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Axe falls on AA staff despite global protests

Aa school of architecture with pavilion
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Ten of the 16 staff put on notice of redundancy at the Architectural Association have left the organisation, it has emerged.

The cash-strapped school of architecture confirmed that nine people had been made redundant, and one had resigned. Two of the 16 who were on notice have been redeployed, with the remaining four retained in their current roles.

The AJ understands that the staff member who resigned was AA Files editor Tom Weaver.

The job cuts have taken place despite an international protest before Christmas that saw figures including Rem Koolhaas, Richard Rogers, Phyllis Lambert, Toyo Ito and Kengo Kuma calling for a U-turn and warning that the exercise could prove fatal to the institution.

The AA’s publications department – which oversees AA Files - has been slashed from eight permanent posts to just two, with five roles other than Weaver’s being made redundant, the AJ understands.

Architecture critic Irenee Scalbert – who taught at the AA for 17 years and is now a member of the AA Files editorial board – said the much-respected architecture magazine for AA members had been on an upward journey under Weaver.

‘The AA Files was one of the best things about the last 10 years at the association,’ Scalbert told the AJ. ‘It found a good editor who is a big loss. To have a magazine is one thing; to have a good one with a capable editor is another. It was a sophisticated publication that gave evidence that the AA was good at architecture.’

Architecture Foundation director Ellis Woodman called the job cuts ‘short-sighted’.

He added: ‘I bemoan the outcome of this consultation and the way it has been handled. The AA Files is fundamental to the institution’s international reputation. [AA interim director] Samantha Hardingham has said that it will be maintained but I struggle to see how anything like the quality of the last 10 years will be achieved if the people responsible for editing and producing the publication have left.’

The AA said the publications department and print studio were ‘getting on with their work on committed/planned and planning publications, working alongside staff and student groups’. 

In an email informing people about the redundancies, which has been seen by the AJ, Hardingham wrote: ‘I would like to restate, as said on a number of different occasions over the past weeks, that the key functions of the following areas affected – development (fundraising), publications (including AA Files, the Projects Review and the AA Prospectus), exhibitions and membership – will continue in a new way, and importantly, as collaboratively and collectively as ever.’

Last year, Hardingham gave details of the association’s financial difficulties, saying the school was seeking taught degree-awarding powers (TDAP) to strengthen the value of its qualifications.

This process involves convincing the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) of the school’s sound governance and financial viability.

Hardingham suggested the AA was overly reliant on student fees and said it had been hit by a ‘massive’ increase in rates and rents, inflated by the nearby Crossrail project at Tottenham Court Road, plus the cost of the ongoing revamp of its Bedford Square headquarters designed by Wright & Wright.

The organisation this week declined to confirm the breakdown of the redundancies by role or department, or to confirm Weaver’s resignation.

Tom Weaver has been contacted for comment.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • When people are saying that The AA Files is the best thing about the AA at the moment, they’re being polite, but not that polite: what they’re actually saying isn’t that difficult to work out, surely?

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  • Well, apparently publication will 'continue […] as collaboratively and collectively as ever.' This presumably means that staff and students will be asked to take charge of it - true to the AA's time-honoured and utterly outdated mantra that there isn't anything in the world that architects can't do.

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