Organised by Doreen Bernath and Teresa Stoppani

‘This Thing Called Theory’: Double Crossing

Series: PhD Week
Date: Wednesday 30 May 2018
Time: 14:00
Venue: AA Barrel Vault
Running time: 190 mins

This Thing Called Theory
Stemming from the Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) 2015 conference, the open seminar series ‘This Thing Called Theory’ continues to explore the status of theory in architecture, and proposes theory as a form of architectural practice that opposes the instrumentalization of its use.The first open seminar ‘Architecture and Its Theories’ (AA 2017) looked at different ways of practicing theory in architecture, through its histories (Marco De Michelis) and philosophies (Mark Cousins), as well as in curatorial (Pippo Ciorra) and editorial (Diana Periton) practices. Issues of interpretation and betrayal in representation and communication emerged.

Double Crossing
In this second open seminar ‘Double Crossing’, the question of fidelity is further examined, in particular in the relation between architectural theory and practice. One important motif that emerged in previous debates is the ability of theory to digress and transgress certain bounds of the field, insofar as to instigate disturbances that may lead to deaths and births of particular forms of practice.  In this sense, theory in its most provocative form is to be not so much a faithful ally of practice, as that which has the ability to love and to betray practice, for Architecture’s sake.  Every act of insight, imagination and innovation possible in architecture is a trace of such double-crossing, intentional deceit and treacherous exposure between theory and practice. This is where what is said and not said, the visible and the hidden, the mark and its erasure, constitute the relation of complicity behind movements of conservation and revolution that shaped what we now know as architectural history.



14:00 – 14:20  Introduction by Teresa Stoppani & Sergio Figueiredo
14:20 – 14:50 
Mark Cousins - On Betrayal
The paper puts forward the idea that theory, or rather productive theory, is a continuous act of betrayal.
Ivonne Santoyo-Orozco - Liquid
Theory has died a thousand deaths. Yet, rather than lamenting or mourning this,  the paper considers the rejection of these ‘deaths’, in order to speculate on theory’s relation to the present.
14:50 - 15:35  Questions and Conversation
Speakers with Andrea Dutto, Will Orr, Teresa Stoppani and audience
15:35 - 15:50  Coffee Break
15:50 - 16:35
Douglas Spencer - Withdrawn
The things themselves. The things in and of themselves. The things in and of themselves of this thing called theory. Withdrawn. Before relation. After correlation. Pre-critical. Post-projective. How flat is your ontology Mr Wiscombe? Disclosure. Objects for subjects and subjects for objects.
Sergio Figueiredo - Towards Big Data
The construction of most -if not all- theories finds its basis on observations of practice to generate insights and underlying ideas.  But what if our observations have been -even if unwittingly- obscured, distorted, or simply, biased? Architectural theory must transgress and go beyond its confines to find inspiration in other fields in order to (re)claim any sort of faithfulness in its task of making sense of design practice.
Teresa Stoppani -  Erasure
What happens when architecture is critical of itself and of its criticism, and appropriates its coded representations to undo itself and to ‘speak’ about architecture, in images? Erasure is not only an act of removal.
16:35 – 17:20  Questions and Conversation
Speakers with Andrea Dutto, Will Orr, Ivonne Santoyo-Orozco and audience
17:20 – 18:00  Drinks



Mark Cousins is best known for his Friday Lectures at the AA, which have run for 30 years. They have attracted a wide audience of architects and artists. He is currently transforming the lectures into books which will start to be published in 2018. He has lectured all over the world. At the AA he has been Director of History and Theory, which he has sought to reform and to produce a teaching syllabus which, more realistically, confronts the problems which are faced by AA undergraduate teaching. At the same time, he has been a major supervisor of PhDs.

Sergio M Figueiredo is an architect, author, curator and historian. He is currently Assistant Professor of Architecture History and Theory at TU Eindhoven, where he is also the founder and director of the Curatorial Research Collective (CRC), a fledgling curatorial and research group. He has contributed to several publications and is the author of The NAi Effect: Creating Architecture Culture(nai010 2016). He is the chair of this year’s AHRA conference ‘Smartness? Between Discourse and Practice’.

Ivonne Santoyo-Orozco is an architect and theorist. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Iowa State University. Her work investigates the relation between architecture and the cultivation of an affective dimensions of power. She recently completed her doctoral dissertation at the Architectural Association in London.

Douglas Spencer is the author of The Architecture of Neoliberalism(Bloomsbury 2016). A regular contributor to Radical Philosophy, he has also written chapters for collections on landscape, architecture, politics and critical theory, such as Architecture Against the Post-Political(ed. E. Haddad and N. Lahiji, Routledge 2014), Landscape and Agency(ed. E. Wall and T. Waterman, Routledge 2016) and This Thing Called Theory(ed. T. Stoppani, G. Ponzo and G. Themistokleous, Routledge 2016). He has also published numerous essays in journals such The Journal of Architecture, AD, AA Files, New Geographies, Volume andPraznine. He teaches at the AA’s Graduate School of Design at the Architectural Association and at the University of Westminster, London.

Teresa Stoppani is an architect and architectural theorist. Her research interests are the relationship between architecture theory and the design process in the urban environment, and the influence on the specifically architectural of other spatial and critical practices. She is the author of Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice(Routledge 2010) and of the forthcoming Unorthodox Ways to Rethink Architecture(Routledge 2018), and co-editor of This Thing Called Theory(Routledge 2016). Teresa sits on the editorial board of Architectural Histories (EAHN) and is a co-editor of The Journal of Architecture(RIBA).


Doreen Bernath is an architect and a theorist across disciplines of design, technology, philosophy, visual art, media and cultures. Trained at Cambridge and the AA, she won a RIBA scholarship and was a finalist in 2011 for the RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding Thesis (Phd). She is a co-editor of RIBA’s The Journal of Architecture and is the founding director of SpaceMedia Int and DEZACT. Doreen teaches at the AA’s Graduate School of Design at the Architectural Association and at Leeds Beckett University.

Andrea Alberto Dutto holds a Master Architecture from the Polytechnic of Turin and the ENSA Marseille and PhD in Architecture from the Polytechnic of Turin and RWTH Aachen, and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Polytechnic of Turin. His articles are published in Clog (New York),Dichotomy (U Detroit),Footprint (TU Deft),Horizonte (Bauhaus Weimar),Lobby (Bartlett),Masks (Harvard GSD),Tourette (London),Trans(ETHZ). With Riccardo Palma he edited Tracciare piani, disegnare carte(Accademia University Press 2016).

Will Orr studied architecture at the University of Toronto, and is currently pursuing a PhD at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, where he is also a teaching assistant in the History and Theory Studies programme. His research centres on subjectivity, temporality, and modernism in philosophy and the historiography of architecture.

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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.