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Diploma 17 Image Credit: Eleanor Dodman

The Publicness of Architecture: Radical Democracy in Urban Space

London is our site and Public-Private Partnerships are our leap-off point. This short acronym, PPP, has become iconic in the designation of neoliberal urban planning initiatives and the financialization of housing and public space. In such relationships, the public is increasingly and undemocratically interpreted as governmental institutions that delegate the responsibilities of planning and design to private actors – those bolstering the generation and power of capital and embedding inequality.

DIP17 will work within the purview of ‘radical democracy’ and set out to re-democratise democracy itself in this moment of collective crisis. Planning will be read as a ‘setting-in-dispute’ that hinges upon alliances between architecture and bottom-up initiatives that work to ameliorate democratic participation, climate justice, accessibility to public space and affordable housing provision. We will conceive of architectural agency as ‘acting in public’, designing public infrastructures and supporting the commons in three distinct parts:

Urgent Tasks / Burning Questions – Focusing on maps and researching urban sites in which public infrastructures have been taken over by private enterprise, students will develop an acute understanding of the city they live in and its processes of gentrification and financialization. We will collectively determine the role of architecture in this condition, reading and mapping London as a site for critical architectural agency.

Architectural Agency in the Political Field / Just Architecture – This enquiry will embed an in-depth understanding of planning conditions, land ownership rights, development policies and Section 106 agreements in order to identify the obstacles to – and openings for – architectural agency within the political field.

Forms in the Face of Impossibility / Nonsolutions – Students will develop projects that are situated between activism, architectural reconfiguration and radical engagement. Such proposals for public infrastructures may well be nonsolutions – well-crafted, precise and implementable architectural proposals that respond to immediate urgency of a given issue, but do not deny the inherent contradictions that it manifests. Ultimately, the work will be a testbed for the agency of architecture in the contemporary condition.

Extended Brief

Unit Staff

Gabu Heindl is an architect, urbanist, activist and founder of GABU Heindl Architektur. Gabu holds a Postgraduate Master’s in Architecture and Urbanism from Princeton University, obtained as a Fulbright Scholar, and wrote her Doctorate of Philosophy at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. she is a Visiting Professor at Sheffield University.

Eleanor Dodman is a graduate of the AA and a practicing architect. She has taught at the AA, Birmingham City University and Cardiff University.

Liza Fior is founding partner of muf architecture/art, the only UK winners of the European Prize for Public Space.

Diploma School


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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.