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AA tutors hit out at ‘uninformed’ support for under-fire director

3096140 aa school of architecture with pavilion
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The row over Eva Franch i Gilabert’s future as head of the Architectural Association has taken another twist after tutors at the school hit back at the global figures who came out in her support

Ricardo Ruivo and Will Orr wrote a long letter in response to the earlier, open missive from around 150 leading academics, architects and historians backing the AA’s under-fire director.

The Spanish architect became the first female head of the AA two years ago but last week staff and students voted that they had no confidence in her.

With the AA Council working out how to address this result – and a landslide vote against Franch’s five-year strategic plan – the letter of support signed by the leading international names called for her to be given more time.

But now Ruivo and Orr have written a response, a link to which was passed on to the AJ.

The tutors branded the letter backing Franch as ’grossly uninformed and misguided’.

‘The privileged nature of the open letter, coupled with its ignorance of the many people involved, renders its baseless claims regarding the pandemic turmoil ironic to the point of satire,’ said the latest document.

The tutors said the previous letter ‘cynically leverages the health crisis, the feminist struggle, and even the ongoing struggle against white supremacy’.

They added: ‘It deploys these real issues in the defence of a single person’s executive power, and against the school community’s right to democratic oversight.

‘No one in the school community knows exactly how the democratic reform process will now unfold. We ask that, if they wish, those outside the school offer their solidarity to that process, since it is what truly matters.’

Asked by the AJ whether they wished to add to the letter’s statements, Ruivo and Orr ‘declined to comment further at this time’.

The letter in support of Franch was signed by the founders of New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro as well as by Jeremy Till, the head of Central Saint Martins.

It read: ’Every new administration, particularly those very few who have only recently come to be led by women or people of colour, deserves patience and support as the inevitable realignments unfold.

’This need is made all the more urgent during a pandemic and a time of reckoning with social inequity. Any decision based on a vote where there is almost no difference between those for, against or absent cannot be the basis of a decision without devaluing the school, and therefore the field.’

The signatories described Franch as one of the ‘most inspired leaders and radical thinkers of a younger generation of architects’.

Franch – who for eight years was executive director of Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York – secured the AA role from an initial longlist of 26 candidates from around the world. 

The AA has been contacted for comment.

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Readers' comments (4)

  • Advocates of perpetual crisis (sorry, 'right to democratic oversight') are rarely supportive of those on whose shoulders fall executive responsibilities. The undermining of successive directors (Alan Balfour, Mohsen Mostafavi, Brett Steele) and an acting director (Samantha Hardingham) has characterised Bedford Square politics for decades. The current internal opposition is unlikely to promote the health and well-being of a unique institution by continuing this self-destructive trend.

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  • It was just as political when Alvin was Chairman, unfortunately, the AA has been unable to find a person to match his inspired leadership.

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  • It seems to me like 3 years is enough time to see if something is going to work or not, and this doesnt appear to be working.

    I wonder if the people who wrote this letter would allow one of their staff to fail for 3 years and just keep waiting for them to improve one day? There seems to be a kind of ruling class in architecture who see themselves as beyond the concerns of mere mortals. Our industry has a huge problem with class, and by extension, race.

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  • And anonymity.

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