At the core of the AA is our five-year ARB/RIBA accredited Undergraduate School, leading to the AA Intermediate Examination (ARB/RIBA Part 1) and AA Final Examination (ARB/RIBA Part 2) and the awarding of the AA Diploma. The Undergraduate School also includes a one-year full-time Foundation course for those contemplating studies in architecture or associated creative fields. The focus of our undergraduates’ academic lives is our famed ‘unit system’ of study, in which students pursue year-long design projects in intensive and agenda-driven design units while also attending complementary courses in History & Theory, Media and Technical Studies.
AA SchoolThe Undergraduate School sits at the heart of the larger AA School, a community of 750 students and almost 250 teachers and staff that make up the most international architecture school ever created, and two-thirds of AA students and teachers comprise the Undergraduate School. Every year nearly 90 per cent of our full-time students come to the AA from abroad, creating a setting for a global discussion, debate and exchange of architectural ideas that makes the school unique. Students in our Undergraduate School have the opportunity for continuous interaction with not only the students and teachers from other parts of our school – which includes a Graduate School of 12 specialised programmes, a global Visiting School and a Foundation course for individuals considering a possible future career in architecture or other creative fields – but also with the unparalleled range of visitors and other participants in the AA’s Public Programme, the world’s largest, year-long programme of public events dedicated to contemporary architectural culture, the arts and design.
First Year Studio
The First Year design studio brings together students who work both individually and in groups in an open single, shared studio space located in the heart of the main school. This intellectual environment is intensified through continual interaction with experienced design tutors and collaborators who offer tutorials, seminars, workshops and presentations throughout the year. Students begin to develop their talents, strengths and modes of working to their highest potential through a diverse range of explorations that move between the disciplinary and the speculative.
AA Unit System
Student life in the Intermediate and Diploma Schools is organised around year-long design studios or ‘units’. This innovative approach to architectural teaching and learning emphasises the development of comprehensive design projects undertaken within the setting of a single unit selected by a student at the outset of the year.
In 2014/15 there are 13 units that make up the Intermediate School, and 14 units form the Diploma School. Students work in close contact with unit masters and tutors who independently set the agenda, aims and objectives for that year’s design project. Unit masters work at the AA School on a parttime basis while also leading successful professional lives beyond the school; many are based in London, and others travel regularly from across Europe. The unit system first emerged at the school in the 1930s, during a period in which the AA played a vital role in introducing modern architecture to the UK. Alongside this innovative, project-directed form of teaching, the school implemented increasingly collaborative, experimental approaches to architectural education, refining a model of open, participatory studies that has since gone on to greatly influence the teaching and learning of architecture across the world.