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Otto2 Mithapur 1948 (Crinson Birkbeck).jpg

Shaping Postcolonial Worlds

AHRC/CHASE Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD studentship in collaboration with Birkbeck (University of London) and the Architectural Association Archive

‘Shaping Postcolonial Worlds – Otto Koenigsberger, Global Architecture, and the Networks of the International Planning Consultant’

Qualification type: PhD
Location: London
Funding for: UK Students / EU Students
Funding amount: AHRC stipend: for the academic year 2019-20, the stipend will be £17,559 with London weighting. This includes enhanced stipend to cover additional travel costs relating to the project.
Hours: Full or Part Time
Closes: Friday 3 May 2019, 12 noon

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 a three-year 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. Koenigsberger was instrumental in the Architectural Association’s Department of Tropical Architecture, he led UN missions and programmes and was employed as a consultant by many newly-independent nations. The project is concerned with how architectural knowledge related to these networks and their modes of dissemination. The award holder will work closely on the Koenigsberger Papers held by the AA Archive and will be offered extensive research training, experience of curating, and cataloguing skills. 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.

The studentship

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 post-colonial 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. 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.

This funded PhD is centred on the work of a key figure in this phenomenon. 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 where he established his educational work and became an international and United Nations consultant.

A golden thread of expertise was spun by the international planning consultant. In Koenigsberger’s case, as in many others’, this linked the colonial metropole and its satellites, through a web of new institutions and disciplines like ‘tropical architecture’, to the post-colonial world of the United Nations and the new nation-states and their condition of under-development. 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 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.

Accordingly, the aims of the project are –

  1. 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’.

  2. 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.

  3. To situate these networks of expertise and knowledge in relation to the profession, institutions and practices of architecture.

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). 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). In parallel, Koenigsberger was also 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.

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.

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.

The candidate:

Essential skills/attributes: The candidate will have a BA and MA in History of Art, Architecture, Planning, History, or some clearly related discipline. She/he 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 the candidate would already have advanced knowledge of twentieth century architectural history.

How to apply

Applications for this studentship must be made via the Birkbeck, University of London website

Terms and conditions

The studentship is subject to RCUK eligibility criteria, and will cover home or EU fees and stipend at RCUK rates for a maximum of three years full-time, or six years part-time study.

Informal Enquiries

Informal enquiries about this collaborative project can be sent to Mark Crinson (

Closing Date:              Friday 3 May, 2018, 12:00
Interview Date:          Between 6 and 17 May, 2019