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Diploma 8

Exigent Habitats

Rok Oman, Špela Videčnik, José Navarrete Jiménez

Harsh environmental conditions require incisive designs that respond to irregular loading from strong winds, heavy snowfalls, avalanche risk zones and extreme cold. These phenomena are often instantaneous, sudden and unpredictable. Risk of severe weather increases the vulnerability of human habitation to natural surroundings. Housing, in particular, must achieve self-sufficiency in such environments in order to decrease dependency upon external infrastructural networks that can be severed during periods of harsh weather. It must avoid the problems that can be caused by complex material provision and inaccessible, remote terrain. Designing living environments must therefore consolidate solutions to scarcity, inaccessibility, self-sufficiency and specificity of innovation. The existing dichotomy between vernacular housing traditions and the latest innovation in building technology establishes an interesting terrain for the design of comfortable living environments in the harshest weather conditions.

In the first part of the year, we will investigate small scale architectural solutions to extreme climatic conditions. Students will research traditional building designs that respond to risks associated with avalanches, heavy snowfalls, strong winds and low temperatures. As an introduction to building in these conditions, the studio will construct several prototypical designs of a ‘smallest- possible habitable unit’ that will offer a temporary living space for up to eight mountaineers, hikers and researchers. The process will use structural engineering and sustainable architectural elements to produce a shelter within strict design constraints – minimum energy consumption, minimum envelope exposure, lightweight structure and adherence to the limits of remote transportation – and be given a site on the peak of a mountain exposed to the most severe weather conditions.

In the second part of the year, the unit will transition to large-scale housing designs in a similarly harsh climate. Students will select extreme areas that require temporary accommodation. Through the continual development of research and the aggregation of the prototypes produced, students will design a comfortable settlement that encourages social relations, respects the environment, has the minimum impact on nature and is optimised for the challenges posed by the extreme climate.

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Rok Oman and Špela VideČnik, both graduates from the Ljubljana School of Architecture and the AA, established OFIS Arhitekti in 1996. Their built work spans public, sport, cultural and religious buildings, as well as housing. OFIS’ winning competitions include student housing in Paris and a football stadium in Belarus. Their academic research investigates European and Slovenian identity in contemporary architectural language. Špela and Rok have taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, ENSA Paris Val de Seine, and the Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana.

José Navarrete Jiménez holds a Master of Architecture and Urbanism from the University of Granada. Prior to graduation he collaborated in several local firms and private commissions in Spain. Since 2016 he has been a project architect in OFIS arhitekti, where he has participated in more than 30 projects. During this time he has also been project leader for projects of diverse sizes and programs, from shelters to museums, such as the Glass House in the desert, for which he served as architect-in-charge. Recently he focused on personal projects and research while working for OFIS arhitekti in specific proposals. His academic fields of interest are rooted in the creation of buildings and they range amid the singularities that inform the project such as climate, habitats, history, technology and economy. He is enthusiastic about the latent potential of limitations in architecture.

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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.