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First Year

First Year

The first year of the Experimental Programme at the AA is not just an introduction to the architectural discipline. It is also an all-encompassing process of learning through searching, questioning, making and experimenting. We go beyond the study of architectural history; beyond the learning of skills. We operate by directly engaging with ideas and materials, exploring the fundamental bases of architecture alongside and in relation to the contemporary world. We question how to capture the future and engage with the present.

We aim not only to provide a solid base of knowledge for new entrants into architectural education, but further to empower students to expand their horizons and to develop the potential of their individual and collective ideas. Each student is encouraged to test out ideas, supported by the depth and diversity of academic and intellectual resources at the school. Independent lines of inquiry are enriched by and developed through active engagement with other creative disciplines, shared discussions, workshops, field trips and events.


Are significant shifts in society and the nature of the architectural profession really occurring so fast, or are we just too slow to imaginatively embrace novel spatial constructs, skills and expertise in response? Developments in technology, manufacturing and forms of communication are constantly reshaping modes of life. These machinations move rapidly in the collective foreground, yet countercultures still periodically assert their presence through the construction of ad-hoc spatial alternatives to the cultural status quo.

The First Year course is constructed around a series of common explorations that question these issues in relation to specific architectural topics, constantly translating our discoveries into visual works through experimental, iterative design and research in three phases:


What contemporary currents are shaping the architectural profession and facilitating the development of alternative building typologies? Are digital technologies triggering spatial inventions? How do we build and what are the economies of re-making? We will look to answer such questions by engaging directly with the world outside the AA through a series of excursions and trips.


The second part of the year is focused on questioning the definitions of spaces. How are spaces designed and regulated, and how do these methods differ around the world? Can we experiment with the parameters that define spatial conditions in different global contexts? Regulations and building codes, physical resources, lifespans, occupancy types and more will be explored through design exercises that challenge current conventions.


Towards the middle of the academic year, we will engage with and explore different modes of life and social contexts. Who is the audience for architecture and how do we communicate with them? We will work with unpredictable settings and learn how to construct ideas that are malleable and give rise to unexpected thoughts. Through re-enactments, visual forecasts and engagement with forms of activism, we will explore how our work connects with and enhances specfic audiences.


The First Year portfolio is a project in itself, evolving throughout the duration of the course as an open collection of ideas, visual speculations and project designs. Students will learn how to communicate what they have learnt and their discoveries through a personal, year-long portfolio of work, informed by various modes of writing, designing and argumentation. The portfolio is the synthesis of many trials and attempts; it discloses a personal way of inquiring, searching and putting forward architectural positions and projects.

Unit Staff

Delfina Bocca works as an architect at Zaha Hadid and has previously worked in the UK, Italy and Argentina. She holds an MArch from the AA DRL and is a registered architect in Argentina, where she completed her studies. She has participated in numerous workshops and taught at schools in both Argentina and the UK.

Pol Esteve is an architect graduated from Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona in 2009. He holds a master’s degree in History and Critical Thinking from the AA and is a PhD candidate at the Bartlett. He is the co-founder of GOIG architecture studio and directs the AA Visiting School in Brussels.

Monia De Marchi is the Head of the First Year course. She an architect who graduated from the Instituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice and holds an MArch from the AA DRL. She has previously worked for Zaha Hadid Architects and had her own practice working on architecture projects while collaborating with different disciplines.

Nacho Martí is a graduate of the Elisava School of Design in Barcelona and the AA. He founded his design studio in 2004 and since then his projects have been exhibited, published and awarded internationally. He is a Technical Studies lecturer at the AA and a Director of the AA Visiting School Amazon.

Patricia Mato-Mora studied Architecture at the AA, before studying materials at the RCA. She now works alongside artists and architects to realise large-scale projects employing various craftsmanship methods, while practising independently as an artist.

Anna Muzychak is an AA graduate currently working on private commissions in Eastern Europe. She has previously taught at Cardiff University, the AA Summer School and in the AA Experimental Programme.

John Ng studied Architecture at the University of Bath and the AA. He is also a visiting lecturer at the RCA. He founded ELSEWHERE and practises architecture in London. His work has been shortlisted for and won a number of international competitions.

Sara Saleh obtained her degree in Architecture at the American University of Sharjah and holds a MArch from the AA DRL. Previously she worked for Zaha Hadid Architects on projects in the Middle East, including Kapsarc in Saudi Arabia and on furniture/product collections, such as the liquid glacial and varied Citco marble collections.

Erika Suzuki is an architect and the founding partner of Office Ten Architecture. She holds a BEng and MEng in Architecture from Tokyo Metropolitan University and a DipArch and MArch (distinction) from the Bartlett. She has designed and delivered a variety of projects, including residential, offices and cultural buildings while working in Tokyo, Paris and London.

Alexandra Vougia studied Architecture in Thessaloniki, Greece. She holds an MS in Advanced Architectural Design from the Columbia University GSAPP and a PhD from the AA. She has worked as an architect in New York and Athens.

Argyris Angeli studied Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens and Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He received an MFA from the AAIS with distinction. He is the co-director of Gesamtatelier, an interdisciplinary artist's platform, and has presented work in exhibitions, festivals, conferences and competitions across Europe and the USA.

Simon Withers has a background in fashion, experimental film and architecture, having been Vivienne Westwood’s design assistant and a partner in an architectural practice. He holds a degree in fine art/experimental film from Central Saint Martins. He is a thesis supervisor for Design + Make at the AA and a thesis supervisor at the Bartlett and the University of Greenwich.

Experimental 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.