Fry and Drew: Conference

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 9

Antony Moulis, ‘Designing with landform and climate: Fry and Drew’s contribution to the Chandigarh master plan’

In the book Tropical Architecture in the Humid Zone (1956) Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew strongly criticise both ‘Garden City’ and ‘grid-iron’ layouts as ‘unrealistic’ to housing and town planning in the tropical context. Key to their own planning precepts is a practical concern for the relationship of landform and climate – the prevention of erosion, the securing of road drainage and respect for the natural contours – leading to housing layouts subtly adjusted to the prevailing conditions. For Fry and Drew such an approach emerged productively from their work begun in the British government’s West African colonies in 1944 and continued at Chandigarh, India, between 1951 and 1954. Their specific critique of both Garden City and grid-iron forms – the prevailing planning approaches in mid-20th century modernism – could be viewed as a direct legacy of their experiences in Chandigarh, where the partners found themselves working within the constraints of the city’s famous master plan, drawn by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, which was broadly understood as a rational gridded revision of the original Garden City plan devised by the US planner Albert Mayer. Yet subtle adjustments of the city’s gridded layout to account for features of the land reveal the greater agency of Fry and Drew in the master plan’s formation and speak of their knowledge and experience of planning in the tropics already gained from their West African work up to 1950.

Based on research of the architects’ archives held by the RIBA and the V&A Museum, this paper gathers evidence of Fry and Drew’s contribution to the Chandigarh master plan, drawing upon testimony of both partners of events surrounding the master plan’s making in early 1951. By seeing Chandigarh’s overall layout in context with the architects’ own strategies for housing and town planning in the tropics published between 1947 and 1956 the paper will argue the key role of Fry and Drew in substantiating the Chandigarh master plan as more than simply an abstract conceptualisation of city form.

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Antony Moulis is Associate Professor and Director of Research in the School of Architecture at the University of Queensland, Australia. His research on practices of design in mid-twentieth century modern architecture includes archival research at the Fondation Le Corbusier, the Alvar Aalto Academy, and the Canadian Architectural Archives. His architectural writing for professional and academic journals appears in ARQ, AA Files, Architectural Theory Review, Architecture Australia, Monument, Architectural Review Australia, and The Journal of Architecture. He is currently a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Discovery project on eminent Australian architect John Andrews, known for his work in North America in the 1960s and ‘70s, including Gund Hall at Harvard. Moulis co-convened the 2011 Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia & New Zealand, and was awarded Best Paper at the Society’s 2010 Conference for his research of the collaborative links between Jorn Utzon and Le Corbusier.

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