Otto Koenigsberger, draft town plan for Mithapur, Gurjarat, 1948

Otto Koenigsberger, schematic town plan for Mithapur, Gurjarat, 1948

The AA Archives is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Otto Koenigsberger Archive. Donated by Koenigsberger’s late wife, Renate, this hugely important archive contains a wealth of material relating to one of the most influential figures in modern urban development planning, and includes 5 portfolios of drawings, alongside 61 boxes of research notes, unpublished mss, teaching materials and other documentation. The contents of the archive range from Otto’s student work of the 1920s and early 30s, through his work in India in the 1940s and 50s, to his subsequent leadership of the AA Department of Tropical Architecture, UCL’s Development Planning Unit and his advisory work for the UN.

Otto Koenigsberger (1908-1999), was born in Berlin and attended the Technische Hochschule, graduating in 1931, under Hans Poelzig, going on to win the prestigious Schinkel Prize and work for the Prussian Government. In 1933, with the rise of the Nazi party, he left for Egypt, where he worked as an archaeologist for the Swiss Institute for the History of Egyptian Architecture in Cairo. In 1939 he was appointed the Chief Architect and Planner of the Princely State of Mysore, a role which saw him based in Bangalore and responsible for designing a wide range of buildings from colleges, universities, and other public buildings, to alterations to the Maharajah’s palace and the master-planning of towns such as Mithapur and Jamshedpur. Following Indian Independence, Prime Minster Nehru appointed Koenigsberger as Federal Director of Housing, with the key task of resettling refugees displaced by partition, a role that saw him involved in the planning of Gandhidham, Gujarat and Bhubneshwar, Orissa, together with a number of new towns. In 1951 he came to the UK and was one of the instigators of the AA’s pioneering Department of Tropical Architecture, which he was to lead from 1957-71. It was from here that he articulated his influential concept of ‘action planning’ and, alongside his teaching, participating as consultant or adviser on numerous important UN workshops, missions and Overseas Development Administration projects. In 1972 the Department transferred to University College London, where Koenigsberger continued as Head and was UCL’s first Professor of Development Planning, subsequently publishing his classic ‘Manual of Tropical Housing’ (1974). A founder of ‘Habitat International’ and Editor in Chief from 1976, Koenigsberger was the first recipient of the UN’s ‘Habitat Scroll of Honour’ (1989).