Architectural Association School of Architecture

Coordinates: 51°31′07″N 0°07′52″W / 51.51861°N 0.13111°W / 51.51861; -0.13111
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Architectural Association
School of Architecture
MottoDesign with Beauty, Build in Truth
Established1847; 177 years ago (1847)
PresidentCatherine du Toit
DirectorIngrid Schroder (from August 2022)
Undergraduates562 (2023)[1]
Postgraduates361 (2023)[1]
London (main)

The Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, commonly referred to as the AA, is the oldest private school of architecture in the UK.[2][3][4][5][6] The AA hosts programmes of exhibitions, lectures, symposia and publications.


Plaque beside entrance

The Architectural Association was founded in 1847 as an alternative to the practice of training (young men) by apprenticeship to established architects. Apprenticeship offered no guarantee for educational quality or professional standards, and there was a belief that the system was "rife with vested interests and open to abuse, dishonesty and incompetence".[7]

Two articled pupils, Robert Kerr (1823–1904) and Charles Gray (1827/28–1881), proposed a systematic course of training provided by the students themselves.[7] Following a merger with the already existing Association of Architectural Draughtsmen, the first formal meeting under the name of the Architectural Association took place in May 1847 at Lyons Inn Hall, London.[8] Kerr became the first president, 1847–48.[9] From 1859 the AA shared premises at 9 Conduit Street with the Royal Institute of British Architects,[7] later (1891) renting rooms in Great Marlborough Street.[7]

AA Bedford Square premises

The AA School was formally established in 1890 and in 1901, it changed its premises to the former Royal Architectural Museum in Tufton Street, Westminster. In 1917, it moved to its current location in Bedford Square, central London. It has since acquired additional London premises in John Street, a property on Morwell Street behind Bedford Square,[10] and a 350-acre (1.4 km2) site at Hooke Park in Dorset.

Historically, students of the AA have been addressed by John Ruskin and George Gilbert Scott in the 19th century, and, more recently, Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Denise Scott Brown, and David Chipperfield, an alumnus of the school.

Women at the AA[edit]

Women were first admitted as students to the AA School during World War I in 1917,[11] almost 20 years after the RIBA had admitted its first female member, Ethel Charles, who, with her sister Bessie, had been refused entry to the AA school in 1893.[12] Ruth Lowy,[13] Winifred Ryle, Irene Graves and Gillian Harrison (nee Cooke) were some of the first women to enter the AA,[14] hitherto a solely male school.[14]

In the post World War II period several women architects, writers and journalists attended courses ("classes and sets") at the AA, including Su Brumwell (Susan Miller / Rogers), Eldred Evans, Margo Griffin, Zaha Hadid, Patti Hopkins, Samantha Hardingham, Sally Mackereth, Mya Anastasia Manakides, Janet Street-Porter, Carolyn Trevor, Susan Wheeler and Georgie Walton.[citation needed]

The position of women at the AA was highlighted and investigated during a year-long programme of celebration in 2017, AAXX, marking the centenary of the first women's entry to the school. A book, AA Women in Architecture 1917–2017, edited by Elizabeth Darling and Lynne Walker, was published.[15]


Courses are divided into two main areas – undergraduate programmes, leading to the AA Diploma (RIBA/ARB Part 2), and postgraduate programmes, which include specialised courses in Landscape Urbanism (LU),[16] Housing and Urbanism, Sustainable Environmental Design, Histories and Theories, Emergent Technologies,[17] and Design Research Lab (DRL). Other programmes include Projective Cities, Design + Make, and Interprofessional studio. Since its foundation, the school has continued to draw its teaching staff from progressive international practices, and they are reappointed annually, allowing a continual renewal of the exploration of architectural graphics and polemical formalism.[18]

Independent status[edit]

The school sits outside the state-funded university system and UCAS application system. As an independent school, the AA does not participate in university rankings.

The AA enrolls a higher proportion of students from overseas compared to other architecture schools in the UK.[19]

Bookshop and publications[edit]

The AA Bookshop has a collection of architectural literature[20] and is used as a platform for AA's own publications.[21] AA Publications has a long tradition of publishing architects, artists and theorists early in their careers, as well as occasionally publishing figures who have already gained renown in other fields of expertise, such as Salman Rushdie. AA Publications produces the journal, AA Files, and the AA Book, known as the Projects Review, which annually documents the work undertaken by members of the school from Foundation to Graduate programmes. AA publications are designed and edited by the AA Print Studio, originally established in 1971 as part of the Communications Unit directed by Dennis Crompton of Archigram.[22] The school had its own independent radio station.[23]


The AA has a unique democratic structure where staff and students elect a director and majority of members of the governing board.

In November 2017, the AA was reported to be planning to make 16 staff redundant, including the whole of its publications and exhibitions departments.[24] Shortly before, the AA had announced it was seeking a new director, to be appointed by March 2018,[25] following the departure of Brett Steele announced in December 2016.[26][27]

The first female director of the AA was Eva Franch i Gilabert, appointed in 2018[28] (succeeding interim director Samantha Hardingham). Following votes of no confidence in her leadership,[29][30] Franch was fired in July 2020 for "failure to develop and implement a strategy and maintain the confidence of the AA School Community which were specific failures of performance against clear objectives outlined in the original contract of employment."[31] Her dismissal came despite support from academics who wrote an open letter talking of "systemic biases" against women and of sexism, and accusing the AA of using "the pandemic for anti-democratic purposes".[30] Architectural magazine Dezeen reported tutor and alumni views that the failure to investigate allegations of bullying and sexism had damaged both the AA school and the architecture profession, leaving "a cloud over the school".[32] The AA began seeking a successor to Franch in December 2021,[33] shortlisting candidates in March 2022.[34] In May 2022, the school announced Ingrid Schroder would be its new director from August 2022.[35]


Notable alumni[edit]

Former directors[edit]

Notable current and former teachers[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Architectural Association School of Architecture – Review for Educational Oversight by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education" (PDF). Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. May 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  2. ^ "TOP ARCHITECTURE SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD". Jebiga Design & Lifestyle. 8 August 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Best architecture schools in the world". Spear's Magazine. 1 February 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Top 10 Best Architecture Schools in the World 2015". Design Schools Hub. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  5. ^ "Top Schools of Architecture in the World". 8 March 2015. Archived from the original on 26 November 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Bio of Brett Steele (AA Director)". Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d Bottoms, Edward (2010). "AA History". Architectural Association School of Architecture. Archived from the original on 4 December 2010.
  8. ^ Records of the Architectural Association
  9. ^ Past Presidents of the Architectural Association Archived 15 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "AA Life: Welcome". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  11. ^ Minutes of an Ordinary General Meeting of the Architectural Association, 17 July 1917; and interleafed circular from AA President, H.M. Fletcher, alteration to By-law No.17 in AA Archive Box C103.
  12. ^ Lynne Walker, "Golden Age or False Dawn? Women Architects in the Early 20th century", Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  13. ^ Rubinstein, William D (2011). The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 349. ISBN 9780230304666.
  14. ^ a b Brooks, Emily (12 November 2017). "Glass ceilings: 100 years after women were admitted to the Architectural Association school, has anything changed?". Daily Telegraph.
  15. ^ editor., Darling, Elizabeth, editor. Walker, Lynne (2017). AA women in architecture, 1917-2017. AA Publications. ISBN 978-1-907896-91-0. OCLC 1011147193. {{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "AALU (Landscape Urbanism)". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  17. ^ "AADRL (Design Research Laboratory)". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 8 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  18. ^ Dyckhoff, Tom (15 October 2009). "Who would want to be an architecture student?". The Times. London. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  19. ^ "AA London". Bauhaus Labs. Archived from the original on 22 December 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  20. ^ "AA Bookshop". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  21. ^ "AA Publications". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  22. ^ Daly, Wayne. "Reading Room". Forms of Inquiry. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  23. ^ "AAIR.FM Architectural Association Independent Radio". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  24. ^ Hurst, Will (15 November 2017). "Exclusive: AA begins consultation with staff over redundancies". Architects' Journal. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  25. ^ "London's Architectural Association Seeks New Director". Arch Daily. 24 October 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  26. ^ a b "Director of London's Architectural Association, Brett Steele, to Become UCLA Dean". Arch Daily. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  27. ^ a b Howarth, Dan (15 December 2016). "AA director Brett Steele to become dean of UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture". Dezeen. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  28. ^ a b Goldberg, Mackenzie (5 March 2018). "Eva Franch i Gilabert has been announced as the new Director of the Architectural Association". Archinect. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  29. ^ Hopkirk, Elizabeth (2 July 2020). "AA director loses two votes of no confidence". Building Design. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  30. ^ a b Block, India (3 July 2020). "AA director Eva Franch i Gilabert suffers vote of no confidence". Dezeen. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  31. ^ a b Pacheco, Antonio (13 July 2020). "Architectural Association has fired Eva Franch i Gilabert". Archinect. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  32. ^ Ravenscroft, Tom (15 July 2020). "Abrupt dismissal of AA director Eva Franch i Gilabert leaves "a cloud over the school"". Dezeen. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  33. ^ Waite, Richard (14 December 2021). "Architectural Association finally begins search to replace fired director Franch i Gilabert". Architects' Journal. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  34. ^ Waite, Richard (28 March 2022). "AA reveals shortlist in search to replace sacked director Franch i Gilabert". Architects' Journal. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  35. ^ Crook, Lizzie (19 May 2022). "Ingrid Schroder named director of the Architectural Association". Dezeen. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  36. ^ Franklin, Geraint (14 October 2021). "Stanley Amis obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  37. ^ a b Richards, J. M. (2004). "Gillian Margaret [Jill] Howell (1927–2000), architect". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). OUP. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/74154. Retrieved 23 November 2017. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  38. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (24 June 2012). "Gerhard Kallmann, Architect, Is Dead at 97". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  39. ^ Darling, Elizabeth; Walker, Nathaniel Robert (2020). Suffragette city : women, politics and the built environment. Abingdon, Oxon. ISBN 978-1-138-57163-1. OCLC 1105737367.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  40. ^ Wainwright, Oliver (21 June 2015). "James Gowan obituary". The Guardian.

Further reading[edit]

  • John Summerson, The Architectural Association 1847–1947 (London: Pleiades Books, 1947).

External links[edit]

51°31′07″N 0°07′52″W / 51.51861°N 0.13111°W / 51.51861; -0.13111