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Kashmir House, Prithviraj Road, Delhi (1927-29)

Richard Butler

Chetwode photo 1     Chetwode photo 2

Main entrance (left) and South façade, showing loggias (right), Kashmir House, Prithviraj Road, Delhi (1927-29). Photographed by Penelope Chetwode, c. 1931.

Designed by Walter Sykes George (1881-1962), with significant early input from Edwin Lutyens, Kashmir House is one of Delhi’s most engaging inter-war private residences. The house was designed for a wealthy Hindu banker, Sultan Sing, but his untimely death before the project was completed resulted in it being sold to the maharajah of Patiala, and later to the state of Kashmir.

Sing first asked Lutyens for a design in 1927, but relations between the two were strained and he soon approached George, who maintained a close friendship with Lutyens (his greatest influence). ‘I would like you to build a house for me’, he said, ‘to show what an Indian gentleman’s house should be’. Lutyens eventually backed out of the commission on the grounds that George, having lived continuously in India since 1915, would ‘understand better how an Indian gentleman liked to live’ (George’s words). ‘The banker’, he added, ‘wished to entertain in western fashion, and to have western guests to stay with him, while he, and his family, lived in orthodox Hindu fashion, and he gave dinners in that fashion.’

The building is a fascinating hybrid of Indian and western traditions. Almost all the important rooms are located on the ground floor – only bedrooms are upstairs. The space is laid out around an enclosed courtyard with open loggias to the south. A ground-floor corridor runs the entire length of the house, connecting the ‘western’ and ‘orthodox’ dining rooms, the smaller dining room, the drawing room, some of the bedrooms, and the main west entrance. In an effort to keep different kinds of foods separate – meat especially – the ‘Hindu’ and ‘English’ kitchens are in completely separate wings, though communication is possible between the two dining rooms, when required. There is also a Puja room for daily worship, and segregated entrances allow a more private entrance for the family and their servants, in contrast the more public porch or the trio of loggias, which open onto a garden.

Kashmir House plan first floor Kashmir House plan ground floor

Floor plans (with new labels superimposed), Kashmir House, Delhi. Originally published in Walter George, ‘The Architecture of Walter George’, Design (Bombay) (Sept., 1960)p. 21.

George used small windows and thick walls to counter the effects of the hot climate. The use of a courtyard and south-facing loggias meant that all the ground floor bedrooms, including the principal ones, are shaded and lit indirectly. Furthermore, the upstairs windows are sunken and mostly hidden from view from the garden and entrance driveway, which would have ensured privacy for Sing’s family, and the upstairs was likely reserved for family quarters. Curiously, George said he was aware of what Frank Lloyd Wright was doing at this time in America, but he could not copy them in India as both English and Hindu uses ‘require privacy, and there is little privacy in Wright’s houses.’

Kashmir House still exists, though much altered. With Sing’s death went the opportunity to use the building’s plan as originally intended.

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More information on the architecture of Walter George can be found in Richard Butler, ‘The Anglo-Indian architect Walter Sykes George (1881-1962): a Modernist follower of Lutyens’, Architectural History, vol. 55 (2012), pp. 237-68.

All images reproduced courtesy of Professor Gavin Stamp (original Chetwode photographs now kept by RIBA, London).

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‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 7

Viviana d’Auria, ‘“The most difficult architecture to create”:  Fry, Drew & Partners’ contested legacies and the vicissitudes of low-cost housing design in (post)colonial Ghana’.

As has been well documented, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew were intensely involved in British West Africa. From their Accra-based office, they designed the cornerstones of late colonial welfare development, ranging from hospitals to universities. Explorations of their West African work however, have neglected housing design, including the ways in which it confronted colonial antecedents and how expatriate practitioners and local professionals confronted its legacy. This disregard is all the more challenging seen the weight it had for Fry and Drew themselves, as well as its overall significance for general post-war technical assistance.

Indeed, in the case of housing conception too, the partnership’s work was envisaged at a time of confidence in the reconciliation of modernism and development within the walls of a low-income dwelling. Freshly-arrived in Chandigarh after several years spent in West Africa, Fry and Drew were important contributors at the United Nations Housing Seminar in New Delhi in 1953. At the event, their efforts not only earned them recognition with the prize-winning conception of House 23, but was also the topic of Fry and Drew’s paper, who underscored how low-cost dwellings were “of all architecture the most difficult to create”.

On such premises, this contribution focuses on pre-Chandigarh housing design in Ghana. By looking at cases from the Accra-Tema Metropolitan Area, it wishes to comment more particularly on how the partnership was concerned with indigenous dwelling cultures. It then reflects on how this centre of attention was (or not) picked up by international technical assistance and local government planning in the following decades. The notion of ‘growing’ and ‘extendable’ housing, in addition to gender-based typologies will be inquired into by means of selected cases such as the Jamestown slum clearance scheme, the work of the Tema Development Corporation and of the International Co-operative Housing Development Association.

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Viviana d’Auria is Lecturer in Human Settlements in Development at the Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning (University of Leuven) and NWO Rubicon fellow at the Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies (University of Amsterdam). Her dissertation Developing Urbanism in Development: Five Episodes in the Making of the Volta River Project in (Post-)colonial Ghana 1945-76 (KU Leuven, 2012) explored the contribution of transnational technical assistance projects to the epistemology of (post-)colonial urbanism through the particular case of the Volta River Project. Critical spatial analyses of modern dwelling environments and their lived-in ‘hereafter’ are an integral part of her research within a more general interest in modern urbanism in non-Western contexts. On this note, Viviana’s post-doctoral inquiry is comparatively exploring home space in Greater Accra and Lima by focusing on the socio-spatial history of modern ‘incremental’ neighbourhoods such as Tema Manhean and Villa El Salvador.

‘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, Keynote 1

Hilde Heynen, ‘Modernism, colonialism and feminism. Theoretical reflections on the entanglements in the life and work of Jane Drew’.

The entanglement between modernism and colonialism has been a topic of serious consideration in recent decades. Following the lead of Edward Said, it is argued that colonial discourse was intrinsic to European self-understanding: it is through their conquest and their knowledge of foreign peoples and territories (two experiences which usually were intimately linked), that Europeans could position themselves as modern, as civilized, as superior, as developed and progressive vis-à-vis local populations that were none of that. The crucial – if often only implicit – role of colonial discourse in the endeavour of modernism thus has to be acknowledged. Likewise it seems that modernism and feminism are in some sort of entanglement: they share – at least – the ideals of emancipation and liberation for all, although it is also clear that modernist discourse favours male protagonists and masculine interests.

Jane Drew as a person and an architect found herself in the midst of these entanglements. As a committed participant in the Modern Movement, she was engaged in questions of housing in the UK as well as elsewhere, in British colonies or ex-colonies. Her commitment to the Modern Movement was not contradictory to, but rather continuous with, her service to the colonial state. Her involvement in the construction of Chandigarh was also consistent with the hegemonic position of modernism, criticized by later postcolonial thinkers. As one of the very few active woman architects of her generation, she must have encountered quite some antagonism and sexism from colleagues, clients and superiors.

This lecture will ponder these entanglements, inquiring about Jane Drew’s position as a woman architect in the tropics, investigating whether the ‘colonial’ conditions offered her a kind of laboratory for deploying her full capacities as an architect, which might have been more difficult in the more conventional environment of the UK. The lecture will not focus on the life and work of Jane Drew as such, but rather use these as a starting point for developing some theoretical reflections.

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Hilde Heynen is Full Professor and Chair of the Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning at the University of Leuven. Her research focuses on issues of modernity, modernism and gender in architecture. She is the author of Architecture and Modernity. A Critique (MIT Press, 1999) and the co-editor of Back from Utopia. The Challenge of the Modern Movement (with Hubert-Jan Henket, 010, 2001), Negotiating Domesticity. Spatial productions of gender in modern architecture (with Gulsum Baydar, Routledge, 2005) and The SAGE Handbook Architectural Theory (with Greig Crysler and Stephen Cairns, Sage, 2012). She regularly publishes in journals such as The Journal of Architecture and Home Cultures.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 5

Jacopo Galli, ‘Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew – Architecture as a Climatic Device’.

With their numerous designs in West Africa from 1949 to 1960 Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew established an innovative design system that was later conceptualized in their book Tropical Architecture in the Dry and Humid Tropics in 1964. What is now known as Tropical Architecture consisted in a process of transculturalization of European modernism that was heavily influenced by climatic and social concerns. This design system can been seen as the sum and intersection of different climatic devices that were specifically thought in order to respond to one or more climatic inputs. Otto Koenisberger saw African vernacular architecture as a pedagogic model for the design of climatic devices: materials and technologies were used in order to achieve a balance with the environment.

Fry & Drew applied this concept and generated an impressive amount of architectural devices that were modified and overlapped in an anti-vernacular way. This can be considered an embryonic step towards a quantitative architecture not solely based on the designer’s genius but on a set of scientific data that influenced and transformed architecture.

This assumption does not affect the audacity and boldness of design: the research on innovative building materials or the regeneration of historical building techniques. Every design choice in Tropical Architecture was taken respecting the concepts of convenience and opportunity, shading devices or breathing walls took form based solely on climate and are a great example of anti-vernacular regional modernism.

Through a critical redrawing of the buildings it is possible to comprehend design mechanisms in order to verify how the different devices were used in response to the different climatic conditions. The research does not intend to verify the technological functionality of the devices but the architectural coherence displayed in their use. Understanding this design system allows us to retrace how architectural design could be shaped by climatic factors and scientific data, in order to comprehend an important step in the history of transnational modernism.

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Jacopo Galli is a PhD candidate at IUAV University in Venice. He holds a bachelor degree in Architecture from the University of Parma and a masters degree in Sustainable Architecture from IUAV University in Venice. He is currently working on a dissertation that investigates British Tropical architecture in West Africa of the 1940s and ’50s as an innovative design system representing an embryonic stage of climate responsive design. The dissertation is particularly focused on the book Tropical Architecture in the Dry and Humid Tropics seen as the masterpiece of Edwin Maxwell Fry’s and Jane Drew’s entire career. The analysis of the book will be carried out through an understanding of the main influences on Fry and Drew’s African designs such as Tropical Medicine and Colonial Technologies and through a critical redrawing and analysis of the buildings used as examples in the manual.

‘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).

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‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 3

Łukasz Stanek, ‘Tropical Architecture as Cold War Discourse in Post-Independence Ghana (1960–1966)’.

While scholars have convincingly linked the genealogy of tropical architecture to the colonial networks of the British Empire within the processes of decolonization, the role of Cold War dynamics in this genealogy has been much less recognized. This paper fills in this gap by discussing the cosmopolitan architectural practices in Ghana during the presidency of Kwame Nkrumah (1960–1966), with the specific focus on the Accra International Trade Fair. This ensemble was designed by architects and engineers from socialist Poland according to the principles of “tropical architecture” as advocated by Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew: the translation of modernist architecture according to local climate, technology, and society. The construction of the Fair was a part of broader debates on “building in the tropics” in the Soviet Union and Poland, in response to the engagements of professionals from socialist countries in Europe in Africa and Asia since the late 1950s. Yet in spite of being one of the most prominent ensembles in Nkrumah’s Accra, the Trade Fair was never included to publications about “tropical architecture” nor was it presented in the journal “Western African Architect and Builder” which promoted “tropical architecture” well into the 1970s. This absence needs to be seen as expressing the “intellectual division of labor” specific for the Cold War that allowed acknowledging the work of architects from socialist countries as technological objects, but not as architectural ones.

Based on archival research and fieldwork in Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and Ghana, this talk will show how the discourse on “tropical architecture” offered a way for expressing ideological and economic antagonisms among architectural practices in mid-1960s Accra. At the same time, this paper will signal points of connection among practitioners from both sides of the Iron Curtain in early post-independence Ghana, including the School of Architecture in Kumasi, where Fry and Drew would discuss the principles of tropical architecture with colleagues from Hungary and Yugoslavia.

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Łukasz Stanek is the 2011–2013 Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Visual Arts (CASVA), National Gallery in Washington and Lecturer at the Manchester Architecture Research Centre, University of Manchester. Stanek authored Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and he is currently editing Lefebvre’s unpublished book about architecture, Vers une architecture de la jouissance (1973). Stanek’s second field of research is the transfer of architecture from socialist countries to Africa and the Middle East during the Cold War. On this topic, he published ‘Miastoprojekt Goes Abroad. Transfer of Architectural Labour from Socialist Poland to Iraq (1958–1989)’ in The Journal of Architecture (17:3, 2012) and the book Postmodernism Is Almost All Right. Polish Architecture After Socialist Globalization (Fundacja Bęc-Zmiana Warsaw, 2012). He has taught at the ETH Zurich and Harvard Graduate School of Design.