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Shaping Postcolonial Worlds: Otto Koenigsberger, Global Architecture and the Networks of the International Planning Consultant

Birkbeck, University of London and the Architectural Association Archive invite applications for an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award beginning 1 October 2019. This PhD research will examine the post-WW2 work and influence of Otto Koenigsberger (1908-99) as part of the postwar phenomenon of the international planning consultant.

Fact file

  • Qualification type: PhD
  • Location: London
  • Funding for: UK students / EU students
  • Length: up to four years full time/seven years part time
  • Funding amount: AHRC stipend: for the academic year 2019-20, the stipend will be [£15,559 non London / £17,559 with London weighting]. This includes enhanced stipend to cover additional travel costs relating to the project.
  • Hours: full- or part-time
  • Closing date: Friday 3 May 2019, 12 noon
  • Interview date: Between 6 and 17 May 2019
  • Enquiries: for informal enquiries, please .

BACKGROUND

  • The international planning consultant was a new figure in the global built environment after WW2. Bestriding the newly emerging circuits of globalisation, embracing the dynamic of decolonisation and moulding the new patterns of ‘export architecture’ from First and Second Worlds to Third, the consultant phenomenon was short-lived but highly influential. The role of such consultants was to advise governments and international agencies on urban development and the provision of the architectural infrastructure and technical aid for modernisation (housing, health, transport facilities, industry, even entirely new cities). They were particularly called on in situations, notably those of postcolonial nation-states, where professional skills and bodies were relatively undeveloped. Their prime tools were the master plan and the advisory report, and the effect of their advocacy could be profound and lasting for the societies it dealt with. A golden thread of expertise was spun by the international planning consultant, which linked the colonial metropole and its satellites, through a web of new institutions and disciplines like ‘tropical architecture’, to the postcolonial world of the United Nations and the new nation-states and their condition of under-development. Usually architect-trained and as skilled in running multi-disciplinary teams as in stalking the corridors of government and international bodies, such consultants included Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, Constantinos Doxiadis, Robert Matthew, Patrick Abercrombie, Michel Ecochard, Charles Abrams, Ernest Weissman, and Piotr Zaremba.

About Otto Koenigsberger

  • Otto Koenigsberger (1908-1999) had an extraordinary life and career. Studying at the Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg and working at the Berlin State Architecture Department, he was forced to flee by the rise of the National Socialist Party. From Egypt, where he worked as an archaeologist, he moved to India to work as architect for the princely state of Mysore, where he first developed forms of tropical architecture. Having experienced post-independence India, Koenigsberger moved in 1951 to London. During this period Koenigsberger acted as an international planning consultant to many newly independent nations including those of Pakistan, Nigeria, Ceylon and the Philippines. He also played a leading role in numerous UN missions and programmes to countries including Singapore (where his ‘Ring Plan’ concept, developed in association with Charles Abrams and Susumu Kobe was formally adopted in 1971), Burma, Zambia and Lagos. Koenigsberger’s advisory powers also extended into architectural education, working with the UN Technical Assistance Programme to plan the first syllabus for the Escuela de Arquitectura (University of Costa Rica). He was instrumental in establishing and running the Architectural Association’s Department of Tropical Architecture (1954-1970), which recruited to its teaching ranks many of the leading theorists and practitioners in this area and had a global impact through its training of many leading postcolonial architects and planners, including Ram Karmi, Denise Scott Brown, Muzharul Islam and Valentine Gunasekara.

Project aims and objectives

  • This funded PhD is concerned with how architectural knowledge related to these networks and their modes of dissemination. The objective is to use Koenigsberger’s work and career to engage with a set of issues around architectural modernism and its relation to modes of knowledge and power in the first postwar phase of globalisation. While Koenigsberger’s work will be at the heart of the project, it might also draw on comparisons with other similar experts using the range of secondary material that has been published in recent years. 
  • The aims of the project are:
    • to use Koenigsberger’s work to identify the range of expertise required by the international planning consultant and new bodies of knowledge, most especially ‘tropical architecture’
    • to describe the networks of dissemination and influence that Koenigsberger engaged with and helped to produce, and to compare these with the networks of other international planning consultants
    • to situate these networks of expertise and knowledge in relation to the profession, institutions and practices of architecture.

Project resources

  • Research for the project will be centred on the Otto Koenigsberger Papers at the AA Archive. Donated in 2012, the papers are of remarkable scope, documenting every phase of his career. The research will focus on the long final phase of Koenigsberger’s career, to which the majority of papers are devoted (the earlier two phases have been well-covered in Rachel Lee’s doctoral dissertation, Negotiating Modernities: Otto Koenigsberger’s Works and Networks in Exile, TU Berlin, 2014). 

Planned outputs and outcomes

  • As well as a completed PhD thesis, the student will be expected to curate an exhibition on one aspect of Koenigsberger’s work, to organize a one-day conference on the larger phenomenon of the international planning consultant, and to contribute substantially to the cataloguing of the Koenigsberger Papers.

Supervisors

  • Based in Birkbeck’s Department of History of Art, the PhD will be supervised by Professor Mark Crinson and Dr Leslie Topp. Edward Bottoms will offer supervision at the AA Archive, particularly in matters regarding cataloguing and curating the collection.

Eligibility criteria

  • Essential skills/attributes: You will have a BA and MA in History of Art, Architecture, Planning, History, or some clearly related discipline. You must be willing to learn cataloguing skills and to take on cataloguing and curating responsibilities in addition to those of the PhD.
  • Desirable skills/attributes: Ideally, you will already have advanced knowledge of twentieth-century architectural history.
  • CHASE values the diversity of its staff and students, and we welcome applicants from all backgrounds. We particularly encourage applicants from BAME backgrounds because these are currently under-represented.

How to apply

  • There are two steps:
    • You need to apply for this studentship by downloading and completing the application form. You will need to send your completed application form and references to , no later than 3 May 2019.
    • Please note the successful applicant will be required to complete an application for a place of study on the MPhil/PhD History of Art programme at Birkbeck, University of London.

Terms and conditions

  • The studentship is subject to RCUK eligibility criteria, and will cover home or EU fees and stipend at RCUK rates. The studentship will provide up to three years' funding for full-time students with the opportunity to extend to a maximum of four years' full-time support. Part-time applications are welcome and will be awarded on an equivalent pro-rata basis.