Architectural Association School of Architecture

Architectural Association
School of Architecture
Motto Design with Beauty, Build in Truth
Type Independent
Established 1847
Academic affiliation
Open University[1]
President David Porter
Director Brett Steele[2][3]
Director (Hooke Park site) Martin Self
Undergraduates 367 (2012)[1]
Postgraduates 223 (2012)[1]
Location London (main),
 United Kingdom
Campus Urban (London)
Rural (Hooke Park)
AA Bedford Square premises.

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.[4] 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.[5][6]


Plaque beside entrance.

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.[7]

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.[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]

The AA School was formally established in 1890. In 1901, it moved premises to the former Royal Architectural Museum. 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.[10] Women were first admitted as students to the AA School during the First World War in 1917.[11]

In the 1960s, the school provided a platform for radically new concepts like the Fun Palace by Cedric Price and the establishment and the legacy of the Archigram group.[7] Alumni returned to the AA as teachers as exemplified by Pritzker Prize winners Rem Koolhaas and his pupil Zaha Hadid.

In its own opinion, Alvin Boyarsky (Chairman from 1971 to 1990),[7] 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.


Courses are divided into two main areas – undergraduate programmes, leading to the AA Diploma (Part 2), and postgraduate programmes, which include specialised courses in Landscape Urbanism (LU),[12] Housing and Urbanism, Sustainable Environmental Design, Histories and Theories, Emergent Technologies,[13] Design Research Lab (DRL), as well as day-release course in Building Conservation, garden conservation, and environmental access. Recently launched programmes 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.[14]

The school has a bookshop,[15] containing a range of architectural books. The bookshop is used as a platform for the AA's own books.[16] 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 Denis Crompton of Archigram.[17] The school had its own independent radio station.[18] The AA gallery exhibits architects.

The school is notable as existing outside the state-funded university system, with tuition fees comparable to that of a private school. Since non-EU students are charged higher fees to attend state universities however, the AA is competitively priced by comparison; with a higher proportion of overseas students enrolled than many other UK architecture schools.[19]

It exists outside the UCAS application system; even 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, indeed many are unaware of its existence until they are studying architecture elsewhere.[20]


AA DRL Pavilion. 
AA Gallery. 
Architectural Association School of Architecture. 
AA Intermediate Unit 2 'Swoosh' pavilion, 2008. 
Inside the AA. 

Notable alumni

Former directors

Current and former teachers


  1. 1 2 3 "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.
  2. "RIBA announces 12 Honorary Fellowships". 6 October 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  3. Director's Office
  4. "Bio of Brett Steele (AA Director)". Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  5. "Driftwood Pavilion by AA Unit 2". Dezeen Design Magazine. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  6. "Mohsen Mostafavi (Former AA Director) is named dean of (Harvard) Design School". Harvard Gazette. Archived from the original on 13 July 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Edward Bottoms, Introductory lecture to AA Archives, February 2010
  8. Records of the Architectural Association
  9. Past Presidents of the Architectural Association
  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. "AALU (Landscape Urbanism)". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  13. "AADRL (Design Research Laboratory)". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 8 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  14. Dyckhoff, Tom (15 October 2009). "Who would want to be an architecture student?". London: The Times. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  15. "AA Bookshop". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  16. "AA Publications". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  17. Daly, Wayne. "Reading Room". Forms of Inquiry. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  18. "AAIR.FM Architectural Association Independent Radio". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  19. "AA London". Bauhaus Labs. Archived from the original on 22 December 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  20. "Institution Profile: Architectural Association". British Council. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  21. Hevesi, Dennis (24 June 2012). "Gerhard Kallmann, Architect, Is Dead at 97". New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  25. Wainwright, Oliver (21 June 2015). "James Gowan obituary". The Guardian.

Further reading

External links

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

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