Architectural Association School of Architecture
|Motto||Design with Beauty, Build in Truth|
Rural (Hooke Park)
The Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, commonly referred to as the AA, is the oldest independent school of architecture in the UK and one of the most prestigious and competitive in the world. Its wide-ranging programme of exhibitions, lectures, symposia and publications have given it a central position in global discussions and developments within contemporary architectural culture.
The Architectural Association was founded in 1847 as an alternative to the practice of training aspiring young men by apprenticeship to established architects. This practice offered no guarantee for educational quality or professional standards, and there was a belief that the system was open to vested interests, abuse, dishonesty and incompetence.
This situation led two articled pupils, Robert Kerr (1823–1904) and Charles Gray (1827/28–1881), to propose a systematic course of training provided by the students themselves. 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. Kerr became the first president, 1847–48. From 1859 the AA shared premises at 9 Conduit Street with the Royal Institute of British Architects, later (1891) renting rooms in Great Marlborough Street.
The AA School was formally established in 1890. In 1901, it changed premises to the former Royal Architectural Museum in Tufton Street, Westminster. In 1917 it moved again, to its current location in Bedford Square, central London. It has since acquired additional London premises in John Street, property on Morwell Street behind Bedford Square, and a 350-acre (1.4 km2) site at Hooke Park in Dorset.
The AA is one of the world's most international and prestigious schools of architecture, attracting and selecting students and staff from more than 60 countries worldwide, with a long list of visiting critics, lecturers and other participants from around the world each year. The students of the AA have been addressed by many eminent figures, from John Ruskin and George Gilbert Scott in the 19th century, to more recently Richard Rogers, an alumnus of the school.
In November 2017, the AA was reported to be planning to make 16 staff redundant, including the whole of its publications and exhibitions departments. Shortly before, the AA had announced it was seeking a new director, to be appointed by March 2018, following the departure of Brett Steele announced in December 2016.
The first female director of the AA was Eva Franch i Gilabert, appointed in 2018 (succeeding interim director Samantha Hardingham). Following votes of no confidence in her leadership, 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." 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". 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".
Women at the AA
Women were first admitted as students to the AA School during World War I in 1917, 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. Ruth Lowy, Winifred Ryle, Irene Graves and Gillian Harrison (nee Cooke) were some of the first women to enter the AA, hitherto a solely male school. 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, Mya Anastasia Manakides, Janet Street-Porter, Carolyn Trevor, Susan Wheeler and Georgie Walton.
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.
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), Housing and Urbanism, Sustainable Environmental Design, Histories and Theories, Emergent Technologies, Design Research Lab (DRL), as well as day-release course in building conservation, garden conservation, and environmental access. Recently launched 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.
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.
Bookshop and publications
The AA Bookshop has a wide collection of architectural literature  and is used as a platform for AA's own publications. 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 notoriety 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. The school had its own independent radio station.
- Howard Robertson (1929–35)
- Alvin Boyarsky (1971–90)
- Alan Balfour (1991–95)
- Mohsen Mostafavi (1995–2004)
- Brett Steele (2005–2017)
- Samantha Hardingham (interim, 2017–18)
- Eva Franch i Gilabert (2018–2020)
Notable current and former teachers
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