Art History Festival | The Island of Last Hope: Refugee Architects on the Brink of the Second World War

Harbour Meadow, Birdham, Sussex: the entrance hall from the courtyard by night. RIBA Collections.

Valeria Carullo, Curator, The Robert Elwall Photographs Collection, will focus on the activities of the RIBA Refugee Committee, set up in January 1939 in response to the sharp rise in requests for admission to this country from architects based predominantly in Central Europe. The Refugee Committee Papers, held in the RIBA Archives, not only reveal a compelling story of cultural attitudes, complex relationships and difficult decisions, but also chronicle an important episode in the history of the profession.

The talk will feature examples of the correspondence between members of the committee, members of the profession and those who applied to the committee for help. These letters will help bring to the fore the stories of several of these applicants, whose work will also be featured thanks to the photographs and drawings they sent to the committee to strengthen their case – material remarkable not only for its poignant association with a difficult period of European history, but also for the access it grants to the work of lesser-known continental architects of the inter-war period.

This talk is delivered on behalf of the Royal Institute of British Architects and supported by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.


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