At the time Drew had her first office, with the idea of employing only female architects, architecture was a male dominated profession. She was active during and after World War II, designing social and public housing in England, West Africa, India and Iran.
With her second husband, Maxwell Fry, she worked in West Africa designing schools and universities. She, Fry and Pierre Jeanneret, designed the housing at Chandigarh, the new capital of the Punjab. She designed buildings in Ghana, Nigeria, Iran and Sri Lanka, and she wrote books on what she had learnt about architecture there. In London she did social housing, buildings for the Festival of Britain, and helped to establish the Institute of Contemporary Arts. After retiring from practice, she travelled and lectured abroad, receiving several honorary degrees. She was awarded the DBE in the 1996 New Year Honours, gazetted 30 December 1995, only seven months before her death.
Drew was born as Iris Estelle Radcliffe Drew in Thornton Heath, Croydon (then part of Surrey), but her name was registered a few days later as Joyce Beverly Drew. Her father, Harry Guy Radcliffe Drew (grandson of Joseph Drew), was a designer of surgical instruments and the founder of the British Institute of Surgical Technicians: he was a humanist who "despised the profit motive and abhorred cruelty". Her mother was Emma Spering Jones, a school teacher, who when Jane was only four became lame for the rest of her life as the result of a road accident: but she continued to care well for her two daughters, encouraging them in her two main interests which were observation of nature and appreciation of art, and she had a keen business sense. Jane had an older sister, Dorothy Stella Radcliffe Drew (1909–1989), who became a physician and student of F. M. Alexander.
Jane Drew studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (1929–1934). In 1933 she married architect James Thomas Alliston, who had been a fellow-student at the AA. In 1934, Drew found first employment as an architect with Joseph Hill (1888-1947), where she was also introduced to members of bohemian London whom would have a lasting impact on her work. After partnering with her husband, Alliston, they won a competition in 1937 for a cottage hospital in Devon. Their home and small practice (Alliston & Drew) was at 24 Woburn Square in London, and their principal work was housing in Winchester. The couple had twin daughters, Jennifer Ann Shirley Alliston (1937–1986), who married James Wolf Madge, son of Charles Madge and Kathleen Raine, and Sarah Jane Georgina "Georgie" Alliston (1937–2011), who married journalist Hugh O'Shaughnessy. Drew and Alliston's marriage was dissolved in 1939.
Jane Drew soon became involved in the Modern Movement, through the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM), whose guiding spirit was the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, and became one of the principal founders of the Modern Movement in Britain, which was represented by MARS (Modern Architectural ReSearch), CIAM's British subsidiary. It was an association of architects, painters and industrialists, and its stated principle was the "use of space for human activity rather than the manipulation of stylised convention". It was through this group that she met Le Corbusier, Elizabeth Lutyens and Maxwell Fry (one of the co-founders of the movement). Jane married Maxwell Fry in 1942, and their best man was Julian Huxley.
Chandigarh and Le Corbusier
After seeing Drew's projects in West Africa, Indian Prime minister Pandit Nehru asked her and Maxwell Fry to design the new capital of Punjab, Chandigarh. She was heavily involved with the Festival of Britain at the time and was unsure of her ability to take on such a large role in the project. Drew used her considerable charm to great effect, convincing Swiss Architect Le Corbusier to involve himself in the project. Le Corbusier was responsible for the main plan of the city and the principal government buildings – the High Court, Assembly, the Secretariat, etc.
Drew first met Le Corbusier before the War at C.I.A.M. (Congrès International des Architects Modernes). She was impressed by the breadth of his knowledge, his experience in addressing the problems of housing in under developed countries, by the power of his personality, and the lucidity of his razor sharp logic.
Working with such a powerful personality proved difficult, and Drew often wondered whether she had done the right thing in inviting him. According to Drew, despite his greatness,
“he made many mistakes – as does anyone who tries anything new. Among these were the concrete brises soleil to his buildings which acted as heat sinks, radiating heat all night, without cooling, before reheating in the sun the following day. Another mistake could have been the separation of shopkeeper's living quarters from their shops. With the greatest difficulty I persuaded him to allow people to live above their shops! Despite everything, we became firm friends.”
Drew, Pierre Jeanneret (Le Corbusier) and Maxwell Fry, spent three continuous years in Chandigarh. Their living conditions were primitive, and the heat was extreme. Corb would only come out for 2 months every year during the cool weather.
Pandit Nehru wanted Chandigarh to be a model city for the thousands of refugees who were arriving daily from Pakistan. He did not want to follow the traditions of the past, but to experiment with new forms of design and planning. As a result of his policy Drew, Fry and Le Corbusier were able to integrate schools, family planning and health clinics, open air swimming baths and open air Theatres with the housing.
All the houses had proper sanitary facilities and a good water supply. The cheaper housing was all of a terrace type which allowed the occupants to have larger rooms and more security for their money. Before large numbers were built, Drew constructed prototypes of each different house type which were then lived in, criticised, and improved. In this way she found that the Indians were able to experiment with new types of dwelling.
Public open space was provided for all low income housing. House rentals were graded so that no more than a tenth of man's income went on rent. The keeping of animals (such as buffaloes and cows) was banned in the housing, since this custom had led to much fly-borne disease. The Indians were to realise that many of their traditional forms of housing were obsolete and were willing to try out new ways of living. The design of new forms of Housing affected house design throughout India.
War time (1939–1945)
Architecture at the time was a male-dominated profession. When Jane practised alone in the war years between 1939 and 1944, her office was at 12 King Street, St. James, London. Initially she employed only female architects, though later this changed. Her work included:
1944 Temporary office at 12 Bedford Square after the King Street office was bombed (with Riehm Marcus, Trevor Dannatt, K. Linden and F.I. Marcus)
1944–1945 Assistant Planning Adviser to the Resident Minister for the West African Colonies
Post-war period (1946–1959)
After the war she went into business partnership with Maxwell Fry as Fry, Drew and Partners, then later with others. From January 1946 their practice was at 63 Gloucester Place, London W.1. (above which she and Fry had a flat which was their home), and in 1962 a second office was opened at 3 Albany Terrace. She was in practice with Max Fry until 1977.
1946–1950 Practised as Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew
1946–1962 Jane was founder-editor and joint editor (with Trevor Dannatt) of the Architects' Year Book, brainchild of publisher Paul Elek
1951–1958 Practised as Fry, Drew, Drake and Lasdun (with Lindsay Drake and Denys Lasdun)
1951 New Schools building, the Waterloo entrance tower and the Riverside Restaurant for the Festival of Britain (with Maxwell Fry)
1951–1953 in collaboration with Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, Jane and Max worked as senior architects on much of the housing of Chandigarh, the new capital of western part of the divided Punjab in India. Jane persuaded Le Corbusier to involve himself in the project and he redesigned Albert Meyer's original master plan. Le Corbusier left most of the design to Jane, Max and Jeanneret, and they had the collaboration of a team of Indian architects (including B. V. Doshi) on this vast project.
Max had retired in 1973, but Jane continued working until 1979, when they both lived at their country retreat "The Lake House", at Rowfant near Crawley in Sussex, where they had often socialised with friends and family. It was a large house, to which they had added a studio-flat overlooking the fishing lake, and Jane presided over many memorable house and garden parties. In 1982 they decided to sell it and find somewhere easier to manage in their retirement. They were staying with a friend in the village of Cotherstone, County Durham when they heard that the next door house was for sale and almost immediately bought it. So by Christmas 1982 they had moved to "West Lodge", Cotherstone. They remained active, in making a new home, with gardening and village social life. There was a studio for Max and their living room was dominated by Max's mural of the River Balder Railway viaduct.
In 1984, Jane gave a great party for Max's 85th birthday, at nearby Lartington Hall: there were over 200 guests – friends and family. Two years later she was presented with a 150-page book of gratulari inscribed "Jane B. Drew, architect. A tribute from colleagues and friends for her 75th birthday, 24 March 1986". The list of contributors includes:
Jane B. Drew, ed. Architects' Year Book 2. London: Paul Elek, 1947.
J. B. Drew and E. Maxwell Fry, Village Housing in the Tropics: with special reference to West Africa, In collaboration with Harry L. Ford. London: Lund Humphries, 1947.
Jane B. Drew and Trevor Dannatt, eds. Architects' Year Book 3. London: Paul Elek, 1949.
Jane B. Drew and Trevor Dannatt, eds. Architects' Year Book 4. London: Paul Elek, 1952.
E. Maxwell Fry and Jane B. Drew, Chandigarh and Planning Development in India, London: Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, No.4948, 1 April 1955, Vol.CIII, pages 315–333. I. The Plan, by E. Maxwell Fry, II. Housing, by Jane B. Drew.
E. Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, Tropical Architecture in the Humid Zone. London: Batsford, 1956.
E. Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, Tropical Architecture in the Dry and Humid Zones. New York: Reinhold, 1964.
Jane Drew, The Work of Rodney Thomas – architect. Booklet produced to accompany an exhibition arranged by Lewin Bassingthwaite and Christopher Yetto. London, 1967.
Jane and Maxwell Fry, Architecture and the Environment. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1976. ISBN978-0-04-720020-5 Republication of 1944 Architecture for Children.
Jane Drew, Ann Tyng, Gae Aulenti, Denise Scott Brown, Monica Pidgeon, Anna Bofil, Indira Rai, Bola Sobande, Ellen Perry Berkeley, Eulie Chowdhuri and others. The crisis of Identity in Architecture – Report of the proceedings of the International Congress of Women Architects. Ramsar, Iran, 1976.
Flower, Sile; Macfarlane, Jean; Plant, Ruth (1986). Jane B. Drew, architect: A tribute from her colleagues and friends for her 75th birthday 24 March 1986. Bristol: Bristol Centre for the Advancement of Architecture. ISBN0-9510759-0-X.
Jackson, Iain; Holland, Jessica (2014). The architecture of Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited. ISBN978-1-4094-5198-3.
Joshi, Kiran (1999). Documenting Chandigarh: The Indian Architecture of Pierre Jeanneret, Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Beverly Drew. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing in association with Chandigarh College of Architecture. ISBN1-890206-13-X.
^Bristol Centre for the Advancement of Architecture, Jane B. Drew, architect. A tribute from colleagues and friends for her 75th birthday, 24 March 1986 Editorial Group: Sile Flower, Jean Macfarlane, Ruth Plant. ISBN0-9510759-0-X
^Síle Flower, BA, first met Jane at Croydon High School, worked in the Foreign Office and was in 1950–1959 official translator with the Shell Company in East Africa
^Maurice Down (OBE) was a cousin of Jane's father, Harry Guy Radcliffe Drew, and on Drew's death became Chairman of Down Brothers, the family firm of surgical instrument designers and manufacturers
^Leonie Cohn (Hon. FRIBA) was a freelance audio-visual producer
^Hugh Crallan was a contemporary of Jane at the AA
^Michael Thornley was a contemporary of Jane's at the AA
^Ruth Plant (M.Litt, RIBA, AA Dip.) was a contemporary of Jane's at the AA
^Phyllis Dobbs had been Jane's friend ever since her husband Richard was a young paedriatrician involved in helping Jane with her twin children
^Ed Lewis was an architect and planner with GLC housing experience
^Dorothy Morland was Director of the ICA (1968–1970)
^Maud Hatmil was born in British Guyana, nanny to Jane's children and later housekeeper and family friend
^Diana Rowntree (AA Dip., RIBA) was Architecture Correspondent to The Guardian, and first met Jane at the AA
^Rodney Thomas was a painter and architect. He taught at the Chelsea School of Art and other colleges
^John Terry was an architect, the only member of Jane's staff in 1940
^Trevor Dannatt (Dipl. Arch., MA, RA, FRIBA). was one of Jane's staff in 1943 at King Street, St. James; with her help he founded the Architects' Year Book
^Riehm Marcus was an artist and illustrator, born as Helen Riehm, was the wife of architect F.I. Marcus, refugees from Hitler's Germany in World War II
^Anthony Bell, author, worked in publishing for Lund Humphries, and for Jane at Gloucester Place
^Norman Creamer was an RAF pilot in World War II and joined Max and Jane in 1946, becoming a partner in 1960. He worked entirely on the overseas projects
^Peter Dunican (CBE, FEng, FICE, FIStructE, FiEI) was Chairman of Ove Arup Partnership
^Luke Gertler, son of the artist Mark Gertler, stayed at the flat in Gloucester Place when he was a child, and made friends with Jane's children. He later studied music and became a teacher
^Frank Knight (AA Dipl. Hons., ARIBA, MRTPI Hons.) joined Fry, Drew in 1947 and became a partner in 1960. He worked with Jane at Masjid-i-Suleiman in Iran
^John Lomax joined Jane's office in 1948 and worked with Max and Jane on housing in Ghana
^Dr. Rex and Mrs Joan Cheverton worked with Jane in Nigeria from 1947
^Stephen Macfarlane (AA Dipl. Hons., FRIBA) taught architecture in Bristol
^Lleky Papastavrou and her sister Penny Hughes were daughters of the author and poet Richard Hughes; Max, Jane and her twin daughters often stayed with the Hughes family in Wales, and the Hughes family once "borrowed" Gloucester Place when Max and Jane were abroad. Their children all attended the same boarding school
^Theo Crosby (ARA, RIBA, FSIAD) worked at Gloucester place just after the war, and as a thinker and writer showed that he was very much aware of the place and value of Max and Jane in the Modern Movement
^Norman Starrett, (BArch; Liverpool) and his wife Kay both started as junior partners with Max and Jane, in the 1951 Festival of Britain team
^Geoffrey Knight (FRIBA) worked in Ghana (then the "Gold Coast") for Jane and Max 1947–1957 and 1964–1966
^Minnette de Silva (RIBA, SLIA), a native of Sri Lanka met Max and Jane at a CIAM meeting and had personal recollections of Jane after Chandigarh
^Ian Robertson (FRICS) worked with Jane on the Torbay Hospital, and later became coordinator for the interior of the liner QE2
^Dennis Lennon (CBE, MC, FRIBA, FRSA, FSIA) had been an army major in World War II. He worked for Max and Jane on an Officer's Club in Accra, Ghana. He later designed the sets for the Richard Strauss opera Capriccio at Glyndebourne
^Sean Graham was a writer and film-maker, and he was in charge of the Ghana Film Unit when he met Jane
^John Godwin (OBE, FRIBA, FNIA, AA Dipl.(Hons), AI.Arb) and Gillian Hopwood (FRIBA, FNIA, AA Dipl.) both worked with Max and Jane in Nigeria, on the University College of Ibadan, using "appropriate technology", i.e. cheap local materials
^G.D. Khosla (BA (Cantab)) was a Punjab High Court Judge. He was instrumental in selecting Le Corbusier and later Jane and Max for the Chandigarh project
^Mrs Eulie Chowdhury worked with the Corbusier team on the Chandigarh project
^Shireen Mahdavi (BSc., MA) first met Jane at her boarding school. She felt forced by the new régime to leave Iran, and is now (2008) an adjunct professor in the Department of History at the University of Utah, specialising in Iranian social and economic issues
^Arnold Whittick was an art and architectural historian
^Mervyn Dalley (CMG, MA (Cantab)) and his wife, Elizabeth, first met Jane in Iran at Masjid-i-Suleiman, when Jane stayed with them; they remained friends, and years later Jane converted their old rectory house in England. Mervyn Dailey wrote a note on Jane's work in Iran
^Romi Khosla (BA (Cantab), AA Dipl.), son of High Court Judge G. D. Khosla (a friend of Jawaharlal Nehru), was an accountant who, under Jane's guidance switched careers to architecture
^Roza Jacobs was Vice President and Fashion Director of Macy's store in New York "...a good and loyal friend"
^Noma Copley was a jewellery designer, earlier married to the painter William Copley
^Kenane Barlow (wife of Peter Barlow) "and the five Barlows" wrote Jane an affectionate poem. Peter had met Jane on the Torbay express to London
^Sergei Kadleigh (AA Dipl. (Hons), ARIBS) was a Russian-born British architect
^Maria Luisa Plant Zaccheo, (Dr. Arch.(Rome), ARIBA) was an associate in Jane's office 1971–1980
^Jean Medawar was a pioneer in family planning; Jane designed the Margaret Pyke Centre for her
^Arun Das worked in Jane's office on the Margaret Pyke Centre
^Jai Rattan Bhalla, (FRIBA, FHS, FVI, HFAIA) was President of the Indian Institute of Architects. Although not involved in the Chandigarh project, he was appreciative of Jane's interest in the training of young Indian architects
^Walter Laing Macdonald Perry, Lord Perry of Walton (OBE, FRSE), was a pharmacologist and vice-chancellor of the Open University (1921–2003). Lord Perry was instrumental in the planning of the Open University and Jane was his development architect
^Mike Lacey was Director of Lovell Construction on the OU project at Milton Keynes
^Nigel Wood (MA, C.Eng., MICE, MCIOB) was a craftsman builder who worked for Jane on the OU project at Milton Keynes, St Pauls Girls' School, Carlton House Terrace and Jane's own flat and offices
^Peter Greenham (CBE, RA, PPRBA) was a renowned portrait painter
^Sunita Kanvinde was a student of painting and graphics in Delhi and was helped by Jane when she came to England
^Tony Forrest (DA (Edin.)) was a building contractor and artist, specialising in combining architecture and landscapes with human elements
^Frances Webb Leishman was the American wife of a retired British diplomat and merchant banker, and a freelance journalist, who once interviewed Jane for Woman's Hour