Architectural Association School of Architecture
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|Motto||Design with Beauty, Build in Truth|
|Director||Eva Franch i Gilabert|
|Director (Hooke Park site)||Martin Self|
|Location||London (main), United Kingdom|
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 foundation of the Architectural Association was as an alternative to the practice where young men were articled to established architects. This practise offered no guarantee for educational quality or professional standards. The AA believed it 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 moved premises to the former Royal Architectural Museum in Tufton Street, Westminster. In 1917, it moved again, to its current premises in Bedford Square, central London (it has since acquired additional London premises in John Street and a 350-acre (1.4 km2) site at Hooke Park in Dorset). The school has also acquired property on Morwell Street behind Bedford Square. Women were first admitted as students to the AA School during the First World War in 1917.
In its own opinion, Alvin Boyarsky (Chairman from 1971 to 1990), says that 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.
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, with tuition fees comparable to those of a private school. As an independent school, the AA does not feature in university rankings. Since non-EU students are charged higher fees to attend state universities, the AA is competitively priced by comparison, with a higher proportion of overseas students enrolled than many other UK architecture schools.
At undergraduate/first degree level direct application is the norm. It is not included in many books which guide potential undergraduates to choose appropriate courses; many are unaware of its existence until they are studying architecture elsewhere.
Bookshop and publications
The school has a bookshop, containing a range of architectural books. The bookshop is used as a platform for the AA's own books. 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 publishes 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 (1929–1935)
- Alvin Boyarsky (1971–1990)
- Alan Balfour (1991–1995)
- Roger Zogolovitch (President, 1991-1993)
- Mohsen Mostafavi (1995–2004)
- Brett Steele (2005-2017)
- Samantha Hardingham (interim, 2017–18)
- Eva Franch i Gilabert (2018- )
Notable current and former teachers
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- AA Projects Review 05/06. London, United Kingdom: AA Publications. 2006. p. 198. ISBN 1-902902-50-5.
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- John Summerson: The Architectural Association 1847–1947, Pleiades Books, London 1947.