Unique, dynamic, independent and international, the Architectural Association School of Architecture was originally set up in 1847 as a public forum and learned society, in/famously founded by 'a pack of troublesome students'. The AA is much more than the UK's oldest school of architecture; the school is the nexus of a global conglomeration of contemporary architectural culture, as well as its pasts.
The AA’s incarnations include:
All this takes place at the AA’s newly consolidated campus home on its historic site in Bedford Square in Bloomsbury, central London and its site in Dorset for the development of rural architectures and sustainable technologies.
The AA is a famously independent architectural school. We are self-governed, self-motivated and self-funded. We are the UK’s oldest and only remaining private school of architecture, and we have grown up alongside – and to a very great degree helped shape – modern architectural education and the profession in the United Kingdom and beyond. We have a broad commitment to bringing issues of contemporary architecture, cities and the environment to a large public audience, and we remain focused on the highest standards possible for the education of young architects. As a school we are famous not only for our students, teachers and graduates – the essential part of our legacy – but also for the many ways our courses and activities have contributed to improving the conditions of modern architectural learning, practice and knowledge.
The AA School lies at the heart of a global association of architects and other committed individuals dedicated in every way imaginable to engaging with and preparing for the challenges that lie ahead. The best way to experience the AA is through direct participation – whether as a full-time student, as an AA Member or as part of the audience convened here throughout the coming year. Also, please remember to consult our growing online and print materials which will keep you constantly updated on the AA’s various activities.
At the core of the AA School is our five-year ARB/RIBA-accredited Undergraduate School, which leads to an AA Diploma and Parts 1 and 2 of the UK qualification as an architect. The undergraduate school includes as well a full-time Foundation Course for those contemplating studies in architecture or associated creative fields at the AA or elsewhere. The focus of our undergraduate students’ academic lives is our famed ‘unit’ system of study, which involves highly focused, intensive and agenda-driven design units within which students pursue year-long design projects while also attending related Complementary Studies courses. The AA Graduate School is accredited by the Open University in the UK, and encompasses 11 programmes that last one or more years in graduate design or other specialised courses of study. Our Conservation of Historic Buildings and AA Interprofessional Studio (AAIS) both offer options for parttime study; all other undergraduate and graduate programmes are full-time.
Many prospective students applying to the AA want the answer to one question above all else: what kind of student do we seek, for the kinds of architects and audiences we work so hard to create? In the simplest terms, we are looking for those individuals who are most like the teachers, students and staff who already make us into the school that we are today: individuals who take learning to be the essential quality of any truly committed, engaged human being; individuals with the confidence to leave former lives behind; individuals with the combination of curiosity and ambition that is required to define their own unique path through a school famous for its lack of highly structured coursework; and individuals who, above all else, understand and can demonstrate their own initiative in entering into the very public forms of presentation, discussion and debate of projects throughout the AA School.
The AA School isn’t for everyone, or every possible student. We are not – unlike nearly every other school of architecture on the planet today – one school or faculty within a vast, sprawling university campus. We are not a school that teaches architecture as it is already known, understood or expected. We are not a school able to tell its students what it thinks architecture will or should become in the world. We are, instead, the kind of school that imagines – indeed, assumes – that our students will go on to shape architecture and the wider world in ways as numerous as they are as individuals – through their own highly focused, totally dedicated, personal approach. While admission to all parts of our full-time schools is very competitive, all interested prospective students are actively encouraged to visit the AA and to make an application in the knowledge that what the AA seeks above all are self-motivated students who are able to bring with them interesting personal, professional and other academic qualities that will allow them to contribute to a school filled with like-minded students and staff. Complementing the AA’s courses and activities in London, the AA Visiting School was formalised and expanded in early 2008, giving students all around the world the chance to experience the AA’s influential form of unit-based teaching.
The school’s commitment to high quality, and to enhancing the lives of our students, staff and visitors, is something that will continue to drive the AA forward this year and in the years ahead.
The AA has been located on the west side of Bedford Square, London’s last-remaining intact Georgian Square, since the early years of the twentieth century. Today the surrounding area of Bloomsbury is recognised as Europe’s single largest academic precinct encompassing some of the UK’s best-known research universities and independent academic institutions. Major cultural institutions such as the British Museum are also nearby, as are other spaces that have long given the AA’s historic home a setting unlike any other school in the world.