Tag Archives: PWD

New Research: Prof. Robert Home, ‘From cantonments to townships: Lugard’s influence upon British colonial urban governance in Africa’ in Planning Perspectives, Pages 1-22 | Published online: 20 Aug 2017

Abstract: The cantonment has been a neglected topic of planning history, yet is significant for urban landscapes and governance in both India and Africa. Drawing upon scholarship in critical comparative legal geography, path dependency and Foucault’s genealogical method, the article explores the transfer of laws and regulations for urban governance by networks of knowledge and actors, tracing a line of descent from rules for cantonments in British India, through Lugard’s Nigerian period, and his indirect rule policy to townships and local government ordinances. The influence of Lugard’s Political Memoranda and Dual Mandate books is evidenced through the work of various senior officials moving between colonies, specifically South Africa, Kenya, and Northern Rhodesia.

Field Work: Axim and Dixcove

Heading west from Takoradi along the coast-road towards Côte d’Ivoire there are a number of fishing towns and natural harbours, such as Axim and Dixcote.


Dixcove Harbour


Fishing Boats at Dixcove

Axim was a major port during the early 20thC, exporting £250,000 worth of goods in 1913, and the mail boat from Liverpool (as well as ships from the US, Germany and Belgium) called every 10-15 days before heading on to Sekondi. Before the British occupied the Fort at Axim (Fort St. Anthony) it was held built by the Portuguese in 1515 and then captured by the Dutch from 1642. The Fort was conceded to Britain, along with the other Dutch forts east of Elmina on the 6th April 1872.

A European hospital was established in the town in 1901, and the British Bank of West Africa opened a branch, having traded in Accra from 1897. There are still some colonial buildings to be found, and a photograph of the District Commissioner’s bungalow (c.1914) is held in the UK National Archives.


Type B Public Works Department Bungalow in Axim

Besides the Fort, the Quandahor Building dominates the town from its elevated position. The building (according to some sources) was built in the 1920s, but with what purpose and by whom?


Quandahor Building in Axim

Nearby Dixcove also has its fort (macabrely named Fort Metal Cross after the slave branding iron used there) and the town still retains its thriving fishing industry. The fortress was constructed from 1683 by the Royal African Company and continues to resemble the 1806 print below. Needless to say, it is a harrowing structure, and a surviving relic of what must be one of the lowest points of British history.  By 1868 the Fort was under Dutch control, before being returned to the British just four years later. It was made a World Heritage Site in 1979 and has recently been inhabited by an Englishman intent on refurbishing the place.


1806 Print depicting Dixcove


Dixcove Fortress

It was only in 1911 that a Customs Warehouse was completed and a market shed was erected in the Dixcove – is the image below the customs warehouse? A few other Colonial period buildings survive and we will endeavour to find out more about this fascinating place.


The Customs Warehouse in Dixcove?

Notes from Kumasi

Leaving Accra we departed for Kumasi– there was a change of pace in this dusty Ashanti city. Flying in, the low-rise collection of housing and settlements spreads across the horizon. The city has a hotter, inland climate, but the KNUST campus has this relieved somewhat by its lush mature vegetation. A visit to the recently restored KNUST Staff Club and walk around the campus to the ‘central area’, gave a good feel, and introduction to KNUST.


KNUST Senior Staff Club House, designed by Cubitt

The following day united us with more visiting staff from University of Edinburgh and we set off on an extended excursion to various buildings in Kumasi city. Fry and Drew’s Prempeh College and Opoku Ware schools, are visited first and present us with a first hand view of this couples’ best exemplars of institutional tropical modernism. Visits followed to Nickson’s Anglican Cathedral, a towering structure, with less external architectural sophistication than F+D’s educational oeuvres, but provided interiors that successfully captured the spirit of high Anglicanism in its light-filled interior.


Anglican Cathedral, Kumasi, designed by R. Nickson from 1950

A dusk-tinted view of the campus concluded the day’s visitations, its welcome calm was a good antidote to the ‘busy-ness’ of the town. The buildings at the ‘Tech’, as it is colloquially called, sat sedately in their lush tropical setting, showing off Scott and Cubitt’s earliest university campus in Africa.

The historic ‘central’ administrative area of Kumasi formed the focus of the next day. The post office and Ghana electricity building suggest they are examples of late ‘PWD’ post war architecture, whilst the historic memorial to the West Africa Frontier Force, soldiers who fell in WW1 in Abbysinia (Ethiopia) and Burma (Myamaar) give us pause for remembrance. Walking up towards the military museum we find that although it is closed, we can still pay officially for a visit and take the chance. More than an hour later, we are overwhelmed with the sheer military-related history this deceptively small former garrison fort contained. As a colleague commented, “this gave [me] the context” to this city.


Kumasi GPO, designed by PWD?

Visits to the Asawasi and Fanti Town districts, the latter adjoining the Cathedral area, gave good examples of early housing layouts in Kumasi designs by known planners in some cases. At Fanti Town we inadvertently came across the’ coffin district’, and attempted a stop at the Bantana district of the town to photograph circular hut housing we had identified the day before. The military museum guide had confirmed that these historic huts still provided accommodation for the army. As the garrison was still camped at the site we could not investigate this much further.

Notes from Accra

Iain Jackson and Ola Uduku have spent the last two days in Accra catching up with 20th century architecture, and meeting with contacts as part of the British Academy funded ‘From Colonial Gold Coast to Tropical Ghana’ architecture project. Tuesday 23rd February was spent visiting the Ghana National Museum complex, the gem in the crown being Denys Lasdun’s prefabricated dome shaped museum, currently closed for refurbishment. The imagination and vision of the building were still clearly there in our viewing of the stripped down structure ready for conservation.


Our next stop took us to Nickson and Borys’ Children’s library building nearer to Central Accra. This had been sympathetically restored, and again was a great demonstration exemplar of ‘West African Modern’ and the developmental vision of the departing colonial government to establish libraries that were open to all citizens. The upper area remained devoid of activity but had potential to be a great multipurpose programme space.


Children’s Library

The final visit of the day was to Joe Osae-Addo’s Archi-Africa – TuDelft Berlage Architecture school studio, in Accra’s Jamestown neighbourhood, on the urban fabric of everyday life in Accra. The impromptu crit we were invited to take part in was an enjoyable experience and the schemes were full of promise.


TU Delft and Archi-Africa in the newly converted Jamestown Studio

Day two involved visits to Jamestown – as a walking visit this time to take in early 20th century colonial PWD, and also warehouse architecture in the neighbourhood. A visit to Adabraka also yielded a few examples of early PWD worker housing, which was followed by an afternoon visit to Achimota School, which conveyed the height of the colonial education project with architectural symbolism and style. A few later additions to the campus by Nickson and Borys and other’s also fitted well into the College’s narrative of colonial imperialism and privilege. The final visit for the day was to Scott House, which lived up to its deified tropical modernism status, whilst the Western Tessano neighbourhood had transformed into an upper class gated area, that unexpectedly gave us a glimpse of an earlier [likely Cubitt?] designed semi detached housing unit, currently undergoing a further 21st century upgrade..


One of the few surviving examples of its type in Adabraka

We will be moving onto Kumasi on Friday and will update from there early next week.

Lakshminarasappa, Koenigsberger, Jaisim and Udaya: Architects of Bangalore

Rachel Lee.

For several years I have been visiting Bangalore, South India, on a regular basis. Originally my only goal was to research Otto Koenigsberger’s work in the city for my doctoral thesis, but recently my interests have widened to include other figures involved in the building of Bangalore’s past and present. Among these is Srinivasarao Harti Lakshminarasappa (circa 1885 – ?), Government Architect of Mysore State from 1935-1940, and an early twentieth century graduate of the University of Liverpool who was the subject of a previous TAG post by Iain Jackson.

Lakshmi and Tulsi

Caption: Lakshminarasappa and his wife Tulsi, date unknown. Photograph provided by Krishnarao Jaisim

Lakshminarasappa was close to retirement when Otto Koenigsberger arrived in Mysore State in April 1939. And, although he was initially given a probationary one-year contract, Diwan Mirza Ismail, the then first minister of Mysore State, had actually engaged Koenigsberger as Lakshminarasappa’s potential future replacement. The transitional period, during which both architects worked at the Mysore PWD, was strained. It appears that Lakshminarasappa did his utmost to prevent Koenigsberger from taking over his job, which he would rather have handed over to an Indian architect – “nationalism like everywhere”, wrote Koenigsberger, a victim of anti-Semitic German nationalism, in frustration.[1]

In fact, Lakshminarasappa was so opposed to Koenigsberger becoming his successor that he instigated a campaign of bullying and dirty tricks against him. This included burdening Koenigsberger with a massive workload, withdrawing all his draughtsmen and assistants, and rumour mongering. The campaign was to no avail, however, as Koenigsberger was instated as Government Architect of Mysore State after Lakshminarasappa’s retirement. The following excerpt from a letter to his mother in October 1939, makes Koenigsberger’s relief at Lakshminarasappa’s departure palpable:

The old Architect who used to cause so much annoyance to me and compelled me to work so hard in the last two months before my internment[2] –he is gone for good. […] I have reached the position for which I fought all these six months.[3]

Aside from his conflict with Koenigsberger, until recently I did not know a great deal else about Lakshminarasappa. However, on my last trip to Bangalore I was delighted to meet Lakshminarasappa’s grandson, Krishnarao Jaisim. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Jaisim also became an architect and has received many awards throughout his long and distinguished career. He is the founder and director of Jaisim-Fountainhead, an architectural practice in Bangalore that lists its main influences as Buckminster Fuller, Otto Koenigsberger, Geoffrey Bawa and Ayn Rand. Indeed, every intern is given a copy of The Fountainhead on their first day at the office.


Caption: Jaisim at his desk in his Bangalore office.

According to Jaisim, Koenigsberger was not the only person to be unsettled by Lakshminarasappa. He was an intimidating figure, at least 6’4’’ tall and as strict and conservative in his personal life as he was professionally. Jaisim also informed me that Mysore PWD selected his grandfather to study architecture abroad because of his talent at drawing. Jaisim clearly inherited this skill, as this quick sketch of his grandfather made for me in lieu of a photograph shows.

Lakshmi by Jaisim

Caption: Lakshminarasappa as sketched by Jaisim, 2014

During the ocean crossing, and perhaps his stay in Liverpool too, Lakshminarasappa spent a lot of time performing pujas. He clearly did not feel comfortable away from home and was very glad to return to Mysore State after graduation in 1920, where he began working as an architect at the PWD. His architecture is characterised by precise classical detailing, as evidenced by the Puttanna Chetty Town Hall, built in 1935. Its austere classicism contrasts somewhat with the more relaxed eclecticism of the Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation (BBMP) building, constructed from 1933-36.


Town Hall

Caption: Puttanna Chetty Town Hall, 2014



Caption: Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation, 2011
Photograph by Hari Prasad Nadig, available at

Jaisim put me in touch with K. Udaya, current Government Architect of Karnataka, or Principal Chief Architect as the position is now called. In his office is a commemorative plaque listing in Kannada all the Government Architects of Mysore State, and later Karnataka State.



Caption: The commemorative plaque in K. Udaya’s office listing the following architects: 1. Krumbigal [Krumbiegel], 2. Lakshminarasappa, 3. Kunis Burger [Koenigsberger], 4. Subba Rao, 5. B.R. Manickam, 6. V. Hanumantha Rao Naidu, 7. Chief engineer’s realm, 8. T.J. Das, 9. M. Venkataswamy, 10. Prof. Kiran Shankar, 11. K. Udaya, 12. K. Udaya.

Not only did Udaya generously spend time talking to me, he also invited me to give a lecture on Otto Koenigsberger’s work in Bangalore for his staff at the PWD, bringing the story full circle.



Caption: Rachel Lee with Principal Chief Architect K. Udaya and his team at the PWD Bangalore, 2014

[1] Koenigsberger Papers/Jewish Museum Berlin: letter from Otto Koenigsberger to Susanna Koenigsberger dated 12 August 1939. Translation from original German: You know that I have had great difficulties here during the last weeks and have had to and still have to fight with all my strength for my position. They want to prevent me from becoming permanently employed, and would rather put an Indian in my place (nationalism like everywhere) and have put a refined system of intrigues into action, which I, simpleton, only realised much too late. One of the tricks was to withdraw all the draughtsmen from me, so that I had to do all the work myself and thereby lost an immense amount of time. In order to not fall behind, everything else, even the letters to Mum and you, had to be left aside. The battle continues, but at least I now know what’s going on and can defend myself.

[2] As a German citizen and “enemy alien”, Koenigsberger was interned for 6 weeks after the outbreak of WWII

[3] Koenigsberger Papers/Jewish Museum Berlin: letter from Otto Koenigsberger to Käthe Koenigsberger dated 27 October 1939.