Architectural Association School of Architecture

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][3][4][5][6] 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.[7][8]

Architectural Association
School of Architecture
MottoDesign with Beauty, Build in Truth
Academic affiliation
Open University[1]
PresidentDavid Porter
DirectorEva Franch i Gilabert
Director (Hooke Park site)Martin Self
Undergraduates367 (2012)[1]
Postgraduates223 (2012)[1]
London (main)
CampusUrban (London)
Rural (Hooke Park)


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.[9]

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.[9] 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.[10] Kerr became the first president, 1847–48.[11] From 1859 the AA shared premises at 9 Conduit Street with the Royal Institute of British Architects,[9] later (1891) renting rooms in Great Marlborough Street.[9]

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.[12] Women were first admitted as students to the AA School during the First World War in 1917.[13]

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.[14] Shortly before, the AA had announced it was seeking a new director, to be appointed by March 2018,[15] following the departure of Brett Steele announced in December 2016.[16][17]


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),[18] housing and urbanism, sustainable environmental design, histories and theories, emergent technologies,[19] 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.[20]

Independent status

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.[21]

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.[22]

Bookshop and publications

The school has a bookshop,[23] containing a range of architectural books. The bookshop is used as a platform for the AA's own books.[24] 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.[25] The school had its own independent radio station.[26]

Notable alumni

Former directors

Notable current and former teachers


  1. "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. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  2. "TOP ARCHITECTURE SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD". Jebiga Design & Lifestyle. 8 August 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  3. "Best architecture schools in the world". Spear's Magazine. 1 February 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  4. "Top 10 Best Architecture Schools in the World 2015". Design Schools Hub. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  5. "Top Schools of Architecture in the World". 8 March 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  6. "Bio of Brett Steele (AA Director)". Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  7. "Driftwood Pavilion by AA Unit 2". Dezeen Design Magazine. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  8. "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.
  9. Edward Bottoms, Introductory lecture to AA Archives, February 2010
  10. Records of the Architectural Association
  11. Past Presidents of the Architectural Association Archived 15 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "AA Life: Welcome". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  13. 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.
  14. Hurst, Will (15 November 2017). "Exclusive: AA begins consultation with staff over redundancies". Architects' Journal. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  15. "London's Architectural Association Seeks New Director". Arch Daily. 24 October 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  16. "Director of London's Architectural Association, Brett Steele, to Become UCLA Dean". Arch Daily. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  17. Howarth, Dan (15 December 2016). "AA director Brett Steele to become dean of UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture". Dezeen. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  18. "AALU (Landscape Urbanism)". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  19. "AADRL (Design Research Laboratory)". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 8 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  20. Dyckhoff, Tom (15 October 2009). "Who would want to be an architecture student?". The Times. London. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  21. "AA London". Bauhaus Labs. Archived from the original on 22 December 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  22. "Institution Profile: Architectural Association". British Council. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  23. "AA Bookshop". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  24. "AA Publications". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  25. Daly, Wayne. "Reading Room". Forms of Inquiry. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  26. "AAIR.FM Architectural Association Independent Radio". Architectural Association. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  27. Richards, J. M. "Gillian Margaret [Jill] Howell (1927–2000), architect". ONDB. OUP. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  28. Hevesi, Dennis (24 June 2012). "Gerhard Kallmann, Architect, Is Dead at 97". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  29. Wainwright, Oliver (21 June 2015). "James Gowan obituary". The Guardian.

Further reading

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

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