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Mary Norman Woods on Jane Drew Memoirs
31 March, 2021
Although there has been a Jane Drew Prize honouring innovation, diversity, and inclusiveness in architecture since 1998, writings about the award’s namesake are rather few in number: a tribute written by friends and colleagues on the occasion of her 75th birthday in 1986: a monograph on Drew and her partner and husband Maxwell Fry’s practice in 2014; two volumes on Drew and fellow Chandigarh architects Fry, Pierre Jeanneret, and Le Corbusier from 1999 and 2010; and a handful of articles, many about the Drew Prize winners rather than Drew herself.
However, Drew told her own story in these undated and still unpublished memoirs. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) holds a transcript of these memoirs with a photocopy on deposit at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). Since I cannot quote from either without the estate’s permission, I can only write (I trust) that Drew’s tone is conversational as she reflects on her life and work in England, Africa, India, and Iran. Here she privileges events, people, designing, and making rather than the buildings.
Drew’s memoirs deserve a much wider audience beyond those who can travel to either London or Montreal. I hope this entry encourages the prize committee members or RIBA or CCA to approach Drew’s estate about publishing them and then commissioning introductory essays (not only from Drew scholars but also prize winners) along with drawings and photographs from the Fry and Drew Papers at RIBA. It is a publication long overdue.
The manuscripts for Jane Drew’s unpublished memoirs are located at: Fry and Drew Papers, Royal Institute of British Architects Library [under library restrictions]; and Canadian Centre for Architecture (photocopy of transcript) [under library restrictions].