Funded PhD available: ‘Shaping Postcolonial Worlds: Otto Koenigsberger, Global Architecture and the Networks of the International Planning Consultant’.

Architectural Association Archives and Birkbeck, University of London  invite applications for a three-year or six-year part-time Collaborative Doctoral Award beginning 1 October 2019. This PhD research, supported through the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, will examine the post-WW2 work and influence of Otto Koenigsberger (1908-99) as part of the postwar phenomenon of the international planning consultant.

Research for the project will be centred on the Otto Koenigsberger Papers at the Architectural Association Archives. 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).

  • 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 contact Mark Crinson.

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.

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

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.


  • 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.


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