Leading figures including Joseph Rykwert have voiced alarm at plans by the Architectural Association to make 16 staff redundant, including entire publications and exhibitions departments
The 16 staff affected received letters last Thursday informing them that they were under threat of redundancy and that a consultation period had begun. Six work in the publications department which produces the AA’s renowned journal of record the AA Files, two in the exhibitions department, two in HR, four in development and two in membership. One further individual who would have been at risk of redundancy resigned shortly before the process began, the AJ understands.
The action has been taken by the AA’s interim director Samantha Hardingham and approved by AA Council, the AJ understands. She took up the role in August following the departure of long-term director Brett Steele who left to become head of arts at the University of California in Los Angeles.
The Architectural Association is unique in having both an academic and a cultural mission, embedded in its founding charter in 1847. While the AA is stressing that no final decisions have been made, observers have said its latest action puts this historic and globally-recognised cultural offer in peril.
Architecture critic Joseph Rykwert, who taught at the AA in the 1950s and 60s, said he was particularly upset at the idea that the AA Files would no longer be published.
‘The AA Files is one of the best architectural magazines going,’ he said. ‘Closing it down would be very bad for the AA and its reputation around the world.’
Architecture Foundation director Ellis Woodman called the potential loss of the AA Files ‘devastating’.
‘They are the strongest output the AA has had over the past decade and are central to maintaining its international reputation,’ he said. ‘Under Tom Weaver’s editorship, they’ve been enjoying a golden period producing the best long-form writing about architecture in the world.’
Woodman added that the ending of AA exhibitions would be a ‘tragic diminution of architectural discourse in London’.
He said: ‘The AA has consistently been the only location in the capital putting on exhibitions devoted to contemporary architecture’.
Irénée Scalbert, who sits on the board of AA Files and previously taught and studied at the AA, said: ’To let the AA Files go would be an act of vandalism. It is one of the few things of real quality that the AA has.
’Under Brett Steele, there was very little happening to provide material for the files but Tom Weaver managed to fill the magazine with interesting material. To let him go would be as ungracious as you could be.’
Hardingham has taken the cost-cutting action in the midst of the AA’s search for a permanent director, with applications to a dedicated search committee open for a month until 20 November.
An AA spokesperson said: ‘Over the coming weeks the AA will be restructuring some of its non-academic areas. The actions will in no way affect any of the current day-to-day operations of the school or compromise its units, courses and programmes.
‘The AA is founded on the idea that it must know when to change. This restructuring is being undertaken in the best interests of the AA, and is necessary to support its sustainable future.’