The fate of the 16 Architectural Association (AA) staff members who were warned that their jobs were at risk in November has finally come to light. As reported by The Architect’s Journal, nine of the 16 were deemed “redundant” by the AA, and AA Files editor Tom Weaver has resigned. The cuts come as the London-based school has been roiled by financial issues. Samantha Hardingham, the AA’s interim director, told The Architect’s Journal that the reorganization was a response to a “massive” increase in rent and rates and the costs of an ongoing renovation of the school’s headquarters in Bedford Square. The school’s reorganization hasn’t been without pushback, as architects and critics from all over the world have expressed concern over the staff reductions and possible closing of the AA Files. Five of the eight positions at the AA’s publication department, responsible for producing the AA Files, have been slashed, and there are only two full-time staff members left there following Weaver’s departure. Despite the changes in recent years at the AA, the AA Files under Weaver has consistently been praised as the journal’s “golden years”. ‘The AA Files was one of the best things about the last 10 years at the association,” said Irenee Scalbert, a former AA professor and current member of the AA Files editorial board. “It found a good editor who is a big loss. To have a magazine is one thing; to have a good one with a capable editor is another. It was a sophisticated publication that gave evidence that the AA was good at architecture.” Hardingham has repeatedly stressed that the cuts are part of a larger reorganization process that will guarantee the school’s continued financial solvency. In addition to focusing more heavily on development, the school will also attempt to receive taught degree-awarding powers, which would allow them to award bachelor’s degrees. Two of the 16 aforementioned threatened staff members have been reassigned to different departments within the AA, while the remaining four have remained at their current positions.
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Since the Architectural Association (AA) announced it would slash staff from its publications division last week, the architecture community in Britain and abroad has expressed deep concern over cuts that could impact the AA Files, the school's influential journal of record. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) has obtained copies of letters to the AA sent by alums, former teachers, design curators, and others. In a letter to AA Board of Trustees President David Porter, the three curators of MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design expressed "strongest concern" over the closing of the AA Files and the school's publications and exhibitions departments. Martino Stierli, chief curator; Barry Bergdoll, curator; and Sean Anderson, associate curator asked the AA to wait until a new director is appointed before making drastic changes to the institution. "While we do not have a full understanding of the complex situation that the school is facing in this difficult moment, we nevertheless unequivocally urge you to consider whether it might not be possible to work with interested parties to see if there is another solution," they said. The cuts come as the AA searches for a new director after director Brett Steele left in 2016 after 11 years of service. Interim director Samantha Hardingham has handled operations since Steele's departure. Alum Peter Wilson, founding principal of BOLLES+WILSON, expressed "shock and horror" at the decision to get rid of the AA Publications department. (Editor's note: The AA hasn't confirmed whether the division will be shut down entirely.) Writing to Hardingham, Tim Benton, professor emeritus of art history at the Open University and longtime AA instructor, addressed the difficult role of the interim director but asked the school to find a different money-saving alternative to staff cuts. "The AA has always published and exhibited," Benton said. "To downgrade the reputation of the school is not a wise move and those who decide to dumb down an historic institution should also be held accountable." Porter commented on the school's process in an email to AN: "No final decisions have yet been made in respect of AA publications or indeed any other function subject to restructuring proposals," he wrote. "Every effort is being made to ensure the essential value of these functions will not be lost." AN has reached out to Porter for additional comment on staff cuts, but has not heard back at press time. In a five-page memo from August, before staff cuts were announced, Archigram founder Peter Cook lamented the school's direction and what he sees as a cultural shift towards put-together "'corporate'" Ivy League–type students. "Whatever happened to those picky, witty, contentious, interesting, resourceful, Identifiable [sic] AA types? Did they die out?" Cook asked. The letters are collected here for public review, and AN will add to the folder as more letters reach our inbox.
The prestigious Architectural Association (AA) has sent letters to 16 staff warning that a consultation period had begun and that they were at risk of being fired to cut costs. The London-based school notified two employees in the membership department, two in exhibitions, two in HR, four in development and six members of the publications department. While the AA has not come to a final decision, critics of the move fear that this will spell the end of the much-lauded AA Files, the school’s journal of record. Founded in 1981 by Alvin Boyarsky, director of the AA at the time, the AA Files have grown to become what some consider one of the best architectural magazines in print today. Featuring essays, criticism, and writing that conveys original ideas with a sense of wit, the journal frequently featured articles unlikely to be found in any other publication. Speaking to the The Architect’s Journal, Architecture Foundation Director Ellis Woodman lamented the AA Files’ possible demise. "Under Tom Weaver’s editorship, they’ve been enjoying a golden period producing the best longform writing about architecture in the world," he said. Woodman also called the dissolution of AA exhibitions a "tragic diminution of architectural discourse in London." Interim director Samantha Hardingham announced the cuts as the AA continues to search for a new director after the departure of 11 year veteran Brett Steele in 2016. An AA spokesperson issued a statement to the Journal, saying that the non-academic restructuring was done in such a way as to minimize the impact to the school’s operations or academic programming. "The AA is founded on the idea that it must know when to change. This restructuring is being undertaken in the best interests of the AA, and is necessary to support its sustainable future," the spokesperson added.
Brett Steele, Architectural Association director, named new dean of UCLA School of Arts and Architecture
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has named Brett Steele, current director of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London (AA), as the new dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. The Los Angeles Times reports that Steele will assume the new role in Los Angeles starting in August 2017. Steele will replace interim dean David Roussève who was managing the school’s transition after the departure of the prior dean, Christopher Waterman, who served in the role for a dozen years. Steele is American-born but also has a naturalized British citizen status. He received a diploma in architecture from the AA and also studied at the University of Oregon and the San Francisco Art Institute. During his tenure at the AA, Steele launched, among other programs, a digital prototyping lab; a campus expansion to the rural community of Dorset, Britain; the creation of new, full-time Master of Science and Master of Philosophy graduate courses; and a new doctorate program in design. Steele also worked as a project architect at Zaha Hadid Architects over two stints, between 1986 and 1987 and once again between 1992 and 1993. Regarding his new appointment, the L.A. Times quotes Steele as saying, “What got my attention and interested me is the nature of the role at UCLA and the composition of the school. I think we live in a time when the ability to assemble and invent audiences is as crucial to schools as all of the attention that most of them give to individual artists and performers and architects and designers. It’s in my view two sides of the same coin. There are a few very special places in the world where that’s built into the DNA and UCLA is simply one of those places.” As part of his new position, Steele will be in charge not only of the educational components of the arts and architecture schools at UCLA, but also several aspects of the institution’s public arms, including the Hammer Museum, Fowler Museum, and Center for the Art of Performance. For more information on Steele’s appointment, see the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design’s website.
On View> The Cooper Union presents “Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky & the Architectural Association”
Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky & the Architectural Association Cooper Union 30 Cooper Square, New York Through November 25, 2015 Boasting a remarkable array of artwork from both past and contemporary architectural figures such as John Hejduk, Michael Webb, Daniel Libeskind, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, and Bernard Tschumi, Drawing Ambience reflects and encourages the late Alvin Boyarsky’s assimilation of architectural drawings. During his tenure at the Architectural Association in London, Boyarsky developed a profound appreciation of these drawings. Known as a man with a keen eye for talent, Boyarsky fostered many young architects who would later dominate the field. He urged his students to investigate contemporary issues and use the evolving global culture as a vehicle to develop their own architectural agendas. These agendas manifested in the students’ visual work that Boyarsky regarded as equally important to the physical structures they depicted, viewing them as pieces of architecture in their own right. Visitors can expect to see works ranging from Hadid’s chaotic and crisp visualizations of her un-built projects to Koolhaas’ playful, almost Gameboy-esque The Pleasure of Architecture. The exhibition is currently on view at the Cooper Union in the Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery and closes on November 25.
On View> Drawings by Hadid, Tschumi, Gehry, Libeskind, and Koolhaas are being exhibited right now in St. Louis
Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum Washington University in St. Louis 1 Brookings Dr, St Louis, MO Through January 4th The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis is currently exhibiting early drawings from some of the world’s leading architects including Zaha Hadid, Bernard Tschumi, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, and Rem Koolhaas. The works come from the private collection of the late Alvin Boyarsky who chaired the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London from 1971 to 1990. The collection includes about 40 prints and drawings from the architects, and nine limited-edition folios published by the AA. Those folios include works from Peter Cook, Coop Himmelblau, and Peter Eisenman. “Drawing Ambience offers a rare glimpse into a pivotal moment in architectural history and the imaginative spirit of drawing that was and continues to be instrumental to the development of the field,” said the Kemper Museum in a statement. The exhibit was co-organized with the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design and will travel to Providence in April. This is the first public museum exhibition of Boyarsky’s collection.
Last Friday night, AN's William Menking and Aaron Levy launched their new book Four Conversations on the Architecture of Discourse at the Van Alen Bookstore in Chelsea. The book's publisher, Thomas Weaver of the Architectural Association in London, and the Van Alen's Olympia Kazi we on hand to help frame the evening's discourse on discourse. The new book springs from an earlier effort called Architecture on Display: the History of the Venice Biennale of Architecture, aka "the white book." In true manifesto fashion, the group sidestepped the official Biennale promo machine by publishing the white book outside of the established Biennale channels and then blanketed the 2010 festival with more than 600 copies. That book transcribed interviews with former Biennale directors and recovered an important history of the forum. From that quick and dirty approach emerged a longer term plot for the "black book" of Four Conversations, which focused architectural display and its relationship to the public. The new book transcribes four prosecco-fueled dinner conversations between fifty practitioners in four cities: Venice, New York, London, and Chicago. Aaron Levy said that as the white book was steeped with established practitioners, the new book brings fresh perspective from students, young architects, as well the architectural media. In order to move the conversation toward new ground, participants were urged to avoid mentioning previous exhibitions as examples. Upon opening the Van Alen panel to questions, one audience member bypassed the topic of developing the architectural display discourse and questioned the very notion of presenting architecture as an art--since, he said, it is beholden to real-estate interests and the demands of the client--unlike, say, painting. The question threatened to push the conversation into "what is art" territory, before Weaver pointed out that even the term "curate" has yet to be recognized by Microsoft Word, demanding spellcheck each time its typed. He added that while curating is a well established course of study in European academia, it remains relatively new here, making texts like Four Conversations all the more important. With a quiet evangelism, Weaver praised architectural book design (the AA series fits neatly in back pockets), but he added that the words shouldn't be eclipsed by the design, which remains difficult for the contemporary architect/author to resist. Menking disagreed and hoisted Rem Koohaas's Project Japan out of the display window to use as an example. He noted that the book is text and image heavy, giving readers the option to flip through in fifteen minutes or spend hours on the text, depending on their mood. The conversation spurred Kazi to recall her student days when Koolhaas and Mau's S, M, L, XL was on nearly every desk in the studio. Thought Kazi remained unsure if either form represented the future of architectural publishing in an anti-analogue age.