Following its establishment in 1953 at the Architectural Association (AA) in London, the Department of Tropical Studies (DTS) exported climate-based methodologies of architectural design and development planning to countries in the Global South. These methodologies were developed as the DTS reshaped architectural institutions and their curricula, regulated planning practice and legislation, and trained leading architects in and from these regions. The bulk of the DTS’s archive within the AA Collections consists of the papers of its departmental directors, with more than 50 boxes containing piles of planning reports written from London for architecture in countries all over the Global South.
Through displays in the Front Members’ Room and AA Gallery the exhibition reveals stories that highlight the rich and diverse approaches contributed by ‘peripherised’ figures within the DTS. An ensemble of archival documents sits alongside artworks by Magda Cordell, Avinash Chandra, Bruce Onobrakpeya and Susanne Wenger, among others, who worked with DTS architects. These are accompanied by archival reconstructions and commissioned works by artists Ato Jackson and Mariana Castillo Deball that explore marks in the DTS archive as potential histories for alternative futures.
As Hardly Found in the Art of Tropical Architecture is curated and coordinated by Albert Brenchat Aguilar. Assistant Curation and exhibition Design is by Ella Mahalia Adu.
This exhibition is possible thanks to the kind support of the Architectural Association, the Bartlett School of Architecture’s Architecture Research Fund, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the Chase Doctoral Partnership at the Birkbeck School of Arts and the Architecture Space and Society Centre, the Elephant Trust, Fringe UCL, the Goethe-Institut London and Conservation by Design.