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Pier Vittorio Aureli & Maria S. Giudici

Session 2: The Rise of Large-Scale Infrastructure

Series: Open Seminar - On the Origins of Capitalist Urban Space
Date: Wednesday 16 October 2019
Time: 14:00
Venue: 32 First Floor Back
Running time: 0 mins

This seminar aims at building a genealogy of capitalism through the spaces it has produced. In a way, this is an attempt to revisit Leonardo Benevolo’s The Origin of Town Planning, a seminal study in which the Italian historian charted the evolution of Western urbanism in light of capitalistic development. While Benevolo located the beginnings of urbanism in the 19th century reformist tradition, we argue that the very ground zero of both urbanism and planning had to be situated in the English ‘Agricultural Revolution’ of the 18th century and in the concomitant colonial appropriation of North America. Within these two events, not only large masses of people were dispossessed of their means of livelihood, but the entire urban territory was re-configured in order to facilitate capitalism’s primary goal: the extraction of surplus value from the entire spectrum of social relationships. The seminar will reread all the most important stages that followed this seminal event: the building of large infrastructural systems such as canals and railways, the commodification of domestic space, the rise of the factory and the technical construction of the labor force, the birth of the welfare state and the development of reformist policies that attempted to soften or counter the consequences of capitalist development. We will maintain that the rise of urbanism and planning were parallel to both the increasing commodification of land use and the working class’ resistance to their subaltern position to capital. During the seminar we will discuss subjects, politics, policies, and projects that are central to the formation of the contemporary hegemony of capitalistic social relationships and we will look at how the engineering and building of urban space became a crucial step in ensuring the reproduction of capitalist relationships.

Image: John Constable, "The Hay Wain", 1821.

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

May 2020
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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.