Ellen Shoshkes, Keller Easterling, Gediminas & Nomeda Urbonas, Irit Rogoff, John Palmesino, Ann-Sofi Rönnskog

Plan the Planet – Jaqueline Tyrwhitt and the Formation of International and Global Architecture - 2/2

Series: AA Think Tank conference
Date: Friday 20 March 2015
Time: 13:30
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 143 mins

Organised with the support of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts

The conference will celebrate and inquire into the career of one the AA’s first female students. It aims at re-establishing the legacy of the largely unknown Jaqueline Tyrwhitt (1905-1983), a key figure in the development of 20th century modern architecture and planning, with collaborations ranging from Sigfried Giedion, Constantinos Doxiadis to Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan, and at re-invigorating the debate on contemporary forms of planning and international cooperation.

At the centre of a vast series of major modern architectural innovations was a woman largely unacknowledged, whose work has contributed in reshaping the ways we think the world. Jaqueline Tyrwhitt was at the focus of innovative trajectories that linked modern architecture and urbanism to new technologies of vision and integrated spatial planning, international cooperations and new concepts of cohabitation around the entire planet. Tyrwhitt’s work is for the major part invisible: at the side of Sigfried Giedion for his American works, behind the scenes of the CIAM conferences, next to Constantinos Doxiadis for the Delos Symposion and the Ekistics research, she organised, structured, built up and constantly innovated a new way of thinking the ideals of the modern city.

Tyrwhitt was at the heart of the major architectural experiences of the 20th century, playing a key role in setting up, organising and forming a new culture of modern planning, international cooperation and innovative approaches to technology and government, yet Jaqueline Tyrwhitt remains a largely unacknowledged figure. From her studies at the Architectural Association, and her work on Patrick Geddes’ planning principles, to her collaboration with Sigfried Giedion on all his major English books, to the work for CIAM, UNESCO, the United Nations, and the further development of spatial strategies and planning principles; from her work at the side of Constantinos Doxiadis and Buckminster Fuller to her thoughts on integrated spatial analysis and multi-layered cartography, the work of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt was at the forefront of multiple strands of architectural innovation. Yet she was largely invisible, and her experience is rarely mentioned, if not rapidly in bibliographical notes.

The symposium brings together major thinkers and practitioners from the fields that Tyrwhitt has helped to form, investigating not only the heritage of her incredible career, but also re-invigorating some of the debates that marked her life. What does it mean to think of planning today? What are the scales and modes of intervention? How does architecture conceptualise its relation to other form-generating processes? What is it to think about architecture globally?


AA Think Tank roundtable event, moderated by John Palmesino


Keynote Ellen Shoshkes: Transnational life
An overview of the remarkable transnational life and work of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt offers a new perspective on well-known events in mid-twentieth century architecture and planning, as well as current debates on ecological urbanism and the inter-connection between global perspectives, regional planning and local activism.

Proposition Keller Easterling: Being Minor
Jaqueline Tyrwhitt keeps company with several other "minor" texts like Benton MacKaye who are obscured or relegated to footnotes in a post World War II period of institutional consensus building. Yet, from a position in the wings, they persistently inform other registers of form-making.

Proposition Irit Rogoff: Bad Judgement
The encounter with Jaqueline Tyrwhitt raises questions regarding the exercise of judgment within a Modernist paradigm. Does the Modernist ethos actually allows for the exercise of judgment, of differentiation, of withdrawal? Or does the compulsion to relentlessly move forward and ‘improve’ override it. Can Foucault’s understanding of technology as ‘a set of structured forms of action by which we also inevitably exercise power over ourselves’ – counter Modernisms investment in ‘Neotechnics’ ?

Proposition Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas: artistic research at the techno-social moment
Informed by the cybernetic discourse of self-regulation, feedback loops and homeostasis, the advocates of art and technology such as fellows at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies saw the potential for artists to collaborate with scientists and engineers to create what they called “ecological feedback machines that sense our danger and work toward resolving the problem of man’s relations with his surroundings” (G.Kepes). This presentation will discuss experiments in art and technology as they relate to artistic research and knowledge production within histories of techno-social moment at MIT. Taking point of departure in the environmental art movement at MIT in the late 60s, and their interest in systems theory, and the role of new technologies in mitigation of the hazards of industrialization, this presentation will inquire notion of citizenship and public space in search of counter narratives.

Proposition Territorial Agency: Shifting grounds
Arraying the planet through remote sensing, through continuous enquiry into the very possibility of making observation global, the International is a space where multiplicities of actors are re-organised and their territories undone, eroded, shifted and recomposed. The Anthropocene disposes a multiplicity of territories, recomposes their agencies and makes them available, through the kaleidoscope of technological vision, for controversies and radical negotiations, where no overarching rationality is practicable. The backgrounds from where Tyrwhitt operated are now acting on us.


Ellen Shoshkes is an urban planner and designer based in Portland, Oregon, where she is on the faculty of the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. She has written widely in academic and professional journals on housing, community development, and topics in the history of urban planning and design. She holds a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from Rutgers University and a Master of Architecture from MIT. Her book, Jaqueline Tyrwhitt: A Transnational Life in Urban Planning and Design, was published by Ashgate in 2013. She also selected and wrote the Introduction to Society and Environment: A Historical Review, a collection of four texts by Tyrwhitt forthcoming from Routledge in May 2015.

Keller Easterling is an architect, writer and professor at Yale University. Her books include Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Political Masquerades (MIT, 2005) and Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways and Houses in America (MIT, 1999). Her new book, Extrastatecraft: Global Infrastructure and Political Arts (Yale University Press, 2013), examines global infrastructure networks as a medium of polity.

Irit Rogoff is a theorist, curator, and organizer who writes at the intersections of the critical, the political, and contemporary arts practices. Rogoff is a professor at Goldsmiths College, University of London, in the department of Visual Cultures, which she founded in 2002.

Urbonas Studio, founded by Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas is an interdisciplinary research program that advocates for the reclamation of public culture in the face of overwhelming privatization, stimulating cultural and political imagination as tools for social change. Often beginning with archival research, Urbonas Studio methodology unfolds complex participatory works investigating the urban environment, architectural developments, and cultural and technological heritage. Nomeda Urbonas is PhD fellow at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology. Gediminas Urbonas is professor at the MIT Program in Art, Culture & Technology, Cambridge, USA. They are artists and educators, born in Lithuania.

John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog are architects and urbanists and are the founders of Territorial Agency, an independent organization that promotes and works for sustainable territorial transformations, combining analysis, contemporary architecture and urbanism, advocacy and action. Their work focuses on the transformations of the relation between polities and space. They are co-authors of the ‘Anthropocene Observatory’. They are directors of AA ThinkTank, AA Taiwan Project and they convene AA Diploma Unit 4. John is researching the spatial consequences of neutrality for his PhD. Ann-Sofi is investigating remote sensing and territorial change in the North for her PhD.

The session will take the format of a large round table, where all speakers are present to discuss at any moment. The keynote by Ellen Shoshkes will highlight the main elements of Tyrwhitt’s career, followed by propositions that outline her work in connection to current discourses on contemporary architecture, urbanism and planning at a global scale. The public is seated in the room around the speakers. The symposium will be recorded and made available online. The contributions will be collected and edited for a subsequent publication.

Two Symposia
The London conference is the first of two symposia, one on each side of the Atlantic, which trace the unprecedented trajectory of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt. The two symposia aim at closing a gap in the understanding of the development of modern architecture and urbanism, bringing new light to the work of Tyrwhitt and reconnecting debates of contemporary architecture and urbanism with new and larger audiences.
The first symposium takes place in March 2015 at the Architectural Association in London, and will mark the first major public event of the new AA Think Tank. A second symposium will take place in autumn 2015 in Chicago in the ambit of the first Chicago Architecture Biennial. It will bring together major experts in the development of CIAM, Ekistics, GIS and earth observation. It will focus on contemporary aspects of global architecture, development and infrastructures.

Recommended reading
Ellen Shoshkes: Jaqueline Tyrwhitt: A Transnational
Life in Urban Planning and Design, Ashgate 2013

AA Think Tank
In 2013 the AA School and public program appointed Ann-Sofi Rönnskog and John Palmesino as the directors of a new AA Think Tank, a research centre to think about the territories of the 21st Century. The AA Think Tank connects the research, teaching and learning at the AA with its Public Programme, it links real world issues with the architecture intelligence developed within the school.

Plan the Planet Poster

Plan the Planet Symposium Schedule

Image: Jaqueline Tyrwhitt with Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India as he visited the “model village” built for a UN Regional Seminar on Housing Improvement, New Delhi, 1954. Courts of the United Nations.

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Welcome to 2019-20

Dear School Community,

The Architectural Association is a place where we forget our labels as architects, as artists, as economists, as writers, as poets, and we become citizens of the world – a world that we believe we can change, transform into something other, more interesting, more radical, more free, more equal, more us. The new academic year brings a series of important conversations to the forefront of architectural education and contemporary culture through new and familiar voices and projects. There are urgent tasks at hand. Our programmes throughout the school have accepted the challenge to address issues of climate and ethics. As architects we always speak on behalf of the other, but we also need to constantly ask ourselves, who has the right to speak, and on behalf of whom? How am I affecting the environment with my actions? How can I care more about others? 

This year I invite us all to practice radical empathy, to care about the planet, the other and the future. To listen, to ask, to share, to discuss, to debate, but ultimately to care. 

Like every year, new appointments and initiatives will expand both our academic and institutional horizons. Academic voices joining us are: filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, whose work focuses on experimental narratives and cinematographic forms in relation to contemporary architecture and the urban environment; Berlin-based architect Sam Chermayeff (AA Alumni), founder of the practice June 14; Didier Fiúza Faustino (AA Tutor 2010-16), an architect and artist working on the relationship between the body and space; Gabu Heindl, an architect and urban planner who is the head of GABU Heindl Architektur in Vienna, an interdisciplinary studio specialising in public interventions, cultural and social buildings; David Kohn, London-based architect and founder of David Kohn Architects working internationally on arts, education and residential projects; Viviana Muscettola, an associate director at Zaha Hadid Architects and an executive member of the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat; OMMX, a London-based practice led by Hikaru Nissanke and Jon Lopez; OFIS, an international architecture office based in Ljubljana and led by Špela Videčnik and Rok Oman (both AA Alumni); Superpool, an international research-based architecture practice located in Istanbul and led by Selva Gürdoğan and Gregers Tang Thomsen; and Bostjan Vuga (AA Alumni), architect and founder of SADAR+VUGA. Other people joining us include Eleanor Dodman, Liza Fior, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Lizy Huyghe, Guan Lee,  Melodie Leung, Gili Merin, Ivan Morrison, Anna Muzychak, Bushra Mohamed, Jonathan Robinson, Alvaro Velasco Perez and James Westcott. This diversity of new voices, will add to the units and programmes and will continue the multiplicity of agendas that the AA is known for. 

Every course, programme and unit throughout the school operates under a highly specific and idiosyncratic methodology, which offers every student a myriad of options and possibilities. More about the overall academic offerings can be found here. More about Experimental Programme units and staff can be found here; Diploma Programme units and staff can be found here and information about the unit selection process can be found here.

After more than a decade at the helm of the PhD Programme, Simos Yannas has stepped away to focus on the Sustainability and Environmental Design (SED) Programme that he leads at the school. The new Head of the PhD Programme, Pier Vittorio Aureli will shape the programme in the years to come. Elif Erdine will be the new Head of Emergent Technologies and Design (EmTech) after Mike Weinstock stepped down; however, he will continue to teach within the programme as Founding Director. 

Print Studio is transforming with a new Head of Publications, Maria S. Giudici who will – in addition to being the editor of AA Files – oversee new publications that continue to position the AA at the forefront of critical discussions through printed matter. Ryan Dillon is our new Head of Academic Communications, and will edit the annual AA Book, lead the relaunch of the AA Radio/Podcast, and oversee the content of the new website amongst other platforms to enable and facilitate all imaginable forms of communication and engagement within the AA School Community. In addition, Rory Sherlock, is joining us as Assistant Editor. 

These new voices join our renowned academic and administrative staff, who together, will surely provide for relevant discussions and debates throughout the entire school as we continue our journey into the future. As part of this, and our continued commitment to achieving Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) (a final decision on our application is expected this autumn), we have gone through a process of internal validation, adjusting nomenclature to reflect who we are and what we do, and to make sure our programmes maintain their identity. Former Complementary Studies is now Core Studies; Technical Studies is now Environmental and Technical Studies (ETS), Media Studies is now Communication and Media Studies (CMS), First Year and Intermediate School (years 2-3) is now the Experimental Programme, and Diploma School (years 4-5) is now the Diploma Programme.

The AA is committed to experimental methods in teaching and learning and this can be seen in the many initiatives being launched. In Term 3 Speculative Studies, a series of interdisciplinary seminars over five weeks, will present courses on politics, law, philosophy, ethics, art history, poetry, dance, gastronomy, social technology and microbiology. Other topics and courses will be added from proposals put forward by students in an Open Forum to be held in Term 1. These courses will introduce new areas of expertise and methodologies to our collective culture.

A four-day symposium titled Experimental Methods will bring our community together for a discussion and debate on what experimentation is and can be at the AA, which will take place during Open Week in both Terms 1 and 2. Tutors from across the school will lecture on their particular academic approach as well as their own professional practice and research. Each day will end with a keynote speaker and a round table discussion, and the week will culminate with an Open Jury in which students can present their work to a panel of invited critics. 

For the first time in the history of the school, Diploma students and Postgraduate students will be able to take joint classes as part of an expanded pool of Electives. These advanced seminars will be provided by our ten Postgraduate Programmes in areas of technology, criticism, sustainability, material culture, computation and more, allowing us to push the boundaries of architectural education and to have more dialogue across all parts of the school.  

This year we will continue with the Open Seminars; on Mondays, Plan the Planet, brings together experts across different disciplines to discuss the current ecological crisis in order to articulate new strategies, policies, relationships and spaces; on Tuesdays, Evidentiary Aesthetics investigates the technologies and politics of the body; and on Wednesdays, we will be able to study the Origins of Capitalist Urban Space.

Throughout the year, the Directions Series offers an open forum for conversations between AA Students, Academic and Administrative Staff and the AA Director. These events offer a platform to communicate and discuss the direction of the school. The first event of the Directions Series will take place on Monday 30 September at 7pm in the Lecture Hall when we can start raising questions and propose new agendas as we all work towards our future and jointly develop the AA 2020-25 Strategic Plan.

To broaden and strengthen our academic resources additional initiatives have been set up. The new Writing Centre aims to assist students with their essays and written work; the Student Care Centre is to provide mental health support; and the Student Affairs Office will provide students with logistical support during their time here at the AA, and advice in career placement and work opportunities in London and around the world for their year out and after graduation. 

To conclude the academic year we aim to introduce a new way of transmitting and disseminating the work of our fifth year students at the AA Forum/Final Presentation. Over two days after tables, all graduating students will present their project in an open format to a wide group of tutors, guest jurors, curators, press, friends and colleagues, making their last presentation at the AA a real moment for celebration and dialogue. The AA Forum/Final Presentation will be open to all students to attend, and will take place in any imaginable space throughout the school. 

This autumn we launch the AA Residence, a cultural platform exploring and studying new ideas and forms of practice at the intersection of architecture, art, technology, policy and design. It is composed of a series of independent labs that consist of an interdisciplinary cohort of resident fellows including architects, artists, policy makers, engineers, scientists and creative entrepreneurs that are all researching and producing experimental work. The AA Residence will work as an incubator in a shared workspace and professional development programme, providing architects and entrepreneurs the tools required to build new practices and initiate projects that impact, promote and amplify culture, and contribute to the re-imagination of the future. The 2019-20 labs will be announced in October. 

Last year’s Projects Review 2019 was produced with the goal to achieve zero waste, and has left us with some new pieces of furniture that we hope to enjoy throughout the year. As part of this exhibition, the first edition of the Press and Practices Preview took place the day before the opening, and proved to be a success. Fifth year students and those with scholarships and bursaries had the opportunity to explain their unit agendas and project aims to invited guests. They did this alongside volunteers who provided an introduction to the sometimes complex issues that the school and its programmes address. Thank you to all tutors, students and volunteers that committed time to this effort. The Projects Review exhibition received great press coverage and many positive responses. To continue this momentum the AA Book, together with a series of podcasts with staff and students, will be launched in the autumn.

Over the last year we have recognised and celebrated the amazing diversity of the Architectural Association, that consists of students and staff from 81 different nationalities. In an attempt to build on this great cultural resource we will launch Architecture in Translation, a project that celebrates the wealth embedded in the use of different languages as part of the production and dissemination of ideas, discourse and debate about architecture. This project will work across many areas within the school. Within HTS, Mark Cousins has produced a series of seminars that will explore the theoretical questions and opportunities of translation in architecture. In addition to this, juries in different languages will take place throughout the year and will be used to identify terms, concepts and values inherent to different linguistic and cultural contexts in order to produce a ‘multilingual dictionary of architectural terms’ for the twenty-first century. 

Last but not least, to start the year, a different kind of tradition is being introduced entitled, Plant a Tree, which will take place during Introduction Week and invites all new students and staff to Hooke Park, the AA rural campus in Dorset. While on-site, we will learn about the facilities and then ceremonially, each and every one of the 300 new voices joining the school, will plant a tree to contribute to the forest, offset carbon emissions, and take part in a dialogue of ideas about the future as responsible members of the AA and of this planet. Plant a Tree is more than a symbolic act, it is the commitment to a future that is ours to build.

As new and returning students and staff wander throughout the school, its spaces and places and within the corridors that build our intellectual home, you will find on the walls images of projects that each of the 779 students of the last academic year produced. With these drawings up on the walls, now is the time for identifying new debates and engagements. For those knocking on my door, and I encourage all of you to do so, you will see next to the Expanding Horizons poster – in a circular frame – what I suspect will be the most important image for many of you this year: this is of course an invitation to visit and share some of your ideas. 

I am looking forward to seeing all of you during Introduction Week and throughout the year ahead to discuss in detail the initiatives outlined above, and the ones that we will create together.



Eva Franch i Gilabert
AA School of Architecture