Saturday, May 13, 2023



For the past week I have been receiving images from Zimbabwe. All three of my children were there and even though I couldn't make it, the constant flow of images took me back in spirit.

Back in spirit to a time when I was younger and healthier, full of energy and receptiveness to new adventures. Hopefully I still retain some of these characteristics, but it would be foolish to pretend that nothing has changed.

Zimbabwe took a young man of 30 who had dropped out of architecture after the first degree and become a bricklayer. Gave him a decade as an educator, then planted him firmly back on his original career choice before firmly ejecting him to the wider world at 53.

There is a house there, deep in the rural areas, that I designed for my mother and father in law some 35 years ago. A bigger homestead has grown around it, and a third generation is taking over, joyfully welcoming my children as long lost family, grown up and married.

It fills me with emotion to see so many faces from the past, reaching me by WiFi, older now but still the same in essence. Time and tide. Bring it on.


 In 1981 I arrived in Zimbabwe as a 30 year old building teacher. Just over a year on from independence, it was a time of great optimism.

The school was part of an experiment in Education With Production which meant that our building students were expected to participate in building their own school. Many of them had been in refugee camps in Mozambique during the war. Some had even been combatants and were trying to catch up on missed education.

It was a seminal experience for me, and the beginning of a long journey: fatherhood, curriculum development work, a return to architecture, a disastrous economic collapse.

But it started with a raw and visceral experience. Plunged into an isolated community as the only Murungu (white) and challenged to both build and teach in ways I had never done before. New food, new customs, new climate, music, friends, landscape.

I moved on nearly 20 years ago, to rebuild my life from scratch yet again. It was the right thing to do, but the memories pluck at my heart strings sometimes.



My son and daughter in law, with the old Victoria Falls Hotel in the background. It's a special photo for me because I was project architect for the refurbishment that restored the terrace to it's original style.

Looking back the other way there's a view of the spray and the railway bridge across the gorge to Zambia.

It was a very tight programme so they could minimise the time the hotel shut down. 24 hour working in shifts. Superb effort by Gardini and Sons. We would fly up every week on a small private plane.

That was 1996, a time of great optimism for me.



28 years ago.

My son Joe was quite the graphic artist as a boy/teenager. This is an impromptu greeting card he knocked up in 1995

Victoria Falls Hotel again. This pic was taken not long after the work I was involved in was completed. Can't remember why I was there. Might have been doing a brochure for Clinton & Evans, my employer for about 12 years.

That simplified Edwardian classical style was common for public buildings of a certain age in Zimbabwe (between the wars) I always had a bit of a soft spot for it's "dignity with minimal fuss"

Livingstones Bar was one of the additions I drew up. Tried to keep it simple and elegant. The bedroom block above and behind is the original courtyard block of the old railway hotel.

I was using 2d Autocad in those days although I had dabbled in Archicad, (good for 3d but didn't have live sections and elevations at that stage.)



A round "kitchen hut" which has both good and bad qualities. Open wood fires are very smokey and bring various health risks.

You might think that a wood fired stove would be better, but there is something about the traditional method of feeding large logs into a fire, inch by inch that offers great control, and saves all the labour of chopping up the wood into pieces that will fit through the stove door. You can also withdraw the logs a little for a lower heat.

Smoke escapes a thatched roof and deters vermin. Low bench seats inside and out invite social interaction in a delightful way. To me there is also a unique kind of organic beauty in this typology.

This is a drawing I made this week of the kitchen hut at a homestead I helped to establish half a lifetime ago. So it has a deeper, poignant beauty for me.

I may well develop it further.


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