Fry and Drew: Conference

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 17

Tim Livsey, ‘Fry and Drew at Ibadan: rethinking the “colonial modern”‘

This paper considers Fry and Drew’s buildings for University College Ibadan (UCI), Nigeria. These buildings have often recently been interpreted as part of a post-war ‘colonial modern’ moment, which saw a pact between rationalist urban planning and authoritarian colonial power. Colonial modern planning, including Fry and Drew’s work at Ibadan, has been interpreted as excluding indigenous voices from planning and upholding colonial power.

The paper uses the history of the UCI buildings to qualify colonial modern interpretations. It shows how Nigerian agendas influenced the planning of the buildings through a long pre-history of Nigerian thinking on higher education, and the acquisition of the site, which involved negotiations between the colonial state and local chiefs. Fractures within the colonial establishment are considered, including those between architects and client, suggesting that there was not an integrated colonial modern machine. The unexpected variety in the buildings’ reception and use is also considered, to explore the ways the buildings were interpreted by Nigerians.

However, the paper also endorses aspects of the colonial modern view, showing how Fry and Drew’s apparently apolitical ‘modern’ spaces were closely imbricated with colonial-era urbanism and constructions of whiteness. As such the buildings represented an ambivalent legacy to a decolonizing country.

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Tim Livsey is an AHRC funded PhD student at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is currently completing a thesis on ‘The University Age: Development and Decolonisation in Nigeria, 1930 to 1966’, which makes special reference to built environments, including Fry and Drew’s work at the University of Ibadan.

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