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Experimental 11 Image credit: Silvana Taher

Homo Facit Saltum

The relationship between Humankind and Nature is a curious one. In modern rhetoric, the two are often defined as being one and the same; Man is of Nature. And yet, as scientists, activists and politicians increasingly admit the advent of the Anthropocene, one cannot help but wonder whether, in our current era, it might not be more accurate to describe Nature as being of Man. That is to say, in the case of the former, it is nature that created us, whereas in the case of the latter, it is we who create Nature.

If Nature is indeed of Man, it becomes apparent that in designing a city we need to consider the needs of both. Needless to say, this was not how cities were designed in the past and was certainly not how much of London was designed. Bolstered by the Industrial Revolution and the increasing power of the British Empire, the nascent London was established in an entirely different global framework. Ecological and environmental concerns simply did not register as factors in urban development and the Great Acceleration of the post-war years did little to rectify this. As such, the urban growth of London ever since has left the city ill-equipped to cater to the needs of nature.

We will ask students to confront a paradigm shift. When both the City and Nature become the project of Man, our architectural language must evolve to encompass both. If once the role of the architect was to design spaces for human inhabitation, we must now design spaces of natural inhabitation as well. We will study not only the spatial transformations of the existing city, but also the performative ones, introducing the problem of human inhabitation through the design of rituals that can inform new forms of living.

We will take Charles Darwin’s mantra, natura non facit saltum – Nature does nothing in jumps – and propose an alternative as our modus operandi: Homo facit saltum. If nature does not act in leaps, we must. We will be working within the Canada Water Area Action Plan, in an effort to re-imagine how the existing cityscape can be transformed. This means that rather than working with building codes and regulations, we will work instead with the seasons, the passage of time and the possibility of including new urban rituals into the existing urban fabric. The unit will work with collage, urban sampling methods and model making.

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Unit Staff

Silvana Taher is an architect and writer who teaches architecture, history and theory at the AA and Central Saint Martins. She was a guest speaker at AA XX 100 in 2018 and her writing appears in AA Files, Blueprint magazine, the Architectural Review and the Architect’s Journal.

Matilde Cassani teaches at the Politecnico di Milano and the Domus Academy (Milan). Her work often moves on the border between architecture, installation and performance. She was recently involved in the Chicago Architecture Triennale, the Oslo Triennale and Manifesta12.

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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.