC)

  • Building the Modern City: Expressions of Identity, Change and Power
    • Moderated by Iain Jackson

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

Speakers:

  • Talinn Grigor (University of California, Davis)
    • Building a (Cosmopolitan) Modern Iran
  • Ola Uduku (Manchester School of Architecture)
    • Lagos International Metropolis: A city’s adventure in tropical architecture as an expression of dynamic modernism and growth in the mid 20th century
  • Lukasz Stanek (University of Manchester)
    • Rupture, Transition and Continuity in Baghdad’s Master Plans: From Minoprio to Miastoprojekt

Session 2: Vectors, 17:00-18:30 (UTC)

  • Connecting the Modern City: Networks, Alliances and Knowledge Production
    • Moderated by Clara Kim

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

Speakers:

  • Ana Tostões (University of Lisbon)
    • Correspondences, Transfers and Memory: Maputo’s “Age of Concrete”
  • Fahran Karim (University of Kansas)
    • Archaeology of the Future: Constantinos Doxiaidis in East and West Pakistan
  • Patrick Zamarian (University of Liverpool)
    • Global Perspectives and Private Concerns: The AA’s Department of Tropical Architecture

TUESDAY 9 MARCH

Session 3: Catalysts, 15:00-16:30 (UTC)

  • Fragments of the Modern City: Memories, Echoes and Whispers
    • Moderated by Nabila Abdel Nabi

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

Speakers:

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

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

Bubonic plague, colonial ideologies, and urban planning policies: Dakar, Lagos, and Kumasi, by Liora Bigon, in Planning PerspectivesDOI:10.1080/02665433.2015.1064779

The Third Plague Pandemic originated in Southwest China in the mid-nineteenth century, reached Africa’s shores around 1900, and spread globally for about a century. This article examines three plague loci in colonial Senegal (Dakar, 1914), Nigeria (Lagos, 1924), and the Gold Coast (today’s Ghana; Kumasi, 1924). A tripartite comparative analysis is made of French and British doctrines of colonial rule, colonial urban planning policies, and anti-plague practices. While some common features are demonstrated in the policies and practices of the colonizing forces such as the implementation of rigorous measures and embracing segregationist solutions, divergent features can also be distinguished. These relate to the methods of implementation of planning and anti-plague policies, in accordance with colonial ideology (assimilation, direct and indirect rule); and to the very nature of autochthonous communities, responses, and levels of agitation. Our both comparative and more nuanced site-related view is also based on a large collection of archival and secondary materials from multilateral channels.

The full article may be viewed here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02665433.2015.1064779

European Architectural History Network Conference in Turin

The European Architectural History Network (EAHN) held their third international conference in Turin from 19th-22nd April. The conference included several papers with a transnational theme and thanks to the generosity of the presenters/authors we’ve included some of their abstracts below:

S3.1 Concrete Conduits in Gandhi’s Ashram. Tangled Environmental Aesthetics in Post-Independence Indian Modernism

Ateya Khorakiwala Harvard University, USA

Post-independence India’s conception of nature as risk-resource system fuelled its project of modernization. Dams were construed as techno-scientific operations in systems designed to circumvent disaster. The corresponding cultural project of architectural modernism borrowed anti-colonial politics’ essentialist strategy, foregrounding a search for identity and taking its cue from climate and vernacular technology. Although driven by resourcedearth, Indian modernists wrought scarcity into an aesthetic language: louvers, chajjas, verandahs, and lattices came to dominate Indian modernism’s vocabulary. For Charles Correa, climate provided raw material for a new, yet ancient, aesthetic language. His early conceptual project – the Tube House (1962) – a unit designed to be low cost and easily multiplied, used deep louvers, a courtyard, and shaded windows to regulate the internal climate. The prototype has been called “ahead of its time”, as if it were a proleptic part of sustainability; however, the project was rooted in a different set of political and aesthetic lineages that came into play in a parallel project, a museum commission that he won right out of MIT. The Sabarmati Ashram, built on the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s home in Gujarat, in homage to the leader, sat at the intersection of three distinct intellectual lineages – Gandhi’s politics, Tagore’s aesthetics, and Nehru’s techno-science. This paper uses Correa’s Sabarmati Ashram project to interrogate the threads of environmental consciousness nested within the decolonization paradigm to argue that although these threads look like sustainability, they belong to a different history, and although they seemed to be a counter-narrative to big science and big dams, they were wrought of the same anti-colonial political origins. Although the Gandhi/Nehru/Tagore lineage was politically contradictory and certainly never resolved, this paper will look for architectural and aesthetic references to limn the alternate possibilities for what environmental consciousness may have been before the 1970s.

 

S3.4 Experiments on Thermal Comfort and Modern Architecture: the Contributions of André Missenard and Le Corbusier

Ignacio Requena Ruiz Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture Nantes, France

Daniel Siret Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture Nantes, France

The early scientific researches into the thermo-regulative response of the human body during the 1920s and the 1930s normalized thermal conditions in working and educational environments to improve user’s performance. The European and American contexts of housing promotion and industrial development during post-war extended this approach to different environments. Geographers, physiologists and engineers encouraged manufactured indoor atmospheres that could overcome human shortcomings resulting from environmental and biological conditions. Climate, indoor atmospheres and human body were interlinked to develop the ideal environment for modern society. Paradoxically, these original notions and researches have been used to promote both bioclimatic and weatherized architectures along the second half of the twentieth century. The French engineer, researcher and industrialist Andre Missenard was a prominent contributor to the study on the thermo-physiology of comfort as well as its experimental application to engineering and architecture. As a collaborator of the architect Le Corbusier, his influence not only attempted technical fields, but to the whole notion of the ideal environment for modern society. Consequently, Le Corbusier’s works during the post-war became a collective laboratory on hygro-thermal control, where passive and active systems were constructs of what Missenard called “artificial climates”. Based on an original research at the Foundation Le Corbusier archives and the French National Library, this communication presents the design method of the Grille Climatique and the buildings for the Millowners Association (Ahmadabad, India) and the House of Brazil (Paris, France) as study cases. As a result, the paper discusses the influence of physiology and environmental technology in the early approaches to thermal environments in architecture, what afterwards supported both bioclimatic and mechanical viewpoints.

 

S3.5 The United Nations Headquarters and the Global Environment

Alexandra Quantrill Columbia University, USA

The realization of the United Nations Headquarters between 1946 and 1952 marked the onset of a complex relationship between environmental management and global development in the postwar period. Designed by an international committee of architects, the headquarters were a vexed monument to world peace. At the same time the work of the fledgling institution reflected its incipient stance on environmental and economic concerns of a global order. The 1949 United Nations Conference on the Conservation and Utilization of Resources promoted international cooperation in allocating scientific research to resource disparity as a means of keeping the peace. Scientists, engineers, and technical experts offered strategies for prosperous member states to address resource deficiencies within developing tropical and arctic regions, which were presented as the last frontiers of cultivation. Lewis Mumford remained highly circumspect regarding the UN Headquarters’ representation of a new global order, questioning its unconscious symbolism of the “managerial revolution” and monopoly capitalism. Indeed, Mumford pitted the degradations of mechanization against his theory of organic synthesis, in which science and the machine support life processes rather than diminishing them. By contrast, in his presentation of the UN headquarters Le Corbusier presented the organic in terms of an exact biology facilitated by new technology. Purportedly to address the diverse climactic origins of the UN delegates, the envelope of the UN Secretariat was designed to function as a manipulable environmental control system accommodating the global population housed within, thereby fostering harmonious relations. Internationally published and widely imitated, the details of this thin, flat, smooth surface of modernism embodied enmeshed aesthetic and technical ambitions. Drawing from contemporary discourses on technology and the organic, this paper will scrutinize the ways in which the UN invoked science to address environmental management at a global and a highly proximate level.

 

PhDRT2.1 Ahmedabad. Workshop of Modern Architecture: The National Institute of Design

Elisa Alessandrini Universite degli Studi di Bologna, Italy

The subject of this research is the National Institute of Design (known as NID) designed by Gautam Sarabhai and his sister Gira in the city of Ahmedabad, India. This project has been selected because it highlights the two faces of post-colonial India; a nation that sought to amalgamate modern institutions with traditions from the past. Designed in 1961-1964 and built in 1966-1968, NID is one of the most convincing examples of this synthesis. The decades 1940-1960 are the time frame of this study, corresponding to a period of great intellectual upheaval in India following independence from British rule. In these years, the first generation of Indian postcolonial architects created buildings of considerable importance and had close contact with Western modern masters. NID is part of this chronological framework. The wider survey is restricted to educational buildings constructed by Indian architects in Ahmedabad, and highlights the influence of masters such as Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, and other Western professionals who participated in this climate of cultural exchange. While Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius welcomed talented young Indian architects into their schools or studios, they themselves never went to the sub-continent. Their American and European colleagues, however, such as Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, Buckminster Fuller, Enrico Peressutti, Harry Weese, and Frei Otto, had a direct dialogue with the emerging generation of Indian architects through their presence on site in India. The architecture designed by Achyut Kanvinde, Gautam and Gira Sarabhai, Balkrishna Doshi and Charles Correa, just to name a few Indian architects of that new generation, are a clear evidence of these contacts. The National Institute of Design found its seat in Ahmedabad, a city favoured by young Indian architects and a centre of decolonization. The thesis examines some aspects of post-colonial Indian architecture and its outcomes, in particular in Ahmedabad, which must be considered a real laboratory of Indian modernity. NID is a national institution of great importance which, like its designers Gautam Sarabhai (1917- 1995) and Gira Sarabhai (1923), has never been the subject of research and rarely mentioned in history books of post-colonial India. With this study, the author aims to restore NID’s value and reputation and give voice to its designers, investigating the central role of the Sarabhais in the modernization of Ahmedabad and more generally of the country. Thanks to their wide national and international network, Gautam and Gira Sarabhai were key figures in the cultural development of Ahmedabad, and the creation of NID is one of the most significant examples of intellectual exchange between East and West. The study illustrates how the fertile friendships between Indian and Western architects, but also traditions from the past, are reflected in the NID project. This thesis is based on archival research in a number of archives in India, Europe and North America.

 

S23.5 “Housing Before Street”: Geddes’ 1925 Plan for Tel Aviv and its Anarchist Disruption of the Dichotomy between Top- Down Planners-Ideologues and Bottom-Up Urban Citizens

Yael Allweil, Technion, Israel

A founding member of the city planning movement, Sir Patrick Geddes was largely marginal to the movement for his anarchistic challenge of the very idea that new cities form “of thin air” due to the powerful actions of statesmen, capitalists and planners (Hall, 2002; Rubin, 2009). Geddes self-distinguished from conceptions of modern planning, insisting that “urban planning cannot be made from above using general principles […] studied in one place and imitated elsewhere. City planning is the development of a local way of life, regional character, civic spirit, unique personality […] based on its own foundations” (Geddes, 1915). Geddes’ urban vision was affected by issues of housing in the industrial city, yet compared with other theories of urban planning, Geddes’ “city of sweat equity” approach to urban housing “contributed to planning theory the idea that men and women could make their own cities” (Hall, 2002). A perfect match with Tel Aviv founders’ ideas of the city as accumulation of future-citizens as a vehicle for self-government (Weiss, 1956), Geddes’ 1925 plan for Tel Aviv, based on detailed survey of the town as housing estate, accepted Tel Aviv’s use of housing as building block to produce a “Housing before Street” urban planning. Geddes’ Tel Aviv plan poses alternative to accepted models of modern planning: technocratic-capitalist Haussmanism, aesthetic City Beautiful, Corbusian “radiant cities”, or utopian Garden City. At the same time, contrary to the phenomenon of makeshift housing predating formal settlement and creating the city de-facto, as in the auto-constructed peripheries of Cairo, Brasilia or Calcutta (Holston, 2008), Tel Aviv’s formation via housing was the result of a conscious, anarchist, planning process where Geddes fully realized his ideas: not merely challenging top-down mechanisms, but disrupting the very dichotomous perspective of modern urbanism as a clash between topdown planners-ideologues and bottom- up urban citizens.

 

S13.1 The Afro-Brazilian Portuguese Style in Lagos

Ola Uduku, The University of Edinburgh, UK

This paper seeks to re-evaluate the categorisation of “Brazilian” style architecture on Lagos Island. For long the notion of the Brazilian style, Aguda houses on the island has allowed for an exotic reading of the built form, allegedly transmitted to Lagos through the labour and construction skills of mainly Yoruba repatriated African slaves from Brazil and elsewhere in South America. Whilst the original owners of these buildings would have had contact with Brazil, the essential styling can be traced back to Portugal, and indeed is seen in earlier traditional architecture in locations such as Benin (Nigeria) and parts of coastal West Africa, which had centuries earlier had contact with Portuguese traders. The paper seeks to question the labelling of the Afro Brazilian style on these buildings in Lagos, with no reference to earlier Portuguese-European influences on their styling. What does this tell us about the embodied identity of the built form and its presentation within a richer African mediated cultural discourse related to past remembered and forgotten histories? I will be relying on the use of textual histories of Lagos, as well as existing records of buildings in areas such as Campos Square in Central Lagos, the epicentre of what was considered to be Lagos’s Brazilian Quarter.

 

S13.3 Architecture of Sun and Soil. European Architecture in Tropical Australia

Deborah van der Plaat University of Queensland, Australia

Substituting climatic theories of difference, a conception that was common to the eighteenth century, with biological propositions – an approach advanced in the nineteenth century by Victorian theorists of race – aided Britain’s territorial interests in tropical India (Harrison 1999). Breaking the association between racial distinctiveness and climate and identifying difference and superiority with biological attributes effectively negated questions relating to the viability of white settlement within the world’s tropical regions. Parallel strategies, as Evans (2007) and Anderson (2002) have argued, were also evident within early twentieth-century Australia. Here a “series of influential scientific and medical writers boosted a vision of virile whites defeating the sickness and neurasthenia in the tropics”. Previously positioned as a “hot bed of disease”, tropical Australia now became the “staging ground” for a “higher type” of white Australian – a distinctive “tropical type […] a new race, bred of sun and soil” (Evans 2007: 173-175). The aim of this paper is to consider the strategies developed in the first half of the twentieth century that permitted the acclimatisation of the white man and his architecture to tropical Australia. A particular focus will be the correlation between an emerging discourse on a tropical architecture in northern Australia and the writings of Anton Breinl, Rapheal Cilento and Jack Elkington, directors of the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine. Demonstrating the Institute’s interest in theories of racial segregation and eugenics in addition to preventative medicine and hygiene (Anderson 2002), the paper suggests these writings offer an alternative “Rationale” for the tropical architecture of twentieth-century Australia revealing a logic which extends beyond the instrumental concerns of comfort and amelioration to consider more broadly theories of race, culture, politics and place.

 

S13.4 Health, Hygiene and Sanitation in Colonial India

Iain Jackson Liverpool University, UK

Using guidebooks, pamphlets and government reports this paper will investigate British notions of health, sanitation and hygiene in India with respect to city infrastructure and housing, focusing on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nearly all colonial planning, housing and large infrastructure projects were concerned, if not obsessed, with providing “clean” and “healthy” solutions for their European residents. Of course, notions of cleanliness are far from fixed or absolute. Whilst scientists and the medical profession looked for cures to the many diseases and ailments that afflicted the European populations in the Tropics, running in parallel was a belief that the built fabric and wider city planning also had a significant impact on the health of its visitors and occupants. It is this kinship that tropical architecture and tropical medicine share that I want to investigate. Moving beyond the mere separation of local and European dwellings, what other tangible attempts were made to improve sanitation, hygiene and health? The annual public health and sanitation reports for all the major cities and provinces of India provide an acute picture of the correlation between disease, sanitation and city infrastructure. Is there any connection with the outbreak of disease, perceptions of filth and attempts to prevent such an occurrence? In addition to the citywide governmental approach what of the domestic arrangement and smallscale adjustments to residences? What practical tips and advice were dispensed to those about to embark to India from Britain and how were British notions of domesticity tempered to suit the Indian conditions? Again, within publications devoted to health a chapter is frequently included on “the house”. It is through these two extremes of scale that this paper hopes to contribute to the historicizing of the tropical architecture canon and to explore the connection between health and architecture in the tropics.

 

S13.5 Climate, Disaster, Shelter: Architecture, Humanitarianism, and the Problem of the Tropics

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi New York University, USA

This paper presents a little-studied history of exchange between architectural practice and humanitarian intervention, predicated upon a technology and rhetoric around climate formulated between actors in Europe and the tropical zones in the second half of the twentieth century. Materially, humanitarian activity during and after the Cold War left a vast global footprint, with planned spaces and designed artifacts responding to tropical environments at local levels. Rhetorically, an abstracted notion of climate masked international development agendas inherent in this activity, embedding them within an architectural discourse around environmental disaster in the tropics that contributed to broad anxieties of the period. Culturally, congregations from the early 1950s to the present in the legacy of “tropical architecture” consistently directed a professional architectural gaze upon issues of hygiene and biopolitics in the global South, providing urgent claims for a discipline flirting with postmodernism. These constructions will be examined in three episodes, beginning in the 1990s with an international workshop convened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to study cold climate architecture, moving to research endeavors by academic, private sector, and United Nations actors in the 1970s in tropical sites, and finally, studying delays, perversions, and other descendant practices and discourses in twenty-first- century camps for “climate refugees”. Drawing evidence from archival and oral history research in Geneva, Nairobi, Oxford, and along the border of Somalia, this paper traces events, genealogies and a wide network of figures through hard and soft architectural exchange. It examines the configuration of a space around the empirical and conceptual problem of tropical climate as translated through the European problem of humanitarian intervention.

                       

Tectonics of Paranoia: The Matshed System Within the First Fabrication of Hong Kong

Christopher Cowell, GSAPP, Columbia University, USA

The matshed was the earliest building system used in the construction of colonial Hong Kong from 1841. Seeming to arise from indigenous southern Chinese construction, this bamboo-framed, palm-leaf-roofed, and woven-cane-walled entity had started life as an endlessly adaptable construction kit suited to the pragmatic needs of both the Anglo-Indian military and Anglo-Chinese commerce. Rapidly deployable, it transformed into almost every building typology conceivable: from the storage of troops (the barracks), to the storage of cotton (the godown); and from the place of mammon (the market bazaar), to the place of worship (the colonial ‘mat church’). However, following the ‘Hongkong Fever’ of 1843, more solidly constructed buildings were demanded as being both safer and more morally respectable. The matshed, therefore, began to acquire a dubious character. It turned into an object of paranoia: as if a progenitor of disease, criminality and conflagration. Subsequently, the matshed became an anachronism, the dated component of a founding mythology. The physical state that urban Hong Kong had been a mere three years before was now viewed through the collective memory lens of European residents with some incredulity. And yet, the matshed stubbornly endured.

This paper will trace the environmental politics of this early set of transformations and how they fed into a founding narrative used by a split community unsure of the island’s permanent viability as a British possession. Sitting chronologically between two significant architectural theoretical models of neoclassical rationalism and tectonic romanticism: respectively Marc-Antoine Laugier’s primitive hut (Essai sur l’Architecture, 1753) and Gottfried Semper’s Caribbean hut (Der Stil, 1860-63), the subtropical Hong Kong matshed was a significant device of European colonial encounter that both absorbed and contributed to the shift between these models, from origin myth to degenerate present.

 

The Alan Vaughan Richards Archive Project

Ola Uduku and Hannah Le Roux

13.4.30_AVR House Interior

Alan Vaughan-Richards House Main Living Room Interior, photo for Nigerian Interiors Magazine.

The Alan Vaughan Richards archive project seeks to preserve, record and archive the works of the late British-Nigerian Architect, Alan Vaughan-Richards (1925-89). Its ultimate aim is to make available a digital and physical archive of Vaughan-Richards work to the public. This archive, comprising drawings, artefacts, and texts will be made accessible to the public to view online, or by visiting the renovated Alan Vaughan-Richards house in Ikoyi, Lagos. The Vaughan-Richards House, built by the architect in the 1960’s, is acknowledged as a unique example of West Africa tropical modernist architecture.

The archiving project is being funded by the British Academy with a further University of Edinburgh research grant held by Ola Uduku, at the University of Edinburgh, with Hannah Le Roux, at the University of the Witwatersrand, along with financial and logistical support from the Goethe Institute in Lagos and Remi Vaughan-Richards, Alan’s daughter. In 2012 over 300 drawings and other artefacts were brought from Alan Vaughan Richards’ home office in Lagos to be digitized and preserved for archiving. In September 2012 a short exhibition showing the work completed in digitizing the first batch of artefacts, and documenting Alan Vaughan-Richards’ career and life in Lagos was presented at the Matthew Gallery at the University of Edinburgh. This digital archive is held in the name of the Vaughan-Richards family in Edinburgh. The Alan Vaughan Richards blog was created as part of this process.

At the same time as the exhibition, Candice Keeling from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven documented the condition of the existing house in-situ and created as-built drawings. It is hoped in the future to develop the house as an artists’ residence and the home to a physical archive, accessible by appointment to academics and West African architecture enthusiasts. There are ongoing plans for the renovation and redevelopment of the Vaughan-Richards house in Lagos to enable its transformation into the archive and art residency space planned.

The project throws a number of challenges. The harshness of the tropical climate has contributed to considerable decay of materials such as carpeting and textiles. The cost of restoring the structure and aesthetic of the house requires the transformation of use of part of the property in ways that will sustain the conservation of its elements and intentions. These challenges will be addressed by ongoing design and research. On a broader note this project is hoped to generate interest in conservation in West Africa, where many other modernist buildings are in need of maintenance, conservation and reappraisal of use.

The archival work, residency proposals and related information on the Vaughan-Richards family form the material for an exhibition proposed to coincide with the ArchiAfrika conference in Lagos in December 2013.

The project welcomes participation from with researchers and modernist conservation practioners in West Africa, as well as anyone who has further information on the architecture and other work of Alan Vaughan Richards, as a partner in the  Architects’ Co-Partnership and later as an architect in Lagos.

Contact email:  o.uduku@ed.ac.uk and hannah.leroux@wits.ac.za

..

Permission to publish all images on the blog for educational purposes, has been granted on behalf of the Vaughan-Richards Estate, by his daughter, Remi Vaughan-Richards, a film director, whose feature films and documentaries throw a sharp lens onto contemporary Africa.

Research Seminar Presentation

Wednesday 13th February was the PhD research seminar day at the Liverpool School of Architecture. I gave a 15 minute presentation on the recent progress of my research. My research had started out by examining the development of Nigeria’s architectural profession during the mid-twentieth century. Findings made in the course of the research, however, revealed an outstanding level of architectural output by the country’s colonial Public Works Department (PWD), yet to be the subject of any known research.

This translates into an apparent gap in the studies done on Nigeria’s architectural history as a whole, and its British colonial architectural history in particular. My research’s new line of investigation is therefore centred on British colonial public works architecture in Nigeria, with the aim of bridging this gap in literature. In a bid to provide a fuller understanding of the department’s output as well, the research’s focus of investigation now covers the period from 1900 to 1960.

As my presentation discussed, one issue raised from literature is that private sector architecture tended to blaze new trails and to produce more innovative designs than the PWD. I therefore employed these images from the West African Builder and the Architects’ Journal to analyse this argument.

13.2.18 Lagos

13.2.18 Lagos2

The first is the 1959 General Post Office, Lagos, designed under the supervision of Charles Stevenson, PWD Senior Architect.  The other image is the 1960 Nigerian Port Authority Headquarters, also in Lagos, designed by W.H. Watkins Gray & Partners. With both buildings featuring a similar modernist approach to their designs at that time, the ‘less innovative’ view to public works designs may need to be further questioned.