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Fry Revisits

Exhibition Piece: A collection of letters from Maxwell Fry written in 1983 regarding Fry revisiting the College to deliver a lecture. Fry received a very warm welcome and found the institution thriving.

English architect Maxwell Fry (1899 – 1987) originally trained in the neo-classical style of architecture.  Fry grew to favour the new modernist style, and practiced with eminent colleagues including Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.  Fry was one of the few modernist architects working in Britain in the thirties who were British; most were immigrants from continental Europe, where modernism originated.  Fry is celebrated for his buildings in Britain, Africa and India, and was a major influence on a generation of young architects.

In 1934, Fry helped German architect and founder of the Bauhaus movement, Walter Gropius to flee Nazi Germany.  Gropius was then introduced to Henry Morris, Cambridgeshire Secretary for Education and creator of the Village Colleges.  Gropius and Fry prepared designs for Impington Village College in summer 1936.  Gropius then left for America, frustrated at not getting commissions (particularly his rejection by Christ’s College), leaving Fry and Morris to work through a series of delays.  From December 1939 to August 1939, Fry delivered revised designs and oversaw the construction of Impington Village College.

“We fitted very well together and on Impington Village College, for instance, it was a very perfect collaboration.  There we had a client to deal with – Henry Morris – who was a genius.  Not only that but one of the most delicious English eccentrics I’ve ever met.  He was deeply read, very poetic, adored architecture and loved the beauty of Oxford and Cambridge…  The collaboration must have been particularly valuable for Gropius who began to see through him [Morris] what kind of country this was…  He began to fall in love with English society, and would willingly have stayed.  The decisive defeat we got – and he particularly – was at Christ’s College, Cambridge.”  (Maxwell Fry, 1974).

Fry, along with Gropius, revisited the college in 1961.  The exhibition includes a collection of letters from Maxwell Fry written in 1983 regarding a further visit to the College.