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Diploma 2 Trust in the Immersive Internet, Jeff Yu-Fu Huang, 2018–19

The Civic Programme

Fredrik Hellberg, Lara Lesmes

Whoever you want to be and whatever you wish to be a part of, you can do it or find it on the Internet. It gives context to the desires, opinions and beliefs that cannot find a place in the physical world and provides access to ideas held back by social norms. As the Internet moves the world, we move into the Internet, immersing ourselves in its possibilities to transform life. As we slip through the screen, enabled by recent developments in AR/VR technology, we emerge on the other side at the Immersive Internet.

The Immersive Internet is not a novel initiative. It is the inevitable metamorphosis of the WWW as it gains a new dimension. Once we have brought our bodies and senses into a partially or fully simulated reality, we are having an architectural experience. Who is designing these buildings? What are their functions and their natures? And, most importantly, why go to the trouble of constructing architectural enclosures when there is nothing to be physically sheltered from? The fact that early citizens of the Immersive Internet are creating such spaces tells us that architecture is the answer; we just have to figure out the question.

Architecture currently serves as a reference for structuring behaviour and social relations in the virtual. Lectures take place in rooms with typical theatre layouts and raves happen in nightclubs. This seems like a lost opportunity to explore what could be possible in this new environment. However, it points to a very interesting future in which architecture is a shelter for the mind. But in a place where one can walk through walls, turn people to mute or switch entire spaces off at any given time, what kind of social behaviour is to be expected?

Civic space fulfils the shifting and ambiguous role of structuring collective life. Without civic space, there can be no democratic society and without a civic Internet, there can be no Immersive Internet, as the right to associate, assemble, and freely express views are the fundamental principles upon which it is founded. With mounting fear that we might have built the largest privatised surveillance machine ever imagined, the need for a regulated, secure and fair simulated reality is increasingly in mainstream agreement.

We therefore seek to create visions for civic spaces in the Immersive Internet. Learning from the rich history of civic architecture and embracing the idea of a future of overlapping realities, we will shape mixed physical and virtual spaces that acknowledge and respond to the awesomeness and awfulness of our inevitably technological lives.


Fredrik Hellberg and Lara Lesmes, both graduates from the AA, are the founders of Space Popular. The practice, founded in Bangkok in 2013 and based in London since 2016, works at different scales: from furniture and interior design to architecture, urbanism and virtual worlds. The duo has extensive teaching experience and have lectured and participated as visiting critics internationally. Beyond their academic experience, Space Popular has realised built projects and exhibitions in Europe and Asia.

Architectural Association is approved by The Open University as an appropriate organisation to offer higher education programmes leading to Open University validated awards.

The Architectural Association (AA) has been granted the power to award its own degrees. Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards. Therefore, from September 2020 students admitted to the taught postgraduate programmes at the AA will be awarded AA degrees.

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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.