Village Housing in the Tropics: With Special Reference to West Africa
The seminal book on Tropical Architecture by Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry has been republished by Routledge 66 years after its first edition was bravely produced by Lund Humpries.
The slender volume loaded with Fry’s cartoons and sketches became an instant hit, with its engaging insights and empirical findings. It was not aimed at the specialist or technician, rather the generalist and interested reader looking for quick tips to solve familiar problems. The book gives pragmatic advice on the siting of villages, housing orientation and matters relating to sanitation and health. Although the content was far from novel or radical, it presented previously dry and mundane material in a manner that was easy to understand, and encouraged greater attention to be given to the everyday housing problems of West Africa.
The book was used by Fry and Drew as a promotional tool, they included a copy along with their CV’s when applying to be considered for the University of Ibadan project and it almost certainly influenced their consideration for Chandigarh. It set them apart from others working in tropical regions, and with its emphasis on village housing firmly aligned them with the Colonial Office’s desire to promote ‘Development and Welfare’.
It almost goes without saying, but the publication was a product of its time and formed part of the colonial enterprise. Within the front and back endpapers of the book a map of the world is coloured to highlight Britain’s Colonial territories, highlighting where the book’s advice could be dispensed and treating all ‘tropical’ territories as one and the same irrespective of their specific contexts and climatic variations.