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Nothing excites this gossip columnist like an opportunity of getting the keys to the architecture networking castle, even if those keys and that castle are a bit dusty. For a limited time, on loan from the AA Archive, I have in my possession an astonishing pre-digital social media relic, the AA Rolodex! Actually, a Rotadex, manufactured in Birmingham; the company is still thriving today.

This spindle of pastel-coloured index cards was lovingly built up over the 40-year career of AA Secretary Edouard le Maistre. There might be about 700-800 cards here containing the contacts of the entire span of Alvin Boyarksy’s chairmanship, Alan Balfour’s, Mohsen Mostafavi’s and the first two years of Brett Steele’s directorship. The older phone numbers are pre-London prefixes, fax numbers are celebrated and then crossed out in favour of new-fangled email addresses. About every fifth card is updated, old addresses and numbers crossed out rather than wastefully replacing a notched card. Some are handwritten, others tapped out on a typewriter. Lots of business cards are stapled in, each broadcasting its graphic design Zeitgeist faster than you can say Pentagram circa 1989. Wolf Prix’s card gets seven phone number updates over time. Richard Rogers’ and James Stirling’s home numbers are noted.   

Image showing AA Rolodex from AA Archive

Most cards, no surprise, are architects’ offices, most gone or moved by now, but not all. Then there are the outlier cards, one, marked “Restaurants” looks to be of Boyarsky or Balfour vintage and lists out:

Antoine’s (crossed out, formerly at 40 Charlotte Street)

Bombay Brasserie

Balzac Bistro



Chelsea Arts

Café Pelican

Chez Solanges

Chez Gerrard


But, wait, there are more restaurant cards, like ten more, a veritable who-ate-what-where shortlist including Odin’s, the Ritz, the Ivy, Criterion, and Tante Claire (Chelsea, long gone). There are a lot of bookshop cards, almost none still in existence. Travel agents, ditto. Lots of publishers, magazine editors, newspaper contacts lurk in the cards. Some museum curators and galleries are squeezed in; Max Protetch’s card is well-worn. Very few business types or politicians, but a good many ambassadors called upon, no doubt, to sort a visa or two over the years. The occasional engineer and construction firm (like five) made it in. There are several Sirs and Ladies in Eaton Square in the mix, some BBC radio and television names, a dozen RIBA big-wigs scattered about.

What comes across in spades is how international the AA’s been since 1969 when this Rotadex got started. European professors reaching well past the Iron Curtain. Lots and lots of American academics, every Ivy League dean. New York City architects outnumber the Californian 10:1. Commonwealth architecture schools in South Africa, India, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada. An array of contacts both academic and practices in Japan, China, Korea. The alphabetisation sets up interesting juxtapositions: The Malaysian Institute of Architects (Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia or PAM) sits next to the entry for Eduardo Paolozzi, his studio and RCA numbers noted, which rubs shoulders with Juhani Palaasm, Professor and former Dean at the Helsinki University of Technology and Director of the Finnish Museum of Architecture (1978-1983). Despite the global reach, there’s a lot of London in here. About half the cards are addresses you could walk to from Bedford Square or, at least, grab a cab to easily. Oh, yeah, there’s two cards of just cab company numbers, but, relax, no limo service in sight.

Back in the mists of time, before the iPhone, in an age when phones just rang and were answered without caller’s numbers coming up on a screen to save or forward on, such a thing as a Rola-Rotadex was a prized data capturing and archiving device, a central tool in the AA’s daily life, an interprofessional-academical worldwide web or hard-won far-flung colleagues. Other schools would have given away their RIBA medals for just a slice of this thing back when; or perhaps even now. How many of these numbers, prefixes added, might still ring? How many might be answered? Let me dial for you…

Lira Welts

From the stairwell is featured in AA Sporadical, the digital newsletter for alumni of the Architectural Association. To opt in, email

Date Submitted: 9/12/2018

The Gold Medal is the AIA’s highest annual honour, recognising individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Considered one of the most prestigious awards in the architecture world, the Gold Medal has been received by well renowned architects such as Moshe Safdie, Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, and Paul Revere Williams.

The AA congratulates Lord Richard Rogers (AADipl 1960) on being announced as the 2019 Gold Medal recipient.

'We know that architecture is a discipline of enormous political and social consequence,' Lord Peter Palumbo of Walbrook wrote of Rogers. 'And today we celebrate Richard Rogers, a humanist who reminds us that architecture is the most social of arts. Throughout his long, innovative careers, Rogers shows us that, perhaps, the architect’s most lasting role is that of a good citizen of the world.'

Read more on the AIA website here

Image: Reyner Banham, Lloyds Bank Headquarters-London, 1985, AA Photo

Date Submitted: 8/12/2018

A live installation of a prototype cable construction robot, developed by architects Mamou-Mani, explores the future of building construction.

Building on the ‘spider cams’ of sports stadia and pick-and-place technology, the Polibot, a prototype construction robot, installed in Sir John Soane’s Museum, offers a glimpse of the exciting future of building construction. The Polibot progressively constructs and then deconstructs Soane’s designs for the dome from the Bank of England, using architectural drawings translated into lines of code.

The installation will be supported by an exhibition in the Exhibition Galleries that explores the development of the project and Soane’s own experimentation with innovative new technology.

Simultaneously looking back and looking forward, the project offers a powerful showcase of the potential of this new technology, which looks set to transform how architecture is designed and understood.

Polibot Schedule: The Polibot will run Wednesday to Sunday, 10 - 4.30pm

Exhibition on until 3 February 2019

Find out more on the Sir John Soane's Museum website

Date Submitted: 8/12/2018

Tallinn Architecture Biennale (TAB), an international architecture and urban-planning festival based in Estonia, aims to create a synergy between emerging talents and industry, Estonian and international architects, and architects and the general public, by creating a point of contact between them to stimulate the exchange of ideas.

In November this year, TAB called for architectural proposals for its Installation Programme Competition 2019. The brief, Huts and Habitats, aligns Estonia’s rich history of timber construction with new technologies and design strategies. Participants were asked to design a modern take on the wooden ‘primitive hut’, an installation that researches fundamental, primordial notions of construction, tectonics and dwelling.

Offering the opportunity to design and build an experimental wooden structure in the heart of Tallinn, 137 world-wide submissions were received for the two-stage competition. Among the 12 architectural firms selected to continue on to the second stage were AA Alumni, Nicholas Grimshaw (AADipl(Hons) 1965), Manuel Jimenez Garcia (AA DRL MArch 2011) and Igor Pantic (AA DRL March 2011). 

The winner will be announced in February 2019 and will receive €15,000 to build and construct the installation in front of the Museum of Estonian Architecture in Tallinn city centre in August 2019. It will be opened to the public during TAB Opening Week, 11–15 September 2019.

Read more on the brief or find out about the other finalists here

Image credit: Gilles Retsin’s TAB 2017 Installation ©NAARO-6

Date Submitted: 7/12/2018

The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 have announced the five finalists for next year’s twentieth annual Young Architects Program (YAP). Each finalist is invited to make a preliminary proposal that will be installed inside PS1’s outdoor courtyard next summer. The winner will be revealed in early 2019.

The selection of finalists hints at MoMA’s commitment to showcasing forward-thinking architects who use eye-catching design, strategic planning, and social media to garner global influence. Not only do these teams create innovative spaces and experiences, but they incorporate imaginative materials and movement into every project they pursue.

Among the five teams of finalists are Oana Stanescu (AA Diploma Unit 15 Staff) and Akane Moriyama.

Read more here

Date Submitted: 7/12/2018

The AJ Architecture Awards recognises excellence in UK architecture across a range of categories, from school project of the year to housing project of the year.

The 2018 awards saw architecture’s most creative and talented leaders and innovators attend the ceremony at The Roundhouse London on 4 December, to hear the results of the 23 award categories.

The AA congratulates AA alumni and former staff, including drMM, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Fielden Fowles, Dixon Jones and Ian Ritchie Architects, for their success in this year’s awards.

See the full list of winners on the AJ website here

Image credit: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Royal Court, Liverpool. Awarded Cultural Project of the Year.

Date Submitted: 6/12/2018

The exhibition, at MAGAZIN. Space for Contemporary Architecture, Vienna, contains excerpts from a location situated remotely from a city, where norms are incomparable to ours, but no less substantiated by a will to progress, hindered by violence and a need to share. The location, founded upon ancient customary practices and fulfilled by a technically proficient contemporary, will be honoured in the space by a moving image, three large installations and drawings.

The “Highest Good” refers to the physical and performative goals of such a place to which its people aspire.

The newly produced body of work adopts an alternative way to navigate the gallery by the addition of a partition and by reducing natural light. In this arrangement, one enters the space which prepares the "palette" of the eye in order to access other temperaments at show.

Throughout the exhibition the production of a publication will take place entitled "Zenith Boil", derived from creation of an artefact that makes measurable atmospheric changes

MAGAZIN. Space for Contemporary Architecture
Weyringergasse 27/i
A - 1040 Vienna

Opening: 7 December 2018 7pm
Exhibition: 8 December – 1 February 2019

Date Submitted: 6/12/2018

Kostas Grigoriadis (AA Diploma Unit 2 Staff) wins the 2018 RIBA President’s Award for Research within the Design and Technical category for his paper Computational Blends: The Epistemology of Designing with Functionally Graded Materials. Read more about the project on the RIBA website

Camille Bongard (Intermediate 5 Student) has received a Commendation in the Bronze Medal Category of the 2018 RIBA President’s Medal Award for her project A Choreographed Timeline, Rewriting RIBA Building Contract. Read more about the project on the RIBA website

Jingru Cheng (AA PhD) has received a Commendation in the 2018 RIBA President's Awards for Research within the Cities and Community category for her paper Care and Rebellion: The Dissolved Household in Contemporary Rural China. Read more about the project on the RIBA website

Image credit: Camille Bongard, A Choreographed Timeline, Rewriting RIBA Building Contract

Date Submitted: 5/12/2018

AA Landscape Urbanism Co-director Jose Alfredo Ramirez will be a key note speaker in the Seminar on Governance and Urban Growth organized by the Inter-American Development Bank in Bogota Colombia on 5th December 2018.

The event will focus on a couple of metropolitan studies the Inter-American Development Bank has been developing recently in the region to promote and support metropolitan coordination with local governments.  The research includes study cases in Colombia and Chile and will discuss the idea of Metropolitan Landscapes and the future of Metropolis presented by Jose Alfredo Ramirez as part of an ongoing research on Metropolitan regions and its emergence as a design discipline.

For more information visit the AALU website

Date Submitted: 4/12/2018

The AA Dining Room is one of the 140 unusual bars and restaurants featured in this new book written by Hannah Robinson and Rachel Howard. The book features places with eye-popping decor, eccentric owners, and unusual menus and is an indispensable guide for those who thought they knew London well, or who would like to discover the hidden face of the city.

Join the authors for the book launch on Thursday December 6th from 6-8pm, at the hidden bar in the Museum of Comedy, beneath St George’s church, Bloomsbury Way, WC1A 2SR.

Date Submitted: 3/12/2018

Vere van Gool (AADipl(Hons) 2014) is the curator of the exhibition and lecture series Screen Spaces, a geography of moving image in New York. On from December 1-7 2018, the series has been organised for Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Dutch institute for Architecture and Design and Digital Culture.

Screen Spaces presents ten site-specific installations showcasing the work of video and time-based media artists. Spanning across a myriad of locations in New York, the project aims to unveil the identities, ideologies and imaginaries that are set in motion by video culture today. Through a series of conversations and public programs, Screen Spaces explores the material, spatial and political dimensions of the space of the screen and the territories it mediates, rendering video and time based media as sites for reality production and circulation.

For more information visit the Screen Spaces website  

Date Submitted: 3/12/2018

As a part of their studio project, AA Diploma 15 students spent two weeks collaborating with Samuel Ross’ A Cold Wall and NikeLab to conceptualise and execute an immersive sound installation for the capsule collection launch event.

Students presented three ideas related to notions of decay, preservation, display and the distribution of the garments embracing air, clay and sound as the main motifs of the brads’ collaboration.

In a week-long fabrication period, the Diploma 15 studio was transformed into a clay slip-casting factory with a production line of 700 pieces per day. The total number of pieces for the installation was 4500.

The pieces were installed on the vinyl-coated of the NikeLab showroom in Shoreditch and during the launch event visitors of the show were encouraged to interact with the piece, crushing the clay casts into chunks, shards and dust thus employing the impact of the foot strike as a literal beat generating the sound.

Read the article on the Dezeen website here

Date Submitted: 2/12/2018

Much of what constitutes ‘private space’ today has been compressed into an individual room and this has precipitated changes in how we interact with objects, buildings and each other. Given the scarcity of affordable housing, an increasing number of people now find themselves living in shared accommodation well into their 30s. In this talk OMMX will explore how design might embrace these changes and discuss how architecture that looks forward, to both incremental and transformational change, can create space for co-authorship and adaptation. The talk will illustrate how this context has influenced their practice and how they set about preparing their buildings for change.

London-based OMMX was established in 2011 by directors Hikkaru Nissanke and Jon Lopez. They have since developed a significant portfolio of international projects while contributing to the wider architectural culture through their teaching and research practices. The practice has recently been nominated for the 2018 Mies van der Rohe prize for their Stele House project.

The talk will take place at the offices of Jonathan Tuckey Design, 58 Milson Road at 7pm, Wednesday 5th December 2018. Please join for a drink before, or after, the talk.

RSVP to to reserve a place.

Date Submitted: 30/11/2018

John Palmesino, Territorial Agency and AA Diploma 4 Tutor, will partake in the panel discussion - Palais des Nations: How Architecture, Art, and Heritage Can Help us Reimagine Spaces for Future Diplomacy on Tuesday 4th December. Other panellists include Tomaz Mencin, Olivier Hoehne and Véronique Neissat.

Geneva has one of the richest histories of international collaboration among nations and citizens, including hosting the League of Nations and the United Nations. The Palais des Nations, built in 1930, is one of the busiest conference centres in Europe. Decisions taken at this iconic venue have a global impact on living standards, human rights and well-being of all peoples. Under the Strategic Heritage Plan (SHP), the Palais is about to undergo a complete renovation to modernize work spaces while preserving its historical legacy. This transformative project has to adapt to today’s complex socio-economic realities and enable spaces for future diplomacy and governance to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Library Talk will bring together the views of architects, art experts and diplomats coupled with an artistic photo exhibition.

For more information visit the United Nations Library Geneva website.

Date Submitted: 29/11/2018

The third exhibition in the Digital Turn series at The Building Centre features the current work, practices and research agendas of the Architectural Association Design Research Laboratory (AADRL). Founded over 20 years ago as a space to interrogate architecture through design research, AADRL aims to challenge how we discuss, design, fabricate and live within architecture and urbanism.

Through the work of AADRL graduates, the exhibition displays how innovative digital design and research tools are put into practice, changing the conventions of design and fabrication. Their work speculates on ways in which the built environment could participate and evolve with us, reflecting the idea that architecture can be used as a framework to investigate and respond to the challenges of today.

The Digital Turn series at The Building Centre takes the format of a physical and metaphorical exhibition platform, demonstrating how digital tools are changing ways of thinking about and producing our built environment. Previous exhibitors in the series include Zaha Hadid Architects Computation and Design Research Group (ZHCODE) and Design Computation Lab.

The exhibition is open from the 26 November 2018 until 26 January 2019. For more information, visit the Building Centre website

Date Submitted: 27/11/2018


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The Architectural Association receives Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Lords of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.

The Architectural Association (AA), the oldest independent school of architecture in the United Kingdom, is pleased to announce that it has been granted the power to award its own degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards and is working to create some of the world’s most pioneering courses in architecture to shape and build the future.

Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Prospective students worldwide can apply to the AA Foundation Course (Foundation Diploma), Experimental Programme BA(Hons), Diploma Programme (MArch), and nine taught postgraduate programmes encompassing History and Critical Thinking in Architecture (MA), Projective Cities (Taught MPhil) and Sustainable Environmental Design (MSc/MArch), amongst others.

AA Director, Eva Franch said, ‘since our founding in 1847 we have never ceased to create new horizons, institutionally and academically. This is a significant milestone for the AA and demonstrates how we have grown and progressed as an institution that has always valued independence. Receiving TDAP marks a new era for our institution; these are exciting times for the AA. The process has required considerable work from all members of staff and students. I would like to take this opportunity to credit them for this major achievement’.

President of the AA Council, Victoria Thornton added, ‘the TDAP process has recognised our strong governance, academic standards, scholarship and teaching as well as the environment supporting the delivery of taught higher education programmes’.

The School’s application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers was supported by the Architects Registration Board, the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Open University.