Samantha Hardingham

Samantha Hardingham, AA Interim Director

It is with enormous pride and great delight that I warmly welcome all new and returning students, staff, members and guests to the AA. It is a particularly special privilege to be interim director for 2017–18, as the first woman to take up the role, in the very year that we celebrate AA XX 100 – the one hundredth anniversary of women being admitted as students. I walked through the front door at no 36 as a first year student exactly 30 years ago, little knowing how radically my world would be transformed. The people and ideas I encountered here never cease to be extraordinary, my understanding of what architecture is continuously expanding to imagine what architecture could be.

Learning at the AA, then and now, means: to design, to think, to invent, to speak, to write, to make, to test, to fail, to question, to stretch a definition, to argue and to change one’s mind. It also means striking up a friendship with modernism – not with a style or movement, but with the idea in its broadest, most global sense, meaning that the quality of thought and expression engendered in every student, in every room, and with every kind of audience is centred on how to invent, to experiment, to move forward: to think the unthinkable. Each and every year students, tutors and visitors to our School and to the many Visiting Schools around the world work on challenging and re-tuning the parameters of both what it means to learn about architecture and what architecture itself might be, seeking new relevancies, new relationships and new sites. 

It is in this spirit that a number of new tutors from the UK and elsewhere in Europe will bring new agendas to both the Intermediate and Diploma School in 2017–18; work will continue on the major building project in the basement at Bedford Square for our new and expanded Digital Prototyping Lab; graduate students will break ground on Wakeford Hall, a stunning new building incorporating a library and lecture space in the woodland at Hooke Park in Dorset. It is also 30 years since Mark Cousins began his Friday lecture series at the AA, and he will deliver the final series this year, to then begin work on writing up his spoken words for publication. But perhaps most crucial for the AA this year are two parallel activities that serve to underpin all of our endeavours: the pursuing of our application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers, alongside the search for a new AA Director. It is an amazing moment for the AA to come together to ask what it is, and what it wants to be next. We are all privileged to be here, now, to be a part of that conversation – a celebration of looking forward.


Photo by Valerie Bennett

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