First Works: Emerging Architectural Experimentation of the 1960s and 1970s

AA Gallery & Front Memebers Room 18/11/2009 - 13/2/2010

'The mask one wears when entering a profession becomes one's authentic face'
Friedrich Nietzsche

'What is a beginning?'
Edward Said

During a tumultuous period in the 1960s and 1970s, new generations of architects began careers amidst a period of profound social change, new conditions to architecture and the city, and lasting changes to popular and critical forms of culture and its production. FIRST WORKS tells the story of this period and re-assesses the conditions of architecture and the beginnings of architectural careers today through a selection of projects world-wide undertaken during the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibition presents a single key early project or other kind of architectural realisation by Archigram, Archizoom, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Peter Eisenman, Norman Foster + Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, Steven Holl, Toyo Ito, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Moneo, Morphosis, Renzo Piano, Cedric Price, Aldo Rossi, Alvaro Siza, Bernard Tschumi, Robert Venturi and Paul Virilio + Claude Parent.

It seems clear today that in any discipline related to the production of culture the question of how one starts a career is absolutely central. Not by chance, successive generations of architects have found in their first works the basis for long-term interests, agendas and even obsessions. More interestingly, these beginnings often represent a kind of compressed architectural portfolio of an architects' career, marking key discoveries, breaks or shifts in how they think, work and learn architecture. FIRST WORKS offers a broad selection of this experience through the arrival of a generation that went on to, and continues to, profoundly influence architecture.

A key objective of this exhibition is to trace the origins of contemporary architecture through the formative projects of its most celebrated figures. The projects included will allow students and architects to reconsider practices now often better known through their current or later works. FIRST WORKS provides a timely opportunity to resituate the crucial role of these projects, and their various forms of realisation - built, and otherwise - through which critical forms of architectural practice can be seen to emerge and later influence architecture. At a time when the launching of an architectural career and the work of young architects is itself undergoing great change and experimentation, this exhibition provides the basis for reassessing some of the world's most important and vital projects and personalities today. Exhibition materials include original architectural drawings, sketches, models, early publication materials and more. An accompanying monograph is published by AA Publications, 256 pp. full-colour, £40.00, available from the AA Bookshop.

Contact details

Director's Office:
T: +44 (0)20 7887 4026


View AA Weekly

Download Events List (PDF)

The Architectural Association, Inc. is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee (No.171402) and registered as a charity (No. 311083). Registered office: 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES, 020 7887 4000

Click here to read the AA’s latest review report.

Click here to read the AA’s latest action plan.



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 Certificate), 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.