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RCA reshuffle continues as Alex de Rijke steps down

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The co-founder of dRMM Alex de Rijke has resigned as the dean and acting head of architecture at the Royal College of Art (RCA) after almost four years in the role

The timber construction guru was credited with ‘creating a new, enlarged’ school of architecture with two programmes - namely a Part 2 architecture course and an interior design course.

It is understood de Rijke, who replaced Nigel Coates in 2011, has returned to practice but will continue as a visiting professor with Susannah Hagan stepping in as acting dean until the post is filled.

In an annoucement to staff and students at the school, de Rijke said: ‘By the time I leave I will have spent four years transforming the school. In 2011 architecture was a very small cohort with poor facilities.

‘I had three intentions: to grow the programme into an outward looking school with larger studio space and wider range of teaching, research staff and programmes, to superimpose agendas of social and political relevance to the work, and finally to introduce an experimental design culture of making.

‘I think the evidence of the show, research and live projects under way is that these ambitions are now being realised by the very able school community.’

The move follows an eventful few months for the London college in which a number of key staff members have left. Among those to have exited are Ab Rogers, the former head of the interior design programme and Jeremy Myerson who headed up Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design.

Last month the college announced that the head of architecture role, which de Rijke had also been temporarily filling since the departure of Charles Walker last year, had been handed to Adrian Lahoud.

Lahoud currently heads the MArch in urban design at The Bartlett and teaches the projective cities MPhil in architecture and urban design at the AA.

He previously worked at the centre for research architecture at Goldsmiths College in London and has lectured and exhbited internationally, more recently at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Tate Britain, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York.

Lahoud has also been guest critic at the RCA, Columbia University, Angewandte Kunste Vienna and TU Vienna.

The RCA also announced that Graeme Brooker and Harriet Harris are to join its interior design programme as head of programme and senior tutor respectively.

Brooker is currently head of the department of fashion and interiors and the convener of I:F (Interiors: Fashion) at Middlesex University, London and Harriss is a principal lecturer in architecture at Oxford Brookes University and subject coordinator for the MArchD in applied architectural design.

Lahoud and Brooker will take up their posts on 14 September while Harriss is to join the programme on 10 August.

Commenting on de Rijke’s departure, Harriss said: ‘Few deans/heads of school are willing to place such a committed emphasis on the importance of  making - as a thinking by doing process - as Alex has.

‘But more importantly, Alex has also - perhaps by stealth - created the conditions in which students’ interest in developing socially innovative and entrepreneurial schemes that focus on community empowerment and agency can emerge.

‘This will ultimately produce a new breed of graduate - one that is committed to redefining how architects collaborate and co-design with different partners. Not only will these brave new architects transform the civic environment by they may even reboot the public view of the profession, too.’

Further comments

Naren Barfield, pro-rector (academic), RCA
‘Under professor de Rijke’s leadership, the School of Architecture developed a new and energised focus on both theory and practice, with research at the very centre of its activities. As one of the UK’s foremost architects, Alex had always indicated that he would serve for a limited period of time, and we knew that he would return eventually to full-time practice. We are grateful that we were able to benefit from both his creative vision and practical expertise for such a considerable period, particularly at a time of growth for the school; we look forward to continuing our long association with him in the future.’

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