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Foundation Anthony Flouty, 1:1 Paper Model of a fragment of scaffolding poles and boards, AA Foundation, 2017-18

Foundation Course

Foundation Director: Saskia Lewis

The AA Foundation Course allows students to explore the possibility of a future career in architecture or the arts.

The AA Foundation Course is a one-year introduction to an art and design education. Students are encouraged to develop their conceptual ideas through experiments with a wide range of media in an intimate, studio-based environment. Through exposure to the wealth of academic offerings at the AA, from the First Year course to the PhD Programme, Foundation students are given broad access to the tools, strategies and methodologies developed within the school at large. Drawing on a number of different pedagogical practises and the knowledge of highly- experienced tutors and visiting consultants, the Foundation Course offers dynamic, cross-disciplinary teaching within the context of a specialist architectural school.

Over the course of the academic year observation, scale, materiality, interpretation, representation, site, scenario, and inhabited structures will be explored. Term 1 focuses on the development of skills though the forensic examination of microsites; the analysis of colour and volume; and observations relating to the body and the city. In parallel with their studio work, students will identify and compile a series of references, and will apply critical thinking to this self-initiated research. Workshops will encourage translation from observation to material interpretation. Ongoing work will be regularly discussed within individual tutorials, group presentations and with invited critics.

In Terms 2 and 3 students will develop work in greater depth and will articulate increasingly individual lines of enquiry. We encourage speculative experimentation and methodical iteration using photography, drawing, painting, model-making, casting, mapping, material studies, pattern-cutting, life-drawing, carpentry, performance, and film-making. By the end of the year, students will have produced a comprehensive analogue and digital portfolio that will illustrate their own highly personal journey through the Foundation course.

This full-time, one-year, studio based course offers hands-on instruction in creative design and thinking and gives students the means to develop skills in a variety of media, from drawing to digital video, photography to installation. Students learn how to translate their thoughts into material form and identify their next path of action by preparing a comprehensive design portfolio to apply to the AA Undergraduate School, or other schools of architecture, art or creative fields in the UK or abroad.

Applications for 2020-21

With the granting of Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP), as of 1st October 2019 the AA has the power to award its own degrees and the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards, thus creating some of the world’s most pioneering courses in architecture to shape and build the future.

Further to receipt of TDAP, the AA will validate the Foundation Course in February 2020.

We are delighted to confirm that these arrangements will re-open the Foundation Course to international applicants* and prospective students worldwide can apply now for entry in September 2020. The AA is committed to providing financial support to talented students and currently one in five students are in receipt of financial assistance from the School’s Scholarship, Bursary and Assistantship programme. The funding amounts can cover up to one term (33%), two terms (66%) or three terms (100%) of the annual tuition fee and these funding opportunities are extended to all applicants to the Foundation Course who wish to be considered for financial assistance.

To support dissemination of these exciting developments and opportunities to the widest audience, we have extended the application deadline to the Foundation Course until Friday 22nd May 2020.

Please contact our Admissions team to arrange a visit, meet current students and staff and see the activities of the Course at first-hand. We look forward to receiving your application and to welcoming you to the AA School.

* Applicants requiring a Tier 4 VISA can expect to receive a formal offer of a place on this Course in February 2020 once the validation process is completed.

Unit Staff

Saskia Lewis has taught at the AA since 2001. She has practised in New York, Paris and London and has taught at many schools of art and architecture in London. She is the co-author and photographer of Architectural Voices: Listening to Old Buildings (2007).

Juliet Haysom trained in Fine Art at The Ruskin School, University of Oxford and at The Royal College of Art, and in Architecture at the AA School. She was awarded the Sainsbury Scholarship at the British School at Rome in 2004–05 and The Jerwood Sculpture Prize in 2007. She is currently developing site-specific sculpture commissions in Wapping Wharf and Unity Street, Bristol and at Kingsgate in Amesbury.


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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.