Fry and Drew: Buildings Now

Mfantsipim School, Cape Coast, Ghana

In 1947, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew were commissioned to build a series of schools and teacher training colleges, primarily in the former British colony of the Gold Coast. The architects used the project as an opportunity to apply European ideals of modernism to a new environment, and their pioneering architectural approach was promoted as the realisation of a new era of mutual interest for Britain and the Gold Coast. Representative of newly-released resources from the Colonial and Welfare Development Fund, Fry and Drew’s educational buildings embodied the move toward colonial devolution.

At Cape Coast, Fry and Drew worked on three projects (more on these soon), including a series of extensions for Mfantsipim School. The first secondary school in the Gold Coast, Mfantsipim School was established in 1876 as part of the Methodist mission. Phase one of building works comprised a series of staff houses and a water tower, followed by a second phase of dormitory blocks, shown below.

13.2.8 mfant dorm

This block forms a gateway to the site. The driveway passes under the building and up to the main, hill-top campus. The ground floor bathroom block sits at right-angles to the dormitories above. The perforated balustrade evidently provided scant shading to the south elevation as further brise-soleil have since been added:

13.2.8 mfantdorm

For further discussion of Fry and Drew’s work in West Africa see the excellent: Mark Crinson, Modern Architecture and the End of Empire (Ashgate, 2003).

A pictorial archive of Mfantsipim School, from which the first image is taken, is available here. The second image was taken during a TAG visit in September 2012, © Jessica Holland.

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