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Experimental 4 Hyperglazed Hyperdensity: Sectional Detail through Housing Unit, Elizabeth Low, 2018–19.

From Tectonics to Fusion

The Austrian art historian Alois Riegl wrote of a radical change taking place at the beginning of the 20th century – a transition from the veneration of historical value to an appreciation of newness. This reflected the shift in early modern Europe towards innovation and the belief that the creation of novel, artificial materials could trigger the creation of capital in newly industrialised countries. A century later, material innovation and production now occurs at a startlingly rapid rate and in virtual environments, as opposed to the physical sites of the research lab. In effect, this is initiating a Neo-Cambrian explosion. New material hybrids are being concocted every day – virtually, theoretically and in infinite combinations.

In architecture, however, Semper’s 19th-century separation of types of construction into tectonics and stereotomics (the cutting and assembly of discrete parts), remains  the prevalent method of constructing buildings – it has a long way to go to catch up with today’s exponentially advancing material hybridisations. In this context, our objective will be to align with these developments and attempt to generate a new architecture in sync with contemporary material advances. More specifically, we will focus on a particular type of materials, termed fused or multi-materials, which are just beginning to make their way into architecture and design. Their radicality lies in the fact that they are continuously fused substances – they do away with parts and mechanical connections.

Replacing parts with continuous materials promises a much more direct, immediate  and orderly way of building. It effectively by-passes capitalist modes of production, as well as generating radical cost, material, and energy savings. Our aim will be to explore new procedures for designing and building with material gradients – casting, pouring and fusing matter in its fluid, pliable form in order to generate continuous topologies  and novel forms of space. The output of this process will be prototypical agglomerates of materials in the form of small to medium sized buildings – more than just a collection of individual parts, these progressive visions will signify a new type of architecture that has finally caught up with the future.

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Unit Staff

Kostas Grigoriadis holds a PhD in Architecture from the RCA and a master’s degree from the AA DRL, and runs a practice, Continuum. He is the winner of the 2018 RIBA President’s Award for Design and Technical Research, and the recipient of the inaugural Google R+D in the Built Environment Fellowship.

Lizy Huyghe studied at the University for Science and Arts in Ghent, Belgium. Having worked for several design-led practices in Paris, in 2011 Lizy joined ACME. She is currently overseeing the construction of the Minories residential scheme in the City of London.

Guan Lee is an architect and lecturer, and the Director of Grymsdyke Farm. He studied at McGill University, Montreal, the AA and the Bartlett, where he completed his doctoral studies. In his own practice, Guan explores digital fabrication in conjunction with hands-on building processes using a range of materials including clay, concrete and plaster.

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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.