‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 1
Christina Papadimitriou, ‘Houses of Chandigarh’.
“Birth is an impingement by an environment which insists on being important… To be born or to relive birth is to experience the feeling of being in the grips of something external.” Donald Winnicott
This paper will narrate the story of the housing schemes of Chandigarh built in a period of anxiety shortly after India’s independence in 1947. Following Nihal Perera’s argument that Chandigarh is a hybrid of imaginations negotiated between multiple agencies rather than a single author’s creation, the narrative will try to give an account of the different voices expressed and the different visions of modernity moving between individuals – as diverse as Otto Koenigsberger, Albert Mayer, Matthew Nowicki, Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret – and national and institutional platforms.
The main argument will be made in terms of international relationships, with major and minor players, as they manifest themselves in the building of the houses of Chandigarh and not in post-colonial terms since the latter frame of thought has the tendency to reduce the ex-colony to the role of a post-colony. Thus, by focusing on Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, this paper will compare their housing projects in Chandigarh not only to their work in West Africa or in the Middle East, as is usually the case, but also with their projects in Britain such as the two schemes designed for Harlow, the Tany’s Dell and Chantry housing groups. Since Fry and Drew were also responsible for the bye-laws provisioned for Chandigarh, similarities and differences between them and those of the London County Council will also be drawn. The paper’s aim is to demonstrate a process of modernization that affects everyone but where “effects” on a specific subject depend on the latter’s position in the instance of modernization.
Christina Papadimitriou is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University where she received her M.A. in 2011. She also holds an M.A. (Dist.) in Histories and Theories from the Architectural Association in London, a Diploma (Dist.) in Architecture from the University of Patras and a Diploma in Art and Archaeology (Dist.) from the University of Athens. Her dissertation studies the MARS Group in Britain from 1933 until 1957. Starting as a marginal architectural group, MARS acquired a preeminent position both in England and abroad after the Second World War and played an important role in the way the modern movement was perceived and disseminated globally. The dissertation takes on specific themes of shared interest as indicated by the group’s organized committees and narrates the MARS story through exemplary but formally diverse solutions to the obstacles the group had identified in Britain’s way to modernism.