Welcome to the Future of Architecture
Brett Steele, Director, AA School

'In a world of constant change, how architects learn – or rather how they learn to learn – is the defining question, and it is one fundamental to the AA, an institution that has been educating architects for more than 160 years.

Today, however, in a world where information and knowledge is valued far more than bricks, wood or steel, architecture is being profoundly altered. Now, what you know is suddenly the dominant paradigm, displacing those still trying to get by on the time-worn principle who you know (or what you’ve already done). With this shift, architects’ lives have never been so dependent upon exactly those qualities we at the AA School have long taken for granted as the only true way forward – at the AA architecture is experimentation; at the AA architecture is learning and the pursuit of new and unexpected ideas; at the AA architecture is only ever understood in relation to its imagined future.

Central to our ethos is that we teach architecture not as it is already known, but rather in the image of what it may yet become. It is something the visitor can see in the AA, not as an institution but rather in the projects and propositions uncovered by those whose futures (as if architecture itself) we help invent: our students. The AA’s acclaimed teaching model of year-long, intensive and highly focused teaching units ensures this as much as the agendas, cultural ambitions or academic research of our teachers. Wrapped around this coursework is a public programme that brings hundreds of visitors to our school each year as part of the world’s largest dedicated, year-long series of public events promoting contemporary architectural culture.

Each year 650 of the world’s most talented students come to Bedford Square from 60 or more countries to create a uniquely global space for architectural learning. They join 200 members of staff whose collective activities not only define one of the world’s most unique architectural settings, but who also offer an entirely new model for what it means to be a truly global school, located in the heart of the world’s most international city.

By their nature and orientation architects plan for the future. As a modern discipline, architecture is famously concerned with the thoughtful arrangement of space, structure and materials for the purposes of challenging existing use, activity and inhabitation. In a world where the future itself seems both more immediate and less knowable than ever before, architecture finds itself at a crossroads. It is a situation we at the AA embrace with enthusiasm, optimism and conviction. How will architects confront a world of new composites, synthetic materials, structural, manufacturing and building industries? How will architects negotiate ecological and environmental realities in a world of dwindling natural resources? How will architects promote knowledge through newly collaborative, collective and distributed learning platforms? How will the future look, perform and behave?

For glimpses into how talented architectural minds are addressing exactly these kinds of questions look no further than the pages of the AA Book and the Projects Review website and the spaces of the exhibition. A slice in time, these three portals have been prepared in real-time, alongside (and with an overview of) the 2010/11 academic year of the Architectural Association School of Architecture, a school unlike any other.