Organised by Pol Esteve Castello

Series: AA Christmas Party
Date: Friday 13 December 2019
Time: 18:00
Venue: AA Lecture Hall and Front Members' Room
Running time: 0 mins

Watch out for your drink!

This year’s AA Christmas party will bring you back to the Cold War days. Secret agents are everywhere and drugs and sex are their new weapons.

 You are about to take a psychedelic trip to the premises of Operation Midnight Climax!

Staff: 6pm-8pm @ MK-Ultra Laboratory (Lecture Hall)

Students: 6pm-8pm @ CIA headquarters (Front Members' Room)

Students & Staff: 8pm-1am @ Midnight Climax Motel (Lecture Hall)

Dress code: 60’s psychedelia /secret agent

Operation Midnight Climax was a USA secret program to study the effects of LSD on unconsenting individuals. It started in the mid 1950’s and run for a decade under the umbrella of MK-Ultra, the CIA’s most ambitious mind-control program.

During the Cold War, the Western and Eastern bloc’s arms race went beyond the atomic bomb into exploring the destructive potential of chemical weapons. Rivalling with the Soviets, the United States of America started secretive experiments with drugs in order to use them against international enemies.

One of the objectives was to fight socialist or left-leaning foreign leaders by exposing them to psychotropic substances. The effects of the pharmacological agents, like LSD, would distort their behaviour and discredit them in public.

The Freedom of Information Act of 1977 and the later declassification of CIA files in 2001 and 2018 revealed the details of the project. The illegal Midnight Climax operation used sex workers to bring men into a CIA run bordellos in San Francisco and New York. There, they would be offered a drink containing LSD and unwittingly be drugged and monitored.

The brothel rooms included one way mirrors behind which the CIA agents would register the behaviour of the drugged individuals. The observation of the intimacy of the room allowed, not only to analyse the effects of LSD and its potential uses, but to create an extensive study on how to exploit the art of lovemaking for espionage purposes.  

The Midnight Climax bordello was a purpose made space for telecontrol. The hidden surveillance infrastructure behind one way mirrors was invisible to the beguiled citizen.

It was an architecture for testing biotechnologies. A laboratory in which chemical molecules and sexual gestures were dispensed to manipulate will and behaviour. An architectural device of the paharmacopornographic regime to experiment with sex and drugs as biopolitical objects.   

If the panopticon was the foucauldian metaphor of the disciplinary society, is the Midnight Climax brothel the architectural incarnation of the technocapitalist era?  

Thank you to Southar Reid Gallery and Prem Sahib for the donation of recycled materials.

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

January 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.