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Tropical Architecture

William Anthony Henderson (1914-1998): Projects in the Middle East with Farmer and Dark

Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson, c.1980s.

Henderson studied at Liverpool School of Architecture commencing his studies during Prof. Charles Reilly’s final year as Head of School in 1932. He described it as, ‘exciting times for me both in student work and in vacations when, twice with my friend Roger Ward, I travelled by cargo boat on cheap mail fare in Italy, Germany and Scandinavia and worked in the USA [for William Lescaze] and Canada in 1936’. Reilly would often arrange work experience for his students in New York during the summer before their final year and Henderson recorded the sojourn in his sketchbooks.

 

He returned to Liverpool and completed his thesis entitled, ‘A Residential group for the University of London’ before being awarded both the prestigious John Rankin Prize and Honan travelling scholarship that funded a research trip to Chile, the findings of which were later published in the Architectural Review. Although professing ‘little experience of nitty gritty’ he worked for Grey Wornum and was about to start work for Shepherd & Partners when war was declared on 1st September 1939. After signing-up to serve, he was posted to Turkey on a troop ship via Sierra Leone, round the Cape through the Suez Canal to Ismailia, with the final stretch by air. He served in the Royal Engineers designing roads and airfields (the illustrated diaries from this period are now housed in the Imperial War Museum).

Returning to the UK in 1945 he worked at Hertfordshire County Architects on their radical school building programmes. He joined the firm of Farmer and Dark in 1951, becoming partner in 1954 until his retirement in 1980. The practice was renowned for handling large complex projects and as their 1955 practice brochure notes, ‘there can be no casual atelier character for a team over a hundred strong’. Many large-scale projects were overseen by Henderson during this period, including the Automobile Association HQ and he was Consultant Architect to Kent University (taking over from Lord Holford), where amongst others he designed the Senate House, Keynes College, the Gulbenkian Theatre, as well as shaping the Master Plan – but what interests us here is the work at Kuwait, Aden and Lebanon.

 

Henderson set up the Farmer and Dark Middle Eastern Office in Beirut to handle the large number of projects being commissioned in the region, including in Turkey and Cyprus. He first visited Kuwait in 1952, following the commission to design a power station and water distillation plant at Kuwait Town. Prior to the water plant, all fresh water had to be imported from Iraq. Building materials, including bricks, were imported from the UK, but post-war building rations resulted in the steel being sourced from Belgium. The large mass of the power station is dispersed through projecting triangular cornices and sloped vertical fins, that add shadow, texture and rhythm to the substantial volumes.

The Kuwait water towers, as drawn here by Cyril Farey, show a similar concern for using climatic modification to inform the character and formal composition. There is a restrained pragmatic approach to their work, as well as a concern for bold outlines and a clarity in the formal layout and planning. Further work was won including two primary schools, and an Engish Public School in Lebanon (subsequently abandoned following the 1958 Lebanon Crisis).

The Kuwait Team at Farmer and Dark

The Kuwait Team at Farmer and Dark – note the power station photo on the right hand side

L: Bill Henderson, M: Frankland Dark; R: T. A. Eaton

L: Bill Henderson, M: Frankland Dark; R: T. A. Eaton

Farmer and Dark also designed a new lavish palace for the Sheikh Jabir Al Ali. There were many references to local patterns and decoration, and bold colours deployed to resist the strong sunlight. A series of hyperbolic arches forms a parasol over the main building, offering some shade to the structure below as well as adding a sense of grandeur and civic stature to the design.

Construction at Little Aden, 1960-1965

Construction at Little Aden, 1960-1965

Perspective of the proposed town of Little Aden

Perspective of the proposed town of Little Aden

The Church and Clock Tower at Little Aden, 1965

The Church and Clock Tower at Little Aden, 1965

Church Interior, Little Aden, looking up into the lantern, 1965

Church Interior, Little Aden, looking up into the lantern, 1965

Perhaps the highlight of this work is the British Army Cantonment at Little Aden designed and built between 1960-65 to house 4500 servicemen and their families. A small town was planned including a variety of different housing types for the various army ranks, as well as a school, sports facilities, cinema, clubhouses and a church. The entire town was designed around a modular system ensuring minimum site work, quick construction and standard details, as well as a progressive approach to data management and standardised drawing processes.

In stark contrast to the earlier reserved work the square timber trusses of the church are alternately stacked at 45° to the layer below to create a dramatic interior, as well as responding to the mountainous backdrop with its external form. It was a roofing technique dating back at least to the time of Vitruvius, who mentioned its use at Colchis. The church was subsequently converted into a mosque after the British were evacuated in November 1967 following attacks from the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY). The press speculated that the settlement was designed with Arab occupation in mind from the outset – a claim rejected by the architects who designed ‘for the conditions of Arabia and in character with the terrain, so the buildings are bound to be apt for other use, than by the British army’. The arrangement of the church sited on a rocky spur of the Jebel, ‘not only proves to have an affinity with the stone forts of South Arabia but also to the traditional relationship of mosque to minaret.’ Indeed, the architects considered the possibility of the church being converted into a mosque in the event of the British departing.

There’s a lot more to discuss about Farmer and Dark, and the significant contribution made by people such as Bill Henderson to this practice. We hope to post a lot more images and details on the blog in the next few months to bring more of this work to light.

I’m extremely grateful and indebted to Tessa and Kathy Henderson for generously sharing their father’s archive with me.

 

 

 

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It is with great sadness that the AA has learnt of the death of former AA Principal Professor Michael Lloyd (AADipl 1953). The following obituary, written by Svein Erik Svendsen, Hans Skotte and Patrick Wakely is translated from Norwegian by Desmond McNeill and originally published on the AA website.

Architect and multifarious professor Michael Lloyd was buried in Oslo on 16 June 2017.

With him we have lost one of the foremost architecture educators of our time; not just in Norway – his work and influence were global. He was born in England in 1927 and studied at the Architectural Association (AA) in London. Whilst still a student he took part in the post-war reconstruction of Finnmark, Norway, and after graduating, Alvar Aalto arranged work for him in Helsinki. He then practiced in Oslo and taught at the School of Art & Craft where he met Catharine, who became his wife and lifelong companion.

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In 1959 he was appointed first year master at the AA, in charge of all new students to the school. In 1962 Kwami Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, approached the AA for assistance in re-organising and running its faculty of architecture that had been established in 1951, but had become moribund. The AA responded to this and gave the job to Michael Lloyd, who was appointed professor and dean of the faculty in 1963. He immediately appointed several new full-time members of teaching staff, several of whom were drawn from the AA Department of Development and Tropical Studies – later to become the Development Planning Unit (DPU) at University College London, and radically reorganised the curriculum and teaching style of the faculty. Over the following five years, Michael brought a number of interesting short-term visiting professors to the faculty, including Buckminster Fuller, Jane Drew, Keith Critchlow, Paul Oliver and Joseph Rykwert. The faculty gained an internationally acclaimed reputation for its innovation and educational and architectural excellence.

In 1966 he was appointed principal of the AA School of Architecture, where he also initiated new and challenging educational and administrative reforms. These were turbulent times for higher education in the United Kingdom and he left the AA after a few years. He then restored the School of Architecture in Kingston-upon-Hull and joined the DPU where he directed a Master’s degree programme in design teaching methods, as part of which he was instrumental in reforming the faculty of architecture at the University of Costa Rica in San José.

On leaving the DPU in the early 1980s, he assisted local efforts in establishing new schools of architecture in Bergen, Norway, where he remained a professor for several years and in Reykjavik, Iceland. Thereafter he was appointed professor at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, where he, among other things, conducted a project at Makerere University in Uganda, which eventually encompassed the whole of East Africa.

As a teacher, and as the sympathetic man that he was, his work was based on the idea of “the responsible human being” that one learns through taking responsibility for one’s own professional development, and that one’s skills are a personal social responsibility. As an educator Michael was unorthodox, inspiring and very much present as a teacher. He was inquisitive, courageous, and knowledgeable and had highly respected friends all over the world. His international position remains outstanding. To become principal of the AA School of Architecture, which many regard as the world’s best school of architecture, one must possess very special qualifications. Michael had those. As was said during his funeral, “Michael was a truly good man”.

Image: Michael Lloyd at his home in Spain in November 2016, by Mónica Pacheco, Dip. Arch., MA, Ph.D., Department of Architecture and Urbanism, University Institute of Lisbon

New Research: Prof. Robert Home, ‘From cantonments to townships: Lugard’s influence upon British colonial urban governance in Africa’ in Planning Perspectives, Pages 1-22 | Published online: 20 Aug 2017

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02665433.2017.1359103

Abstract: The cantonment has been a neglected topic of planning history, yet is significant for urban landscapes and governance in both India and Africa. Drawing upon scholarship in critical comparative legal geography, path dependency and Foucault’s genealogical method, the article explores the transfer of laws and regulations for urban governance by networks of knowledge and actors, tracing a line of descent from rules for cantonments in British India, through Lugard’s Nigerian period, and his indirect rule policy to townships and local government ordinances. The influence of Lugard’s Political Memoranda and Dual Mandate books is evidenced through the work of various senior officials moving between colonies, specifically South Africa, Kenya, and Northern Rhodesia.

An interesting book and reappraisal of 20thC Modernist architecture by Freddy Gibberd’s grandson has been published by Phaidon http://uk.phaidon.com/store/architecture/ornament-is-crime-9780714874166/  

I was especially pleased to see Kenneth “Winky” Scott’s house in Accra included:

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More here: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/jul/19/modernist-architecture-photography-corbusier-concrete-gibberd-hill

Ola Uduku and colleagues at Edinburgh University hosted an excellent workshop this week on West African Modernism, combining some of the sessions with Docomomo Africa. The result was a very rich series of encounters, exchanges and discussions.

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Ilze Wolff presenting Rex Truform’s factory in Cape Town

Ilze Wolff gave a very poignant paper on Rex Truform, the clothing factory in Cape Town designed by Max Policansky in 1937. Ilze’s investigation goes beyond the built fabric and stylistic qualities of the structure – it considers the workers’ stories and what it was like to be a part of the everyday life of this significant building in the city. Ilze is also publishing her findings and interventions through a series of booklets: see Open House Architecture for more details.

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Shantanu Subramaniam’s presentation on Community Centres and Libraries in Ghana

Shantanu Subramaniam presented his recent fieldwork on the community centres and libraries of Ghana. In addition to architectural surveying and cataloguing Shantanu is also considering the environment performance of these structures and testing their ability to modify climate and interior temperatures.

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Joe Addo’s skype presentation on modern architecture in Accra

Joe Osae-Addo joined us via Skype and shared his film on modern architecture in Accra. The film presented an autobiographical account of Accra and its modern architecture, as seen and experienced by Joe from his childhood onwards. It is a compelling piece that will deliver far more impact in changing ‘hearts and minds’ than reports and conservation legislation.

You can watch the film here: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/s/hav96uun

We also discussed the DOCOMOMO presence in Africa and whether there should be regional groups [such as West Africa, Southern Africa and so on], to generate a more critical mass and greater influence. The reliance on the fiche methodology was also questioned – or at least its limits acknowledged – and we considered the use of ‘narrative’ and social history as a means of generating meaning, significance and connection to these structures beyond the fetishisation of the physical attributes, and tangible qualities.

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Cumbernauld townscape

On the final day we were treated to a site visit to the new town of Cumbernauld, and Stirling University.

Urban Heritage Activism
Thursday 16 March – Friday 17 March, 09:00-18:00
TU Berlin, Hardenbergstr. 16-18, 10623 Berlin
Register: contact@urbannarratives.org
www.urbannarratives.org

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The two-day Urban Heritage Activism conference will focus on heritage ‘from below’–urban history as it is lived, represented and transformed by local communities in diverse geographies and cultural contexts. Speakers from grassroots movements, academic and cultural institutions will address political ramifications and power struggles related to heritage and introduce the failures and solutions of various activism projects, especially in postcolonial contexts. Contributors will debate contemporary tensions and future strategies for interventions through a roundtable discussion at the end of each day.

In addition to the stimulating conference programme, the Simulizi Mijini / Urban Narratives exhibition Juxtaposing Narratives: Dar es Salaam and Berlin will open at 8pm on Friday 17 March with a cooking performance, live music and a DJ. Walking tours and film screenings will round off the programme of events.

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Speakers and moderators: Erica Abreu, Jully Acuna, Yaşar Adanali, Awami Art Collective, Comfort Badaru, Diane Barbé, Shraddha Bhatawadekar, Vittoria Capresi, Jerome Chou , Rebecca Corey, Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper, Matthias Einhoff, Anne-Katrin Fenk, Zinovia Foka, Susanne Förster, Benjamin Häger, Maj Horn, Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi, Sehr Jalil, Leila Javanmardi, Claudia Jürgens, Georg Krajewsky, Rachel Lee, Farah Makki, Sarita Mamseri, Srdjan Mandić, Mansion, Avehi Menon, Philipp Misselwitz, Monika Motylinska, Rishika Mukhopadhyay, Laura Murray, Marcelo Murta, Naira Mushtaq, Cord Pagenstecher, Luise Rellensmann, Ana Luisa Ribeiro, Juliane Richter, Gözde Şarlak, Jona Schwerer, Annika Seifert, Gülsah Stapel, Samaila Suleiman and Mike Terry

Artists: Rehema Chachage, Cloud Chatanda, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, KUNSTrePUBLIK and Jan van Esch, Umesh Maddanahalli, Michelle Monareng, Patrick Mudekereza, Paul Ndunguru, Nadin Reschke, and Alex Römer

Lou Moon:   Viewing tropical materials, renewable technologies and local community engagement at a coastal resort.  

Ola Uduku Writes:

Climate responsive, tropical architecture using locally sourced materials remains a rarity in West Africa, therefore setting foot at the remote coastal Lou Moon resort was a revelation. At first glance this seemed like yet another ‘safari-architecture’ beach resort on the Ghanaian coastline [20 minutes drive from Axim]. The first view of a dining area with non-local thatch roofing initially suggesting a copy of an aesthetically pleasing safari ‘hang out’ for expatriates and daring local tourists willing to get to this off-the-beaten-track location.

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“Are we nearly there yet?” The track to Lou Moon

On closer inspection and conversation with Lou Moon’s designer and owner Paul Ramlot, it was explained to us that the roofing is not indigenous to Ghana’s coastal communities but was indeed an import from the middle to northern part of Ghana. He had worked with northern Ghanaian thatchers and local craftsmen to ensure the construction of a watertight roof covering. He explained that this had been achieved successfully, and the only problems that had been encountered since it had been completed were with with local bats and grass cutters, that from time to time nest and forage in the thatch. Catching them was tricky  – but sonic deterrents were now being successfully used.

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Architect and owner of Lou Moon, Paul Ramlot with Ola Uduku

After a good lunch from an impressive menu boasting  European – Ghanaian ‘gastro’ cuisine and the option of good French wine (which we declined) we were shown more of the resort. The owner had worked hard to tame the land jutting out to the sea and create a number of secluded chalets, using locally sourced building materials and oriented to allow local ventilation and lighting. Whilst specialist bath fittings were imported, 90 % of the materials were sourced locally and the owner worked  with local craftsmen to develop the accommodation at the resort. This was a textbook demonstration on what is possible but has rarely been achieved in contemporary West Africa.

By working with local craftsmen, and employing local staff at the resort he had also both given employment opportunities in a part of Ghana where there are few such opportunities available. He also had a working arrangement with the ‘chief’ and ultimate owner of the land on which the Lou Moon Resort has been built. A share of the profits is paid to the chief and his community.

Resort chalets had solar photovoltaics incorporated into their design, and wireless communication, and electricity were freely available along with a large satellite dish in clear view. Interestingly on arrival we noted a number of vehicles with diplomatic number plates, possibly the remoteness of the location had in the past made it the perfect retreat, one wonders whether this remains so appealing, now that it is hooked up to the world via its telecommunications systems. Judging by the resident clientele at the resort in the January off peak season this didn’t seem to be the case.

We left musing that it took a Belgian expatriate to rediscover local materials and encourage local design talent in this remote part of Ghana. His design model had been so successful that he was in conversation with local elites to develop a similar resort on private land to reap these benefits. What was his most serious problem we asked him? He responded that it was the noise from the local community at funerals and other festivals…

We hope that a cordial arrangement can be agreed to secure the serenity of this snapshot of tropical architectural paradise. We made ‘design attribution’ peace with the non-local indigenous thatch roofing, we saw no vermin, enjoyed the shade and couldn’t fault its aesthetic contribution to what had been a truly revealing ‘Lou Moon’ experience.