Shumon Basar, Emily King, Jim Stoddart & Thomas Weaver

Paperback OS: The Book as Resilient Technology

Series: Lunchtime Lecture
Date: Friday 13 March 2015
Time: 13:00
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 93 mins

Why haven’t the Kindle, the iPad, and all other ubiquitous screen-readers managed to kill off the humble, non-electricity powered paperback? Because embedded in the paperback is an enduring, promissory technology. An ‘operating system’ that remains resilient and open to continual cultural renewal. 

On the occasion of Penguin’s publication of The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present (by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland, Hans Ulrich Obrist and designed by the AA’s Senior Graphic Designer, Wayne Daly), ‘Paperback OS’ brings together Shumon Basar with design critic/curator Emily King, Penguin Art Director Jim Stoddart, and AA Files Editor Tom Weaver to visually and verbally explore: the heritage of 1960s and 1970s ‘experimental paperbacks’; complex models of authorship between writers and book designers; the ongoing vitality of paperbacks in an increasingly ‘swipe-left’ world; and, what Quentin Fiore called, ‘a dialogue between the computer and the book.’ As Marshall McLuhan put it in 1964, ‘the paperback itself has become a vast mosaic world in depth… a transformation of book culture into something else.’ 


Shumon Basar is a writer and editor. He is director of the AA School’s summer public program FORMAT, and has invited design luminaries such as Peter Saville, Alice Rawsthorn, Nicolai Ourossoff, Claude Parent and Sir Ken Adam to the AA over the last decade. He is Editor-at-Large at Tank magazine and an advisor to Miucca Prada/Fondazione Prada, Milan.   

Emily King is a writer and curator specialising in graphic design. Recent projects include editing a monograph for the art directors M/M (Paris) and curating an exhibition of the work of the designer Richard Hollis that launched in London, toured to the Pompidou in Paris and concluded its international tour at Artists Space in New York. As well as being a contributing editor to The Gentlewoman, Emily writes for a range of publications including Frieze and Apartamento.

Jim Stoddart has been Art Director at Penguin Books since 2001, where he oversees and designs for Penguin Classics, Allen Lane, Particular and Pelican Books. 

Thomas Weaver is editor of AA Files, managing editor of all of the Architectural Association's publications, and teaches architectural history and theory in the AA's History & Critical Thinking MA programme. He writes regularly for various books and journals, lectures in schools of architecture internationally and has previously edited ANY magazine in New York. 

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

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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.