The Architectural Association (AA) is the UK’s oldest and only remaining private school of architecture. We have grown up alongside – and to a very great degree helped shape – modern architectural education and the profession in the UK and beyond. This year’s Prospectus demonstrates modern architecture’s ongoing evolution and the challenges faced by today’s architects. These realities serve as the backdrop to the teaching and learning at our school.
The AA is made up of countless parts. At our core is a worldwide association of members, an unrivalled public programme – of lectures, exhibitions, publications and other special events – and a global approach to teaching comprising a foundation year, undergraduate and graduate schools and more than 50 Visiting Schools worldwide. Staff and tutors of outstanding experience, ambition and creativity support AA students throughout all levels of their education. And given the fact that 85 per cent of our students (and a similar pecentage of tutors) come to London from abroad – bringing with them a world of personal beliefs, ideas and approaches – creates an architecture school unlike any other.
The following pages provide a brief introduction to AA life – from our renowned unit system of teaching and programme agendas to the public lectures, symposia, trips and projects that make up the year ahead. Whether read while looking out from one of the orderly windows that makes up the facade of our Georgian houses on Bedford Square; or under the canopy of trees in the working woodland of our Hooke Park campus in Dorset; from inside the lively design studios; or a packed public forum, what follows is a glimpse into a completely unique school of architecture – one made up diverse unit and programme studios, public galleries, dozens of lectures, as well as archives, libraries, workshops and the daily moments of spontaneous revolution that take place at the everyday.
At the core of the AA is our five-year ARB/RIBA accredited Undergraduate School, leading to the AA Intermediate Examination (ARB/RIBA Part 1) and AA Final Examination (ARB/RIBA Part 2) and the awarding of the AA Diploma. The Undergraduate School also includes a one-year full-time Foundation course for those contemplating studies in architecture or associated creative fields. The focus of our undergraduates’ academic lives is our famed ‘unit system’ of study, in which students pursue year-long design projects in intensive and agenda-driven design units while also attending complementary courses in History & Theory, Media and Technical Studies.
The Undergraduate School sits at the heart of the larger AA School, a community of 750 students and almost 250 teachers and staff that make up the most international architecture school ever created, and two-thirds of AA students and teachers comprise the Undergraduate School. Every year nearly 90 per cent of our full-time students come to the AA from abroad, creating a setting for a global discussion, debate and exchange of architectural ideas that makes the school unique. Students in our Undergraduate School have the opportunity for continuous interaction with not only the students and teachers from other parts of our school – which includes a Graduate School of 12 specialised programmes, a global Visiting School and a Foundation course for individuals considering a possible future career in architecture or other creative fields – but also with the unparalleled range of visitors and other participants in the AA’s Public Programme, the world’s largest, year-long programme of public events dedicated to contemporary architectural culture, the arts and design.
First Year Studio
The First Year design studio brings together students who work both individually and in groups in an open single, shared studio space located in the heart of the main school. This intellectual environment is intensified through continual interaction with experienced design tutors and collaborators who offer tutorials, seminars, workshops and presentations throughout the year. Students begin to develop their talents, strengths and modes of working to their highest potential through a diverse range of explorations that move between the disciplinary and the speculative.
AA Unit System
Student life in the Intermediate and Diploma Schools is organised around year-long design studios or ‘units’. This innovative approach to architectural teaching and learning emphasises the development of comprehensive design projects undertaken within the setting of a single unit selected by a student at the outset of the year.
In 2015/16 there are 15 units that make up the Intermediate School, and 15 units form the Diploma School. Students work in close contact with unit masters and tutors who independently set the agenda, aims and objectives for that year’s design project. Unit masters work at the AA School on a parttime basis while also leading successful professional lives beyond the school; many are based in London, and others travel regularly from across Europe. The unit system first emerged at the school in the 1930s, during a period in which the AA played a vital role in introducing modern architecture to the UK. Alongside this innovative, project-directed form of teaching, the school implemented increasingly collaborative, experimental approaches to architectural education, refining a model of open, participatory studies that has since gone on to greatly influence the teaching and learning of architecture across the world.
The AA Graduate School includes 12 postgraduate programmes offering advanced studies in one of the world’s most dynamic learning environments. All enrolled students join the school in October at the outset of an academic year, and attend full-time studies according to the length of the course selected.
Full-time Masters programmes include 12-month MA and MSc, and 16-month MArch options. These degrees are taught within the same programme structure for the first stage of the academic year.
16-month programmes, which are open to applicants with a five-year professional degree in architecture, for Architecture & Urbanism, Design & Make, Emergent Technologies & Design, Housing & Urbanism and Sustainable Environmental Design. Please note that for the 2015/16 academic year Landscape Urbanism will also offer a MArch award*.
12-month programmes in Emergent Technologies & Design and Sustainable Environmental Design, which are open to applicants with professional qualifications in architecture, engineering or other related disciplines. Dissertation projects are expected to combine design research with case study work related to students’ backgrounds. Please note that for the 2015/16 academic year Design & Make and Landscape Urbanism will also offer an MSc award*.
12-month programmes in History & Critical Thinking, Housing & Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism**, which are open to applicants with professional qualifications in architecture, engineering or other related disciplines. Dissertation projects are expected to combine design research with case-study work related to students’ backgrounds.
Two-year, part-time day-release course for the Conservation of Historic Buildings.
One-year full-time or two-year part-time course in Spatial Performance & Design, open to professionals in a number of creative fields. Please note that for the 2015/16 academic year the degree of this course will change to a 12-month MA and a 18-month MFA in Spatial Performance and Design***. Both the MA and the MFA will be full time.
20-month Taught MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (Projective Cities), open to candidates with a four or five-year degree in architecture (BArch, Diploma or equivalent degree)
Complementing the Masters programmes, the AA PhD programme fosters advanced scholarship and innovative research in the fields of architecture and urbanism through full-time doctoral studies. A new PhD in Architectural Design programme provides a setting for advanced research and learning for architects, designers and other qualified professionals.
The AA is an Approved Institution and Affiliated Research Centre of The Open University (OU), UK. All taught graduate degrees at the AA are validated by the OU. The OU is the awarding body for research degrees at the AA.
*Subject to approval and validation by The Open University.
** Please note that for the 2015/16 academic year the degree of this programme will change to a 12-month MSc and a 16-month MArch in Landscape Urbanism, subject to approval and validation by the Open University.
*** Subject to the approval of the MFA award and the validation of the MA/MFA programmes by The Open University.
Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture
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