Learning From The Tropics
Maxwell Fry



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Maxwell Fry

©Monica Pidgeon


When the colonising nations of Europe first entered the tropics, first went to India, they brought with them the architecture that they practised at home. It was a classical architecture which you will find the remains of in Calcutta and Madras today in South India. And wherever the British went, they brought with them whatever architecture they had. So when, immediately after the war, we went to West Africa, what did we take with us? ('we' means Jane Drew and myself acting as partners). Certainly not the traditional architecture of England. Instead of that, we took a kind of apparatus of thought which had been gathered together from our days - from my days, particularly, in the MARS Group and in the international congresses with the continental architects. And this was an apparatus of thought, of puzzling out the problems of architecture from the beginning, in a kind of logical way but with feeling. And it happened in this way: that we had been town-planning in these four colonies along the west African coast, and one night we were taking home the man that was acting governor, named James Gurney, to their bungalow, and Jimmy said "Do you know that we're going to be first in the race? That the British Government has devoted two hundred million pounds to be spent on new schools and new institutions in the colonies, and we're going to be first in this, and build a big ring of secondary schools and teacher- training colleges?". And he said "we might send to London for some bigwig, but here are you two nice people here deep in the thing and loving it. what about you?". So we took this on.





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West Africa - Wesley Girls' Secondary School, Cape Coast

©Fry Drew & Partners


And this was a big ring of secondary schools and teacher-training colleges, each of them a unit consisting of the complete school attached to a mission, because the missions were the only people who taught in those places. Because the British Governments have always left things alone, left the people alone with their own things; and if the 'missioners' wanted to teach, let them teach. They weren't like the Germans or other people, they didn't impose a great educational thing on the natives, as it were. And so these schools were all attached to missions.







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