Institut fur Tropenbau
2010 - date
Canadian Centre for Architecture
#architecture #urban planning #library #archive #urbanism
The Institut fur Tropenbau (Institute for Building in the Tropics) was a knowledge centre on building in the tropic, set up by Georg Lippsmeier in the 1960’s. In the 22 years of its active existence, an extensive and valuable library has been built up. This library was inherited by AAmatters and is now being make accessible worldwide in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
Georg Lippsmeier was born in 1923 in Magdeburg. Georg enrolled at the Technische Hochschule Braunschweig (Brunswick) for architectural studies straight after the end of the war in 1945. He completed his studies with a PhD on ecclesial architecture in 1949.
In 1950 Lippsmeier established his own practice, later internationally known as L+P Architects. In 1960, Lippsmeier and his family moved to Starnberg in Bavaria, where he opened a second office. Around the same time, Lippsmeier’s interest for tropical architecture was roused, resulting in a large amount of designed and built projects in the tropics. Lippsmeier would become the most successful German tropical architect from the 1960s to the 1990s. The office of L+P Architects has signed for an impressive amount of design and building projects in the tropics; in the Far East (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), in Asia (India, Pakistan), in Middle America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad) and, particularly, in Africa.
From the offices in Düsseldorf and Starnberg, satellite- or field-offices were established in many of these countries, some for the duration of the specific projects, others to last for longer periods and becoming semi-independent practices by themselves. Such offices existed over time in Togo, Vietnam, Trinidad, Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania, amongst others.
Lippsmeier’s interest in the tropics eventually lead to the establishment, in 1969, of the Institut für Tropenbau, the Institute for Tropical Building (IFT), that was housed in the Starnberg office of L+P Architects. The IFT consisted of part-time researchers, often architect-employees of L+P Architects, under the direction of Georg Lippsmeier. The group researched and published on a wide range of topics related to tropical architecture and urbanism, with an emphasis on building technology, climate design and housing the urban poor, commencing with the publication of the book Tropenbau -- Building in the Tropics in 1969, which would become one of the major international textbooks for architects and students aspiring to work in the tropics during the 1970s to 1990s. During its lifetime, the IFT built up a unique research library and images collection, on which much of the research and publications were based.
Most of the research work and writing at the IFT was carried out by L+P Architects’ staff, with the exception of Kiran Mukerji, who was employed directly by the IFT. Mukerji was employed as researcher and author from 1973 to 1985. He was the main force in the building up and documentation of the research library and (co)author of almost all works published during his employment. Mukerji left the IFT to become independent researcher and consultant in 1985, which he remained until his retirement.
The IFT activities slowed down after Mukerji’s departure, and came to final standstill at Lippsmeier’s death in 1991. Notwithstanding Lippsmeier lifelong investment in research and publications on tropical architecture, German expertise on tropical architecture was in the end not really a marketable commodity. It could be said that the IFT was Lippsmeier’s ultimate mission in life, which he supported with the finance and personal capacities that he had gathered in his architectural practice.
In 2007, the collection still was completely intact, when the inheritance was discussed with Antoni Folkers, who once worked for Lippsmeier and the IFT as well. Folkers, as one of the key members of ArchiAfrika at that time, proposed to bring IFT under the umbrella of ArchiAfrika and aim to make the unique collection of books, publications, documents, drawings, slides and maps accessible for scholars and researchers worldwide.
The son of Georg Lippsmeier, Ulrich Lippsmeier – who continued the practice after the passing away of his father – agreed to the handover and in the fall of 2007 the collection was moved to the Netherlands. Other collections joint the IFT, like the Kiran Mukerji and Coen Beeker collections.
Over the years the collections were checked and made accessible under Antoni Folkers’ supervision. It served various scholars, practitioners and students in their research. When ArchiAfrika shifted its base to Accra, it was commonly decided that the IFT would remain with AAmatters in Europe, out of practical reasons – close to Folkers with the most extensive knowledge on the archives - and it was thought the best location to guarantee the widest accessibility of the material.
AAmatters however had limited means to make this work and in 2016 a collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), much better equipped for this, started to open up the collections widely. The collections have been moved to the CCA in the fall of 2016 and together with AAmatters a programme is prepared to make further study of the collections and make it accessible worldwide. In the coming year a seminar will be organised in collaboration with the 2 institutes. In the summer of 2017 a first study has been completed, of which the results will be shared soon.