AA Symposium Patrik Schumacher Introduction and Jeff Kipnis

Debating Fundamentals: Probing the Autopoiesis of Architecture 1/10

Series: AA Symposium
Date: Friday 11 March 2011
Time: 10:00
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 61 mins

Patrik Schumacher, Jeff Kipnis, Lars Spuybroek, Charles Jencks, Eric Owen Moss, Wolf D Prix, Alejandro Zaera Polo, Mark Wigley, Marc Cousins, Brett Steele, Zaha Hadid

organised by Patrik Schumacher


Patrik Schumacher         10.30
Jeff Kipnis                    11.00
Theodore Spyropoulos     11.30
Thomas Vietzke             12.00
Eric Owen Moss             14.00
Wolf D. Prix                 14.30
Marc Cousins                15.00
Charles Jencks              16.30
Alejandro Zaera Polo     17.00
Brett Steele                17.30
Zaha Hadid                 18.00
Podium                      18.30

The debate will be guided by the issues raised in Patrik Schumacher's book The Autopoiesis of Architecture, which is being published by Wiley. Volume 1 was launched at the AA on 7 December 2010; Volume 2 will come out in autumn 2011. The purpose of the book is to give leadership to the discipline. It presents a systematic treatise on architecture, a unified theory constructed on the basis of a comprehensive discourse analysis of the discipline, rationally reconstructed as autopoietic system of communications, within the framework of Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory. 

The theory of architectural autopoiesis constructs a unified theoretical system that integrates many partial theories. The following theories are presented in Volume 1: theories of architectural theory; of architecture’s historical emergence; of the discipline’s self- demarcation; of the avant-garde; of the form-function aesthetic theory; of style(s), design media theory; and of architecture’s societal function. (Volume 2 continues with theories of architecture’s task articulated into an organisational, a phenomenological, and a semiological dimension; design process theory; of architecture’s relevant societal environment; of architecture’s relationship to politics; of architectural self-description. Volume two ends with a comprehensive argument for parametricism as unified, epochal style for the 21st century.)
Guests/speakers might pick one of following topics/questions (or bring anything else into the debate):

A fundamental question of ethos/ideology/discursive culture: Should we – the participants/protagonists of architecture –  commit/submit ourselves to a collective debate arguing about the direction in which architecture should progress?
Is all relevant architecture globally relevant architecture, i.e. world architecture?
In which way is architecture autonomous? Is architecture one of the great autopoietic function systems of society?
Demarcating architecture: Does architecture/design constitute a sui generis discursive field and domain of expertise distinct from art, engineering and science?
The raison d’etre of architecture: Does architecture have a specific role or function to fulfil within society?
Does architecture have a stable discursive core identity? Which are the permanent and which the variable communication structures of architecture?
Can architecture be defined via its lead distinction of form vs function?
Is the distinction between avant-garde and mainstream a useful schema to analyse what goes on in architecture?
What is the role of architectural theory? Can there be architecture without theory?
Is the category of beauty still valid within architecture? What is the role and raison d’etre of aesthetic values?
What is the significance and import of the evolving design media?
Is the category of style(s) still valid (or even necessary) within architecture?
Does it make sense to propose a comprehensive, unified theory of architecture in the form of an elaborate theoretical system?

These are topics that might be raised by any of the speakers, or these might be questions with which the speakers might be confronted by the host. The idea here is to share a set of questions without necessarily allocating or selecting questions.

All lectures are open to members of the public, staff and students unless otherwise stated.

December 2019
Su M Tu W Th F Sa


AA Photo Library has DVD copies of Public Programme lectures dating back to 1974


Online Lectures
Lecture Archive



For any issues with video playback please contact
AA Digital Platforms

The Architectural Association, Inc. is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee (No.171402) and registered as a charity (No. 311083). Registered office: 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES, 020 7887 4000

Click here to read the AA’s latest review report.

Click here to read the AA’s latest action plan.



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 Certificate), 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.