Architectural Association School of Architecture

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Architectural Association
School of Architecture

Logo of the Architectural Association School of Architecture

Motto Design with Beauty, Build in Truth
Established 1847
Director Brett Steele[1]
Location London, England

Logo of the Architectural Association

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.[2] 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.[3][4]


Plaque beside entrance.

The foundation of the Architectural Association, the precursor to the school, was a reaction against the customary way of architectural training where young men were articled to established architects. This practise offered no guarantee for educational quality, let alone professional standards. It was rife with vested interests and open to abuse, dishonesty and incompetence.[5]

This situation and the reluctance of calling for programs prescribed by the state (as epitomised by France) 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.[5] Immediately 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.[6] Kerr became its first president, 1847–48.[7]

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, which it uses as studio space and there are plans for further expansion.[8] Women were first admitted as students to the AA School during the First World War in 1917.[9]

In the 1960s, the school's free thinking philosophy provided a platform for radically new concepts like the Fun Palace by Cedric Price and the establishment and long lasting legacy of the Archigram group.[5] Outstanding alumni were likely to stay on or return to the AA as teachers as exemplified by Pritzker Prize winners Rem Koolhaas and his pupil Zaha Hadid.

Put on a decidedly global basis by Alvin Boyarsky (Chairman from 1971 to 1990),[5] after more than 150 years, 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),[10] Housing and Urbanism, Sustainable Environmental Design, Histories and Theories, Emergent Technologies,[11] 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.[12]

The school also has its own bookshop, the AA Bookshop,[13] containing a comprehensive range of architectural books. The bookshop is also used as a platform for newly launched titles from AA Publications and its imprint Bedford Press.[14] 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 their field of expertise, such as Salman Rushdie. AA Publications also publishes the journal AA Files and the AA Book, also 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.[15] The school also has its own independent radio station.[16] The AA gallery also regularly exhibits work from emerging professionals, to exhibitions containing the work of more established architects and related professionals.

The school is notable as existing outside the state-funded university system, with tuition fees comparable to that of a private school, though some bursaries and scholarships are available on merit and financial need. Since non-EU students are charged higher fees to attend state universities however, the AA is competitively priced by comparison; therefore the AA is notable for having a higher proportion of overseas students enrolled than many other UK architecture schools.[17]

It also exists outside the UCAS application system; even at undergraduate/first degree level direct application is the norm. It is therefore 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. This may also account for the lower count of home-students enrolled.[18]


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. "RIBA announces 12 Honorary Fellowships". 6 October 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  2. "Bio of Brett Steele (AA Director)". Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  3. "Driftwood Pavilion by AA Unit 2". Dezeen Design Magazine. Retrieved 3 July 2009. 
  4. "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. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Edward Bottoms, Introductory lecture to AA Archives, February 2010
  6. Records of the Architectural Association
  7. Past Presidents of the Architectural Association
  8. "AA Life: Welcome". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  9. 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..
  10. "AALU (Landscape Urbanism)". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  11. "AADRL (Design Research Laboratory)". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 8 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  12. Dyckhoff, Tom (15 October 2009). "Who would want to be an architecture student?". London: The Times. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  13. "AA Bookshop". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  14. "AA Publications". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  15. Daly, Wayne. "Reading Room". Forms of Inquiry. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  16. "AAIR.FM Architectural Association Independent Radio". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  17. "AA London". Bauhaus Labs. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  18. "Institution Profile: Architectural Association". British Council. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  19. Hevesi, Dennis (24 June 2012). "Gerhard Kallmann, Architect, Is Dead at 97". New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  23. Wainwright, Oliver (21 June 2015). "James Gowan obituary". The Guardian. 

Further reading

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

External links

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