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Diploma 20 Custom House. Image Credit: Civic

Architecture of Generosity: An Invitation

Warning: the architectural profession you are about to enter may or may not meet your ideals!

A career in architecture does not necessarily lead to increased social benefit. As public institutions that grant agency to communities get weaker, the role of the architect in city-making is reduced to the provision of services to real-estate development. In recent years, there have been many practices that have defied this narrow role, proving the ability that architects have to address the most pressing challenges of the contemporary world. Yet, we are still facing a crisis – not of resources, but of impact.

DIP20 will look at new models of practice while engaging with the Custom House Partnership. Ranked among the most deprived neighbourhoods in England, Custom House is an area of Canning Town in the London Borough of Newham with a highly international resident population – forty-eight percent of inhabitants were born outside of the UK and thirty-two percent do not speak English. With residents complaining of ‘broken promises’ and ‘ever dwindling community spaces and facilities’, Custom House has been the subject of numerous regeneration projects over the last three decades.

However, in spite of its economic status, in recent years there have been efforts among residents to self-organise around civic renewal projects and a communal vision of regeneration. Through collaboration with The Custom House Partnership – a group of ‘unlikely allies’, from residents to entrepreneurs, police, shop-keepers, doctors and councillors – we will participate in the creation of public spaces and witness a neighbourhood coming together. We will crowd- source, codify and open-source proven models of social enterprise with community members and cooperatives, allowing them to animate any space in their community affordably, quickly and effectively.

Above all, the unit will contribute to change in Custom House because change is better made together. This will require a shift in our current mindset and approach: from treating people as beneficiaries to supporting them as active citizens; from working alone to working together with common purpose; from single issues to root causes; from under-utilised, individually owned assets to fully-utilised, collective assets; from reinventing the wheel to sharing everything that works.

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Unit Staff

Selva Gürdoğan is an architect. After working at OMA, Selva initiated Superpool together with Gregers Tang Thomsen in 2006. She was a co-director of Studio-X Istanbul, an urban laboratory of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Gregers Tang Thomsen is an architect. After working at OMA, Gregers co-founded Superpool in 2006. He was a co-director of Studio-X Istanbul, an urban laboratory of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Jonathan Robinson is an entrepreneur, author and anthropologist. Jonathan is a founder and former global director of Impact Hub and a co-founder and Director of Civic. He has launched social ventures with partners ranging from the Cabinet Office, the British Council, the Tate Modern and the Guardian Media Group, to Unicef and peace entrepreneurs in Afghanistan.

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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.