Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Jane Drew, Architect

Dame Jane Drew (1911-1996) was one of Britain's most distinguished architects and urban planners. Brought up by a humanist father who "despised the profit motive and abhorred cruelty", she had a compassion for both architecture and humanitarian concerns and worked on the principle that architecture had to provide a space in which human being could flourish (via).

"The first thing I learned from Jane was that the Office did not employ men and women, but architects and each was rewarded on merit unrelated to sex." Frank Knight, employee at the practice from 1947
Jane Drew, born Iris Estelle Radcliffe Drew and registered as Joyce Beverly Drew (via), had made a secret pact with her classmate Peggy Ashcroft that they would pursue a career and keep using their own names (via). Nevertheless, she was often introduced as "Mrs Maxwell Fry", the wife of the well-known architect - an architect's wife rather than an architect in her own right (Jackson & Holland, 2014). Once, when she was introduced by her married name as "Mrs Fry", she pulled the speaker's sleeve and corrected him quietly: "I'm sorry Mrs Fry can't be with us tonight, instead Miss Jane Drew has kindly accepted to replace her." (via).
In the 1930s, it was not easy for a female architect to find work and in order to succeed, "women were forced by social and cultural expectations to tread a very fine line with regard to gender identity". Women were expected to be gentle and modest and Drew did not adhere to these rules. For her, gender was a non-issue. As a reaction to the discrimination she had experienced as a graduate, she decided to employ only women staff when she set up her own office (Jackson & Holland, 2014) which she initially did (via).

The "Jane Drew Prize" is an award given by the Architect's Journal to persons who show "innovation, diversity and inclusiveness in architecture" recognising a "contribution to the status of women in architecture" (via).

- Jackson, I. & Holland, J. (2014). The Architecture of Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew: Twentieth Century Architecture, Pioneer Modernism and the Tropics. Farnham & Burlington: Ashgate
- photographs of Jane Drew (with Le Corbusier and husband Maxwell Fry in Chandigarh, (c) FLC/ADAGP) via and via and via


  1. I met her once in college way back! She did a lecture on architecture and urbanism, when I remeber correctly. Anyway, she was great!

    1. Wow, I bet that was exciting! Great! Thanks, Karen!

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you so much for commenting, Derek!