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Diploma 14 A view of Savannah as it stood the 29th of March 1734, Peter Gordon

Islands: Rethinking the Settlement Form from Property to Care

Pier Vittorio Aureli, Maria Shéhérazade Giudici

At the very root of the current climate crisis lies the concept of property: a pervasive apparatus of governance that for centuries has dispossessed communities of their sources of sustenance, substituting an ethos of care with one based on exploitation. By property we mean, above all, land property: a juridical framework that has reduced a means of existence into a commodity. Within the logic of this apparatus, land is no longer a place to inhabit, but a resource to plunder as ‘standing reserve’ for the sake of profit. This condition becomes legible in the form of the settlement.

A settlement is the primary form of sedentary cohabitation and as such it includes not just homes, but all those facilities that make collective life possible such as streets, paths, fields and gathering spaces. Until recently, many settlements in different parts of the world were semi-autonomous and driven by self-sustenance. Since the dawn of capitalism – and in certain cases, even earlier – the settlement has ceased to be a mere form of coexistence, becoming instead a device to control people and goods. The modern settlement was meant to expand land exploitation ad infinitum, from the domestic interior to the management of natural resources. It is precisely this understanding of our relationship with the world – and each other – in terms of property rather than care that we need to fight in order to deal with the current climate crisis.

DIP14 will address this crisis by revisiting the settlement, both in urban and rural contexts, through projects that question its concrete architectural definition, from the design of homes to the organisation of circulation and landscape. The settlement is ultimately the nexus between planning policies and the design of everyday life and as such, it needs to be addressed not as a design sic et simpliciter, but rather as a project of maintenance and existential commitment. We will reimagine ways to transform this physical form into a space of care: a self-organised ‘island’, in which social relationships are driven by localised practices of commoning instead of exploitation. The figure of the island is often construed as a space of exclusion and segregation, yet its defined form makes it a place of potential for autonomy and experimentation, within and against both the state and the market. By conceiving the urban world as a confederation of islands, our projects will address the way in which communities can pursue their emancipation and give it a significant architectural form.

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Pier Vittorio Aureli is an architect and educator. He is a Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture at Yale University and is the author of The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011) and The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture Within and Against Architecture (2008). He is a co-founder of Dogma, an architectural studio based in Brussels and focused on the project of the city.

Maria Shéhérazade Giudici is the founder of research platform Black Square and the editor of AA Files. Maria coordinates the History and Theory of Architecture course at the RCA; she holds a PhD from TU Delft and has taught at the Berlage Institute and BIArch (Barcelona).

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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.