Amyas Connell (part 2)

Scope and Content

Contains research material relating to Amyas Connell life and work in East Africa including b&w photos, [dated c1940s], and colour photos, [dated c2000s], showing Connell's building projects in East Africa; draft and final articles by Sharp with annotations on the work of Connell and Ernst May in Tangyanika and Kenya; and recollections of Connell by Graham McCullough, a colleague of Connell's from TRIAD Architects .

Administrative / Biographical History

Amyas Douglas Connell (1901-1980) was an architect and designer, originally from New Zealand, who worked on building projects in New Zealand, England and East Africa. He is particularly well known as being one of three architects in the Connell, Ward and Lucas architectural firm.

Amyas Connell was born in Eltham (South Taranaki District) in New Zealand on the 23rd June 1901 to Nigel Douglas (Dido) Connell, a photographer and art teacher, and Gertrude Connell (née Weber). After studying at Strafford High School until 1916, Connell was articled to the English architect, Stanley W Fearn, in Wellington in 1919-1924. During his time in Wellington, Connell was involved in many student competitions and in 1921 he designed the winning entry for the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) Wellington branch memorial. Whilst in Wellington, Connell met fellow architectural student, Basil Ward (1902-1976) and a friendly rivalry developed between them.

In 1924 Connell and Ward travelled to England together by boat where they took further examinations in order to secure qualified status in England. Connell was awarded the Rome Prize, a highly coveted scholarship, in 1926 which involved studying at the British School at Rome in Italy. He began his studies there in January 1927. In 1929 Connell left the Rome School earlier than expected as he had been commissioned by Sir Bernard Ashmole (the Director of the British School at Rome) to design a house, later called 'High and Over', for Ashmole and his wife. Connell returned to London, where he set up an office with an Australian architect called Stewart Lloyd Thomson (1902-1990) and together they began work on 'High and Over'. Connell was also involved in landscape designs for Trent Park in Middlesex for Sir Philip Sassoon. He also worked on designs for interiors of shops and restaurants, including the Vitamin Café in Oxford Street, on which he collaborated with his sister-in-law, A.M. Hargroves (sister of his wife, Maud Hargroves). In 1930, Connell united with his old friend Basil Ward to form Connell and Ward and together they worked on a number of building projects including New Farm, Sinah Lane houses on Hayling Island, Usherwood, The Sun Houses, Saltdean, and the Concrete House. They also worked on the interior for a Health Shop on Welbeck Street in London with Hargroves.

On the 22nd May 1934, the Connell, Ward and Lucas architectural practice was officially formed when Connell and Ward were joined by English architect, Colin Lucas (1906-1984). The partnership lasted until 1939, ceasing trading at the outbreak of World War Two (1939-1945) and in just five years they designed over twenty private houses and other projects.

During World War II, Connell was employed by the British Army as a garrison engineer in the Royal Engineers, and between 1943 and 1945 he was a war damage assessor for the Ministry of Works. Meanwhile, he continued to practice as an independent architect and did designs for a house at West Winslow in Wiltshire and a housing scheme at Papworth in Cambridgeshire. He also came 2nd in a competition to design a new Anglican cathedral in Auckland, New Zealand, which he had entered with Thornley Dyer. At the end of the Second World War Connell unsuccessfully entered the Crystal Palace competition with G. Simonek and L.C. Cooper in 1946. Soon afterwards Connell moved to Tanganyika in East Africa (now the United Republic of Tanzania) and worked on building projects at a new sisal estate in Tanga with Ernie Hitchcock (later Sir Eldread Hitchcock). In the 1950s Connell moved to Nairobi, Kenya, and helped former colleague, Thornley Dyer, design the new Kenyan Parliament buildings.

Connell founded TRIAD Architects in around 1963 with Graham McCullough, and this company is still in practice today. Connell worked on a number of projects in Kenya including in 1956-1962 the HH Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Hospital (later called the Aga Khan Memorial Hospital) for which he received the RIBA bronze medal. He also designed the Law Courts for the new Kenyan government, the Crown Law Offices and built a house and studio for himself, called 'Mile Seven' in Limura.

In the 1970's Connell returned to the UK and he worked in the TRIAD office in the Westminster branch with his sons, James and Graham. As well as working on competition entries to build a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and a Civic Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, Connell also did designs for houses in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, for Ginella and Co., Felice Maggi, and Ralli Bros. Connell's final projects involved the design for a villa in Oman in 1976-1977 for Sayed Hamr Bin Hamood and an 'eco' house in Hemel Hempstead.

In addition to his work in practice, Connell also joined MARS (the Modern Architectural Research Group) in 1933 and was a strong and vocal defender of the Modernist Movement. This topic was the subject of a BBC radio broadcast when Connell debated against Sir Reginald Blomfield with the subject of 'For and against Modern Architecture'. Connell was also elected the president of the East African Architects' Association (EAAA) in 1954-1955 and was a long-term council member.

In his personal life, Connell was married twice: first to Maud Elizabeth Marjorie Hargroves on the 22nd January 1931; and secondly to Margaret Helen Stroud in the 1950s. He had two sons, James and Graham Connell.

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