Avery Drawings & Archives Collections

Alan Colquhoun papers, 1942-2010

Summary Information

At a Glance

Bib ID 8895871 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Colquhoun, Alan, 1921-
Title Alan Colquhoun papers, 1942-2010
Physical Description 10 document boxes; 7 rolls
Language(s) English .

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

All original copies of moving image media are closed until reformatting in 2020.



Scope and Content

This collection is composed primarily of correspondence, memoranda, course material, photographs, drawings and slides. The collection is broken down into personal and academic papers. The academic papers pertain mainly to Colquhoun's career as a writer and theoretician and professor at Princeton University's School of Architecture. The personal papers consist mainly of correspondences with friends and family, as well as notebooks, which Colquhoun kept from the 1940s. The visual materials (photographs and drawings) straddle the two categories. Many of the photographs were taken by Colquhoun himself, to be used later in his teaching, while the drawings consist of both student work and reproductions of works from his practice with John Miller. For the majority of the collection, Colquhoun's folder titles have been maintained and the material has been arranged chronologically. The collection is arranged into four series.

  • Series I: Academic Papers

    Consists of academic and professional correspondences, drafts and reference materials. The correspondences pertain to publications, conferences and PhD Dissertations by Colquhoun, organized by correspondent. The drafts and reference materials are for publications, lectures and seminars, the most substantial of which are for Colquhoun's book, Modern Architecture, published by Oxford University Press in 2002.

  • Series II: Personal papers

    Consists of three subseries: Correspondence, Notebooks, and Albums, Notes, and Other Papers. Colquhoun kept notebooks uninterrupted from 1942, when he was a student in Edinburgh. The material in the notebooks ranges from practical personal information (such as language notes and food ration information in his notebooks from India) to personal notes, among them personal notes and drafts for correspondences, as well as more formal observations on architecture, both in writing and drawing form.

    Colquhoun kept his personal correspondences in two separate arrangements, which have been preserved in the presentation of his papers. In one arrangement, he kept correspondences loosely arranged according to chronological order in personal correspondence folders irrespective of correspondent. In the other he organized his letters by correspondent, again in more or less chronological fashion. Occasionally, letters from a correspondent in the latter may appear in the former. In these cases, Colquhoun's own arrangement has been preserved and identifying letters that Colquhoun did not file away has been left to the researcher.

    Subseries 3: Albums, Notes, and Other Papers includes unfiled notes, documentation and memorabilia, and sketchbooks.

  • Series III: Visual Material

    Comprised of three subseries: Photographs, Slides, Drawings, and DVDs. The majority of the photographs are personal documentation of Colquhoun's travels in India, while others include miscellaneous personal prints of friends and family. The slides depict architecture exclusively, and were presumably used both for publication and teaching purposes. They were arranged by Colquhoun himself, for most often by architect, location or movement, and his arrangement has been kept wherever discernable. The DVD's contain photographs and video, while the drawing series includes, on the one hand, Colquhoun's school work and on the other, reproductions of drawings by Colquhoun + Miller.

  • Series IV: Additional Donations

    Consists of miscellaneous additional accessions; Colquhoun is not the creator.

Publication Date


Using the Collection

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

All original copies of moving image media are closed until reformatting in 2020.

Restrictions on Use

Columbia University is providing access to the materials in the Library's collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of Columbia University is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For additional guidance, see Columbia University Libraries' publication policy.

In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

Preferred Citation

Alan Colquhoun papers, 1942-2010, Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Alan Colquhoun. Method of acquisition--Donated;; Date of acquisition--2010 May. Accession number--2010.012.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Revision Description

2015-10-24 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Journals Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Video recordings (physical artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Architecture -- India Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture and history Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture, Modern -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Colquhoun, Alan, 1921- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Princeton University. School of Architecture Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Alan Colquhoun was born in Esher, England, on June 27, 1921. He spent his childhood in Southsee, where he attended day school from 1927 to 1929. After that he was sent to St. Cyprians prep school in Eastbourne. In 1930, the family moved to Claygate, Surrey. After prep school Colquhoun went to Bradfield College (1934-38). Colquhoun began his architectural training at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1939, completing three years of the five-year course, getting an intermediate exam. Some of his projects from Edinburgh are preserved in the archive.

In September, 1942 Colquhoun was drafted into the Royal Engineers and sent to India in 1943. In 1944 he was wounded on the Burmese border. After 6 months of rehabilitation, he was sent back to Roorkee, where he spent the remainder of his service in an office job. In Decemeber 1946 he was officially demobilized but permitted to travel extensively around India for 3 months. These travels are extensively documented in the archive, through photographs, drawings, notes in notebooks, and correspondences to his parents, and were remembered by Colquhoun as "one of the best things he had done in his life.".

Upon returning to England, Colquhoun resumed his architectural studies, earning a diploma from the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London in 1949. Upon completion, he worked at the London City Council for 6 years designing social housing. After a short stint with Candilis and Woods' firm in Paris in 1955-6, Colquhoun joined Lyons Israel and Ellis in 1956 in London before starting his own studio in 1961 with John Miller. He maintained his involvement with the practice until 1989, having mean while establishing a solo practice in 1988. The archive holds a small amount of materials from C+M, but does not hold any documentation of Colquhoun's work as a sole practitioner.

In parallel with his architectural practice, Colquhoun embarked on an academic career. He taught at the AA from 1957 to 1964. In 1966 he went to Princeton School of Architecture in New Jersey as a visiting critic for a semester, which soon translated into a two year teaching post until 1968, when he went and did the same in Cornell. In 1970, Colquhoun went back to Princeton. In 1974, he took a full time teaching job at the Central Polytechnic (Now University of Westminster), where he taught for four years. In 1979 and 1980, Colquhoun was invited back to Princeton for each Spring semester. In 1981, Colquhoun accepted a teaching post at Princeton. In 1991, Colquhoun transferred to emeritus status before retiring from teaching in 1996. He stayed at Princeton to finish his work on Modern Architecture, returning to London in 2002. Colquhoun died in London in December, 2013.