First Year First Year works, Projects Review 2017. Spatial organisation and programmatic mixing for Downtown Houston

Fieldwork: Experiencing Buildings

Monia De Marchi, Pol Castello Esteve, John Ng, Nacho Marti, Costandis Kizis, Alexandra Vougia, Sara Saleh, Thomas Randall-Page, Patricia Mato-Mora, Delfina Bocca, Shany Barath

First Year at the AA is the initial exposure to the five-year study of architecture ending with the AA Diploma. The course is not an introduction to the discipline, but the beginning of an approach to architecture as a way of thinking projectively. Every year we focus on understanding and learning about how architects have expanded the possibilities of architecture by looking at the ways in which intentions, theories and visions have found material form in past projects and buildings. Specific topics such as form, programme, scale, experience, technology, media and communication are therefore studied and re-imagined each year within a different physical and theoretical framework. Since 2011 we have positioned ourselves in opposition to London's physical context, looked at the abstraction of form and scales, tested the boundaries of visionary projects, adapted past procedures and precedents and explored existing living conditions. This year we will look at buildings constructed in the last 20 years, understanding them as the embodiment of ideas and theories that both affect and are affected by the discipline. Architects are improvisers with the ability to see beyond what exists (and who are aware of what has been done). They possess a distinct way of thinking visually by translating complex forces and information into new spatial inventions, and this year focuses on strengthening this essential skill. Unpredictability opens up new possibilities, and finding ways of reaching different audiences can foster new forms of communication. By investigating a variety of past projects, buildings and figures, the First Year studio will challenge students to look beyond what is apparent and to be adaptive in their thinking.

Fieldwork: Experiencing Buildings

The First Year Studio is not a physical space containing tools and equipment. Instead the physical world is our laboratory. We will learn about our present condition by looking at projects from the last 20 years and their associated contexts. From the multiple theories of architecture that arose in the mid-1990s, to the rise of digital technologies and their effect on space, to the expansion of the area of action for an architecture practice, to the role that architecture-lovers (clients, patrons) play and all of these facets of the discipline are ways that it can be experienced and studied.

During the year we will alternate between our studio space and the world, focusing on buildings and cities in the Middle East and Asia. The First Year is constructed around six studies and each one an exercise in observation that asks students to look at one specific architectural object before re-briefing and re-imagining this work within the present world. We will search and reimagine architectural and built elements such as: tectonics as they relate to specific technologies; programmes where time-based scenarios can construct synchronicities of activities; form with extensions and adaptations of a given context; the shaping of volumes while questioning style; and the lifespan of a building and the role of complete or incomplete parameters.

Over the course of the year students will learn how to communicate and synthesise their discoveries into a personal portfolio of work, informed by various modes of writing, designing and arguing. In the First Year, reacting matters more than planning; imagining comes before experimenting; and experiencing is the basis for reinvention.

Unit Staff

Monia De Marchi graduated from the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia and holds an MArch from the AA DRL. She has worked on projects in Egypt and Vietnam and has collaborated in the fields of fashion and graphic design. She has taught at the AA since 2005, first within the Intermediate and Diploma Schools and since 2011 has served as head of the First Year.

Shany Barath is the co-founder of ShaGa Studio, a practice fusing extensive practical experience with technological innovation. She previously worked for UNStudio and West 8 in the Netherlands. She has taught at the AA since 2010. She holds an MSc in Architecture from TU Delft and an MArch from the AADRL

Delfina Bocca works as architect at Zaha Hadid and has previousl worked in the UK, Italy and Argentina. She holds an MArch from the AA DRL and is a registered architect in Argentina, where she completed her studies. She has participated in numerous workshops and taught at schools in both Argentina and the UK.

Pol Esteve graduated from the Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona in 2009. He holds a Masters in History and Critical thinking from the AA and is a PhD candidate at the Bartlett. He is the co-founder of GOIG architecture studio. In addition to teaching in the First Year he directs the AA Visiting School in Brussels.

Costandis Kizis holds a PhD from the AA, an MSc in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University and a diploma in architecture from NTU Athens. He has taught at the AA, Central Saint Martins and Leeds Beckett University. He is principal at Kizis Architects and has been repeatedly recognised in architectural competitions.

Nacho Marti is a graduate of the Elisava School of Design in Barcelona and the AA. He founded his design studio in 2004 and since then his projects have been exhibited, published and awarded internationally. In addition to teaching in the First Year he is a Technical Studies lecturer and director of the Visiting School Amazon.

John Ng studied architecture at the University of Bath and the AA, where he has taught since 2011. He founded ELSEWHERE and practises architecture in London. His work has been shortlisted for, and has won, a number of international competitions.

Sara Saleh obtained her degree in architecture at the American University of Sharjah and a holds an MArch from the AA DRL. Previously she worked for Zaha Hadid Architects (2010-17) on projects in the Middle East including Kapsarc in Saudi Arabia and on furniture/product collections such as the liquid glacial and varied Citco marble collections.

Alexandra Vougia studied architecture in Thessaloniki, Greece, holds an MS in Advanced Architectural Design from GSAPP, Columbia University, and a PhD from the AA. She has worked as an architect in New York and Athens and has taught at the AA since 2012.

Patricia Mato-Mora studied architecture at the AA, before studying materials at the RCA. She now works alongside artists and architects to realise large-scale projects employing various craftsmanship methods, while practising independently as an artist.

Thomas Randall-Page studied architecture at Glasgow School of Art, Aalto University and London Met. As a student he worked at 6A Architects and after graduating joined Heatherwick Studio. He co-founded Building Works Unit in 2011 and currently co-leads a design unit at Oxford Brookes University.


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Undergraduate Course Booklet


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