Diploma 16 Bêka & Lemoine, Homo Urbanus Rabatius, 2018

Homo Urbanus: Laboratory for Sensitive Observers

Ila Bêka, Louise Lemoine, Gili Merin

‘I want to give a view of the world that can only emerge by not pursuing any particular theme, by refraining from passing judgment, proceeding without aim. Drifting with no direction except one’s own curiosity and intuition.’ – Michael Glawogger, Untitled, 2017

The city is the place par excellence where the individual defines himself in relation to the group of his fellows – by mimicry or opposition, by rupture or by adhesion, by not being able to avoid the weight of the rules that govern the group. The open stage of this great social game, the street, is where every multifaceted rule is in constant action. The micro-scale observation of the events of the street has the subtle capacity to reveal the hidden mechanisms of the whole social system.

In line with the great steps of evolution of his species, Homo Urbanus has become a strange creature. DIP16 will observe and analyse him on the public stage of the street. This unit will entirely be devoted to training students to engage their deep human sensitivity, developing their receptivity to those that surround them and refining their capacity for observation of the overlooked; ordinary urban movements, mannerisms, habits and behaviours – a world of actions that escapes the attention of busy city-dwellers, but which forms the very essence of our contemporary urban condition. Stepping out of the habitual activity of daily life, students will become barbarians in the urban environment in order to rediscover astonishment and surprise as key values in conceiving of the city as a land of exploration and a laboratory for new ways of living.

Working in London throughout term one, during the second term each student will choose a city in which to individually make a film over ten days. Video installations, written texts, drawings, maps and urban wanderings will be used to feed the development of this work, from conception to postproduction. Beyond a conceptual and theoretical process, the work of the unit will be based on concrete, vibrant, sensory and emotional thinking as a guiding force in the production of individual films. Personal, intimate and spontaneous, these filmic forms will create new readings of the city not as a sequence of flows and an assembly of masses, but as a tangle of individual people, relationships and emotions. The collective research of the unit will eventually be drawn together in an anthropological cartography of the mannerisms and habits of the global Homo Urbanus.

Unit Staff

Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine are video-artists, producers and publishers. Their research is focused on how the built environment shapes and influences our daily life. In 2016, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York acquired the complete works of Bêka & Lemoine for its permanent collection.

Gili Merin is an architect, photographer, and PhD candidate at the AA. She worked for OMA and Kuehn Malvezzi, and has had her work widely published in books and exhibitions worldwide.





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Welcome to 2019-20

Dear School Community,

The Architectural Association is a place where we forget our labels as architects, as artists, as economists, as writers, as poets, and we become citizens of the world – a world that we believe we can change, transform into something other, more interesting, more radical, more free, more equal, more us. The new academic year brings a series of important conversations to the forefront of architectural education and contemporary culture through new and familiar voices and projects. There are urgent tasks at hand. Our programmes throughout the school have accepted the challenge to address issues of climate and ethics. As architects we always speak on behalf of the other, but we also need to constantly ask ourselves, who has the right to speak, and on behalf of whom? How am I affecting the environment with my actions? How can I care more about others? 

This year I invite us all to practice radical empathy, to care about the planet, the other and the future. To listen, to ask, to share, to discuss, to debate, but ultimately to care. 

Like every year, new appointments and initiatives will expand both our academic and institutional horizons. Academic voices joining us are: filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, whose work focuses on experimental narratives and cinematographic forms in relation to contemporary architecture and the urban environment; Berlin-based architect Sam Chermayeff (AA Alumni), founder of the practice June 14; Didier Fiúza Faustino (AA Tutor 2010-16), an architect and artist working on the relationship between the body and space; Gabu Heindl, an architect and urban planner who is the head of GABU Heindl Architektur in Vienna, an interdisciplinary studio specialising in public interventions, cultural and social buildings; David Kohn, London-based architect and founder of David Kohn Architects working internationally on arts, education and residential projects; Viviana Muscettola, an associate director at Zaha Hadid Architects and an executive member of the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat; OMMX, a London-based practice led by Hikaru Nissanke and Jon Lopez; OFIS, an international architecture office based in Ljubljana and led by Špela Videčnik and Rok Oman (both AA Alumni); Superpool, an international research-based architecture practice located in Istanbul and led by Selva Gürdoğan and Gregers Tang Thomsen; and Bostjan Vuga (AA Alumni), architect and founder of SADAR+VUGA. Other people joining us include Eleanor Dodman, Liza Fior, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Lizy Huyghe, Guan Lee,  Melodie Leung, Gili Merin, Ivan Morrison, Anna Muzychak, Bushra Mohamed, Jonathan Robinson, Alvaro Velasco Perez and James Westcott. This diversity of new voices, will add to the units and programmes and will continue the multiplicity of agendas that the AA is known for. 

Every course, programme and unit throughout the school operates under a highly specific and idiosyncratic methodology, which offers every student a myriad of options and possibilities. More about the overall academic offerings can be found here. More about Experimental Programme units and staff can be found here; Diploma Programme units and staff can be found here and information about the unit selection process can be found here.

After more than a decade at the helm of the PhD Programme, Simos Yannas has stepped away to focus on the Sustainability and Environmental Design (SED) Programme that he leads at the school. The new Head of the PhD Programme, Pier Vittorio Aureli will shape the programme in the years to come. Elif Erdine will be the new Head of Emergent Technologies and Design (EmTech) after Mike Weinstock stepped down; however, he will continue to teach within the programme as Founding Director. 

Print Studio is transforming with a new Head of Publications, Maria S. Giudici who will – in addition to being the editor of AA Files – oversee new publications that continue to position the AA at the forefront of critical discussions through printed matter. Ryan Dillon is our new Head of Academic Communications, and will edit the annual AA Book, lead the relaunch of the AA Radio/Podcast, and oversee the content of the new website amongst other platforms to enable and facilitate all imaginable forms of communication and engagement within the AA School Community. In addition, Rory Sherlock, is joining us as Assistant Editor. 

These new voices join our renowned academic and administrative staff, who together, will surely provide for relevant discussions and debates throughout the entire school as we continue our journey into the future. As part of this, and our continued commitment to achieving Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) (a final decision on our application is expected this autumn), we have gone through a process of internal validation, adjusting nomenclature to reflect who we are and what we do, and to make sure our programmes maintain their identity. Former Complementary Studies is now Core Studies; Technical Studies is now Environmental and Technical Studies (ETS), Media Studies is now Communication and Media Studies (CMS), First Year and Intermediate School (years 2-3) is now the Experimental Programme, and Diploma School (years 4-5) is now the Diploma Programme.

The AA is committed to experimental methods in teaching and learning and this can be seen in the many initiatives being launched. In Term 3 Speculative Studies, a series of interdisciplinary seminars over five weeks, will present courses on politics, law, philosophy, ethics, art history, poetry, dance, gastronomy, social technology and microbiology. Other topics and courses will be added from proposals put forward by students in an Open Forum to be held in Term 1. These courses will introduce new areas of expertise and methodologies to our collective culture.

A four-day symposium titled Experimental Methods will bring our community together for a discussion and debate on what experimentation is and can be at the AA, which will take place during Open Week in both Terms 1 and 2. Tutors from across the school will lecture on their particular academic approach as well as their own professional practice and research. Each day will end with a keynote speaker and a round table discussion, and the week will culminate with an Open Jury in which students can present their work to a panel of invited critics. 

For the first time in the history of the school, Diploma students and Postgraduate students will be able to take joint classes as part of an expanded pool of Electives. These advanced seminars will be provided by our ten Postgraduate Programmes in areas of technology, criticism, sustainability, material culture, computation and more, allowing us to push the boundaries of architectural education and to have more dialogue across all parts of the school.  

This year we will continue with the Open Seminars; on Mondays, Plan the Planet, brings together experts across different disciplines to discuss the current ecological crisis in order to articulate new strategies, policies, relationships and spaces; on Tuesdays, Evidentiary Aesthetics investigates the technologies and politics of the body; and on Wednesdays, we will be able to study the Origins of Capitalist Urban Space.

Throughout the year, the Directions Series offers an open forum for conversations between AA Students, Academic and Administrative Staff and the AA Director. These events offer a platform to communicate and discuss the direction of the school. The first event of the Directions Series will take place on Monday 30 September at 7pm in the Lecture Hall when we can start raising questions and propose new agendas as we all work towards our future and jointly develop the AA 2020-25 Strategic Plan.

To broaden and strengthen our academic resources additional initiatives have been set up. The new Writing Centre aims to assist students with their essays and written work; the Student Care Centre is to provide mental health support; and the Student Affairs Office will provide students with logistical support during their time here at the AA, and advice in career placement and work opportunities in London and around the world for their year out and after graduation. 

To conclude the academic year we aim to introduce a new way of transmitting and disseminating the work of our fifth year students at the AA Forum/Final Presentation. Over two days after tables, all graduating students will present their project in an open format to a wide group of tutors, guest jurors, curators, press, friends and colleagues, making their last presentation at the AA a real moment for celebration and dialogue. The AA Forum/Final Presentation will be open to all students to attend, and will take place in any imaginable space throughout the school. 

This autumn we launch the AA Residence, a cultural platform exploring and studying new ideas and forms of practice at the intersection of architecture, art, technology, policy and design. It is composed of a series of independent labs that consist of an interdisciplinary cohort of resident fellows including architects, artists, policy makers, engineers, scientists and creative entrepreneurs that are all researching and producing experimental work. The AA Residence will work as an incubator in a shared workspace and professional development programme, providing architects and entrepreneurs the tools required to build new practices and initiate projects that impact, promote and amplify culture, and contribute to the re-imagination of the future. The 2019-20 labs will be announced in October. 

Last year’s Projects Review 2019 was produced with the goal to achieve zero waste, and has left us with some new pieces of furniture that we hope to enjoy throughout the year. As part of this exhibition, the first edition of the Press and Practices Preview took place the day before the opening, and proved to be a success. Fifth year students and those with scholarships and bursaries had the opportunity to explain their unit agendas and project aims to invited guests. They did this alongside volunteers who provided an introduction to the sometimes complex issues that the school and its programmes address. Thank you to all tutors, students and volunteers that committed time to this effort. The Projects Review exhibition received great press coverage and many positive responses. To continue this momentum the AA Book, together with a series of podcasts with staff and students, will be launched in the autumn.

Over the last year we have recognised and celebrated the amazing diversity of the Architectural Association, that consists of students and staff from 81 different nationalities. In an attempt to build on this great cultural resource we will launch Architecture in Translation, a project that celebrates the wealth embedded in the use of different languages as part of the production and dissemination of ideas, discourse and debate about architecture. This project will work across many areas within the school. Within HTS, Mark Cousins has produced a series of seminars that will explore the theoretical questions and opportunities of translation in architecture. In addition to this, juries in different languages will take place throughout the year and will be used to identify terms, concepts and values inherent to different linguistic and cultural contexts in order to produce a ‘multilingual dictionary of architectural terms’ for the twenty-first century. 

Last but not least, to start the year, a different kind of tradition is being introduced entitled, Plant a Tree, which will take place during Introduction Week and invites all new students and staff to Hooke Park, the AA rural campus in Dorset. While on-site, we will learn about the facilities and then ceremonially, each and every one of the 300 new voices joining the school, will plant a tree to contribute to the forest, offset carbon emissions, and take part in a dialogue of ideas about the future as responsible members of the AA and of this planet. Plant a Tree is more than a symbolic act, it is the commitment to a future that is ours to build.

As new and returning students and staff wander throughout the school, its spaces and places and within the corridors that build our intellectual home, you will find on the walls images of projects that each of the 779 students of the last academic year produced. With these drawings up on the walls, now is the time for identifying new debates and engagements. For those knocking on my door, and I encourage all of you to do so, you will see next to the Expanding Horizons poster – in a circular frame – what I suspect will be the most important image for many of you this year: this is of course an invitation to visit and share some of your ideas. 

I am looking forward to seeing all of you during Introduction Week and throughout the year ahead to discuss in detail the initiatives outlined above, and the ones that we will create together.

 

Yours,

Eva Franch i Gilabert
Director
AA School of Architecture

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