Dark Matter Labs

Welcome to the Boring Revolution

Series: Open Seminars
Date: Tuesday 4 December 2018
Time: 12:30
Venue: 33 First Floor Back
Running time: 0 mins

This Open Seminar will take place on Tuesdays in Term 1 at 12.30pm, starting Tuesday, 9 October 

London Beyond Brexit: Designing for a Post-Managerial World

Recent cultural and socio-economical shifts such as Brexit, Trump, the rise of the far right, wider institutional distrust and structural discontent are questioning our existing models, practices, instruments, institutions. And perhaps most urgently, they are questioning the social contract we supposedly operated under – equality, justice, and freedom. Increasingly, these fundamentals are being visibly undermined; growing inequality (be it gender pay or concentration of wealth); growing visible injustices (from British MPs expenses scandal, to the 2008 financial crisis); to widespread economic precariousness (where work is no longer a route out of poverty).

In this context, Brexit is a symptom of a much more systemic transition in our economy. The aim is to surface near future trends and societal shifts, and understand the structural implications for the 21st century city. These open sessions will draw on leading practioners to provide insight into how we juggle the current paradigm of complexity, the headwind of cultural change, and the rapidly accelerating technological revolution.

We need to reimagine our learning & development infrastructure to support innovation for and by all, remake our means of investing inclusive and open automation, prepare a transitory welfare state so we do not leave whole communities of people behind. Redesigning our process, practices and institutions of governance & regulation, and perhaps most critically reimagine the city for a post-managerial, post-bureaucratic world.


9 OctoberWicked Problems - from treatment to prevention - in conversation with Hilary Cottam.
This session sets out to re-frame some of the greatest systematic issues of today’s institutional infrastructure and their implications on our 21st century urban living and aims to share strategic as well as practical tools to begin reimagining multi-point and preventative interventions to solve entrenched urban challenges such us inequality and unaffordability. Joost Beunderman from Dark Matter Labs will chair a conversation with Hilary Cottam  an internationally acclaimed social entrepreneur - who will present her work and recently published book Radical Help: How We Can Remake the Relationships Between Us & Revolutionise the Welfare State. Hilary is continuing to work with communities and government organisations in the UK and Europe, supporting others to grow and extend an approach to social change which puts capability, relationships and deep human connection at its heart.

16 OctoberTrustlessness - don’t ditch decentralisation - in conversation with Preston J. Byrne, Doma & Ehab
Do traditional accountability and financing mechanisms have the capacity to manage the emerging tensions between industry and society in a digital age? This session we’ll be discussing how reimagined models of contracting (facilitated by new technologies) could enable a greater degree of flexibility and agency - as apposed to control and risk-management - in supporting new types of urban development models and enable a more distributed, affordable & sustainable 21st century city. Preston J. Byrne will chair a conversation with Maksym Rokmaniko from Doma  a blockchain-based, distributed ownership platform for equitable housing and Josh Graham from Ehab, a blockchain based platform for developing sustainable homes, resilient neighbourhoods and liveable smart cities. Preston is a well-known blockchain entrepreneur and English solicitor. After founding and operating London-based Monax Industries in 2014 (a pioneering "smart contract" company and the first company in the world to make a “permissioned” blockchain design), in 2017 Preston moved to America to complete a LL.M. degree in U.S. law. Preston currently runs a small technology consulting practice, Tomram LLC, that advises clients including law firms, the public sector and start-ups how to engage with emerging technologies, in particular blockchains and distributed systems. 
Readings list & resources: 
1. Ian Grigg - Financial Cryptography in 7 layers
2. Clay Shirky - Institutions vs. Collaboration
3. Nick Szabo - 'formalising and securing relationships on public networks'

23 October : Value Paradigm: (Re)debating who creates value? Why that value? Who’s value? - Brett Scott
Our financing system, and the economic principles and value system it rests on, is influencing the cities we build, the decisions we make and the way we live. This session sets out to interrogate those principles (their language, models and non-necessary history), questioning the harmful ways in which we non-critically employ the term - what value? why that value? who’s value? - providing examples of interventions and innovation and critically analysing the practical, economic and philosophical issues that these changes bring. Brett Scott will introduce us to this conversation by outlining the impact of macro financial trends on worldwide citizens’ resilience - from decentralised production to entrenched inequalities. Brett is a campaigner, former broker, and the author of The Heretic's Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money.
Readings list & resources: 
The Value of Everything by Mariana Mazzucato
Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth
Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Muller

06 November : Digitising Development - Rethinking the economics of land and housing in the 4th Industrial Revolution. - Alastair Parvin
Britain is one of the richest countries in the world, yet it is systematically failing to house its population. Beyond Shortage will present a discussion on how new technology is revolutionising the design and construction industry, by unlocking a new mass force for house building - the citizen sector. We will discuss how technology is enabling us to designing new mechanisms to democratise the housing sector, and how it changes our current economic paradigm of how and why we use our land. The talk will be hosted by Alastair Parvin, a designer and entrepreneur and co-founder of Open Systems Lab, a non-profit enterprise developing digital technologies to transform housing, construction and planning in the 21st century. He is co-inventor of the WikiHouse building system, and a leading advisor in design economics and digital innovation in the construction industry. His written work includes ‘A Right to Build’ (RIBA Award for research 2011) and white paper on ‘Scaling the Citizen Sector’ (2016). Alastair currently sits on the Scottish Government Task force for Digital Planning.
Reading List:
1. Video ‘House prices: Why are they so high?’ by Positive Money,
2. Housing by people: towards autonomy in building environments by John F. C. Turner,
3. ’Architecture is now a tool of capital, complicit in a purpose antithetical to its social mission’ 24 April, 2015 by Reinier De Graaf. 

13 NovemberTrojan Horses & Dark Matter - How do we shift the cultures of decision making? - Dan Hill
We live in an age of wicked problems; from climate change or the undermining of the welfare state, to the rise of a monopoly economy and increased polarisation - we need to radically shift how problems are solved. Dan Hill, head of Arup Digital Studio and a globally recognised leader in design, urbanism, technology, will provide a thought provoking look into how design can be repurposed for this era of complexity. More specifically, how strategic design can put new working methods and new technology to work on creating new business models, regulatory and policy innovations necessarily to unlocking 21st century economy.  Dan Hill is also Associate Director at Arup, and previously led Future Cities Catapult, was cofounder of Helsinki’s design lab Sitra, and pioneered projects such as the BBC iPlayer. He has taught worldwide and has published extensively, including "Dark Matter & Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary" (Strelka Press, 2012)
Reading List:
Recipes for Systemic Change by Bryan Boyer, Justin W. Cook & Marco Steinberg Helsinki Design Lab (Helsinki Design Lab, SITRA),
Dark Matter & Trojan Horses by Dan Hill, Arup Digital Studio,
Building a different kind of design team at Arup by Dan Hill.

20 November : Third Horizon of Governance - Marco Steinberg
Governments the world over are in the midst of a constitutional crisis. From the role of technology in undermining liberal democracy, to our institutional failure in confronting the scale of our shared challenge; climate destruction, growing inequality, or ageing populations. During the ‘Third Horizon of Governance’, Marco will introduce how design and design thinking has now become a vital tool to deal with the uncertainty and complexity of our age. Originally train as an architect, Marco has helped to pioneer a new role for design in creating public value, and is one of the world’s leading strategic design thinkers and advises governments across the globe on how they can transform themselves to meet 21st century challenges. Previously Marco was the Strategic Design Director at Sitra, founder of the Helsinki Design Lab (HDL), and established the Design Exchange Programme - an initiative embedding designers within public sector organisations. 

27 November : What is anastrophic design? - Etienne Turpin & Konstantina Koulouri 
According to Sadie Plant and Nick Land, catastrophe is the past coming undone, while anastrophe is the future coming together. In this AA Open Seminar, User Group’s Co-founder and Research Coordinator, Dr. Etienne Turpin, and User Group’s Ocean Archive Project Architect, Konstantina Koulouri, will present some recent software design and development projects for crowd-sourcing disaster information (, coordinating humanitarian response (MSF REACH), promoting ocean literacy and environmental advocacy (TBA21 OceanArchive), and anticipating coastal climate migration (Harvard University’s Landscapes of Retreat). In the context of these applied design research and software development projects, Etienne and Konstantina will argue for an anastrophic methodology that renegotiates the parametrization of urban lives and livelihoods through software for the city yet to come.
The Urban Systems & Environments Research Group is a worker-owned cooperative run by a committed group of scientists, designers, geographers, engineers, and IT architects. They deliver of a range of professional services regarding complex geospatial data collection and their utilization, as well as the design and development of bespoke digital platforms and related data visualization tools. User Group works with a wide variety of organizations and research partners across various operational scales to develop thoughtful software, IT infrastructure, and related digital strategies.
Readings list & resources:
Nashin Mahtani & Etienne Turpin, “Neuroecologies of Attention & Intelligence in the Megacity,” in Perspecta 51: Media, eds. by Shayari de Silva, Dante Furioso and Samantha Jaff (New Haven: Yale Journal of Architecture, 2018). [pdf]
AbdouMaliq Simone, “On Intersections, Anticipations, and Provisional Publics: Remarking District Life in Jakarta.” [pdf]
Shannon Mattern, “A City is not a Computer,” Places Journal.

04 December : Conscious Cities - can neuroscience inform the built environment? Araceli Camargo and Prof. Hugo Spiers
We are facing a humane crisis in cities, underpinned by the adverse effects of urban living, buildings and cities on our health, wellbeing and productivity - triggered by toxins, environmental stressors, climate and social conditions. In this session we’ll be discussing how neuroscience research is improving our understanding of how we experience and are affected by the physical and social world around us - and how this could inform and innovate current urban development models. Together with Araceli Camargo and Prof. Hugo Spiers, we will investigate the impact of new technologies on how we interact and work in cities, forcing us to redefine how we develop new capabilities & skills for 21st century living. Araceli Camargo, is a cognitive neuroscientist, co-founder of the The Centric Lab, specialising in neuroscience for the built environment and founder of the co-working space THECUBE (London) and INPUT LOFTS (New York). Prof. Hugo Spiers is a Reader in Neuroscience at University College London, Head of the UCL Spatial Cognition Laboratory and Director of Science at The Centric Lab. Hugo has over 20 years experience of conducting neuroscience research on how the brain represents space and published over 60 peer-reviewed research articles. 
Readings list & resources: 
Neuroscience for Cities - A Playbook, by Future Cities Catapult,
Video ‘Becoming The City’ in Conscious Cities Conference by Collin Ellard.

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

February 2020
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 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.