First Year StudioMonia De Marchi, Shany Barath, James Alexander Craig, Maria S Giudici, Max Kahlen, Alex Kaiser, John Ng
First Year at the AA is the initial exposure to the study of architecture that ends after five undergraduate years with the AA Diploma. At its core is the translation of visual references, thoughts, intuitions and written briefs into a series of projects through the mastering of theoretical and practical exercises and the relentless making of relations between theory, design and discourse. First Year is not a distilled or compressed version of what architecture could be, but the extensive exposure to architecture as a form of knowledge, taught as a combination of designing, writing and arguing. Although design skills form its natural focus, the ability to write and argue are emphasised as essential skills in putting forward a position and a project, with writing being taught as an active tool that helps to guide an intention toward the construction of a clear discourse; while arguing is refined through a series of discussions and presentation techniques.
Throughout the year you will learn how to enact intuitions and guide your thinking, firstly via visual representations and then through their articulation. You will not illustrate a position; you will not put all your efforts into the making only of a singular design; you will not focus purely on the embellishment of an image. Instead you will present your projects by using your imagination and the thoughtful synthesis of your explorations and research. You will be exposed to exciting discoveries, but also to what may seem at first to be frustrating challenges. You will be asked to take risks and be constantly active, self-critical and curious. You will learn to question how an architectural project can be innovative and novel but still sit within an existing set of ideas, histories and references. You will approach positions from different points of view and be prompted to absorb both impulsive and considered ways of understanding a given assignment.
TERM 1: Translations from Architectural References to Projects
During the year you will learn by working on architectural projects. A project can start by translating a visual reference, or by questioning a brief; it can be the focus of a day or the exploration of a month. For each project that you make you will always have a vision, a position, numerous attempts and a synthesis. The focus of Term 1 is the translation of a series of architectural references into architectural projects. You will look at buildings and cities by re-annotating their different types of tectonics, spatial relations, effects and allusions, and by re-measuring a space with your body. You will re-imagine and develop architectures as characters; what are his/her features, what do they look like and what was their past? You will re-enact an ideal space and ask whether you can occupy a space and imagine a microcosm?
TERM 2: Translations from Briefs & Questions to Arguments & ProjectsDuring Term 2 you will translate written briefs into arguments and projects. You will learn to take a position, to have an argument and develop projects by exploring architecture not as a form of illustration and narration but as a direct investigation of its attributes. You will step away from social, cultural and any other meanings we give to a project and purely understand the language of architecture in its scale, tectonics, form and spatial relations through iterations of drawings and models. You will question how to place a wall, an opening, a space and a building in a context that is more or less abstract, such as a grid, a city and a landscape. You will learn how to construct an argument with different forms of writing, to set up discussions, present your work and engage in counter-positions.
TERM 3: Translations from Projects & Alternative Readings to Projects
In Term 3 you will address a project in relation to other projects by other students and understand architecture in relation to other architectures through a series of crossover conversations and negotiations. Can you edit and define a synthesis between your work and another student’s work? You will also learn to look at your work from different points of view and address alternative readings. You will present a line of thought and talk about architecture in your own terms: do you talk about architecture as form? Architecture as space? Architecture as pleasure?
Your entire work will be represented and composed in your own portfolio. The First Year portfolio is a project in itself, constructed throughout the year as an open collection of your learning via arguments, visual speculations and projects. Can you plan it and draft it as a collection of learning experiences built up over the year? How do you organise the content? Is there a line of thought that goes beyond a chronological ordering? Your portfolio is both critical and poetic; it is the synthesis of many trials and failed attempts; it discloses your own way of looking, searching, thinking and putting forward positions and projects of architecture.
First Year Studio
The First Year Studio is the place where you will research, make, think and question via a series of seminars, tutorials and conversations with other students, tutors and thinkers. The conversations and explorations that you actively set up in the studio are essential in forming your learning and work. The First Year Studio is a dynamic and experimental environment that shifts from a chaotic workshop to a quiet research space, allowing for multiple discussions, thoughts and explorations and the continual development of your individually distinct portfolios.
Monia De Marchi is an architect and graduate of the Istituto di Architettura di Venezia. She has taught at the AA since 2005, as a Unit Master in both the Intermediate and Diploma schools, while also running her own design practice.
Shany Barath is an architect and founding partner of ShaGa Studio. She studied at TU Delft and the AA, where she has been teaching since 2009 in the DRL and Media Studies, and is currently the director of the AA Tel Aviv visiting school. She has previously worked for UN Studio and West 8 in the Netherlands.
James Alexander Craig is an architect and co-founder of STASUS. He has taught and been an invited critic at many UK and international schools of architecture and recently published his work in the latest instalment of the Pamphlet Architecture series.
Maria S Giudici earned her MA from Mendrisio Academy of Architecture, Switzerland, in 2006. Between 2005 and 2007 she worked in Bucharest-based office BAU, collaborated in Rotterdam with Donis in 2010 and Dogma in 2011. After teaching at the Berlage Institute and co-tutoring workshops at TU Delft (2008), TU Munich (2009), and Strelka (2010), she will be an assistant professor at BIArch Barcelona.
Max Kahlen works as an architect in London and Germany and is the founding director of CODKT. He studied at the Stuttgart Academy of Art & Design and the AA, where he graduated with honours. He has been teaching at the AA since 2008, initially in a Diploma unit and more u recently running a Media Studies course and as a First Year tutor.
Alex Kaiser is a co-founding director of Ordinary, an architectural studio based in East London. He graduated from Oxford Brookes and the AA and has worked for firms including RSH-P and Moxon Architects.
John Ng studied architecture at the University of Bath and then completed his diploma at the AA, where he has taught on Diploma Unit 5 since 2011.