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Lancaster Uni launches ‘radical’ new school for activist architects

Lancaster architecture staff ruth dalton des fagan
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A ‘radical’ new architecture school is seeking students who want to become ‘activists’ as well as architects

Lancaster University will welcome the first students to its new school of architecture in October 2020.

Ruth Dalton (pictured, centre, with Lancaster colleagues Ana Rute Costa and Des Fagan), who joins next month as the university’s inaugural professor of architecture, said Lancaster will inspire a new generation of architects to have ‘radical creativity with a conscience’.

She said: ‘I don’t think that any new course could start, at this time in history, without taking seriously the fact that the climate is changing, possibly irreversibly.

‘These urgent issues, along with others such as automation, the future of work, and digital fabrication will be integrated into the new Lancaster architecture course, rather than simply being an afterthought or add-on. This is the real advantage of starting a new course from scratch at this time.

‘Lancaster does have a radical history and there is something to be said for being able to brush away the constraints of educational routine and past assumptions and to start afresh, tackling the current problems head-on.’

The BA (Hons) Architecture course has opened for applications for October 2020 entry. It is anticipated that the Masters of Architecture will open for applications for October 2021 entry from September 2020, subject to full validation by Lancaster University.

Dalton, lately professor of building usability and visualisation at Northumbria University and former head of its architecture and built environment department, is an expert on the overlap between architecture and spatial cognition. She co-designed the game Sea Hero Quest, which helps dementia research, and prior to academia worked on several projects for Foster + Partners.

She said a ‘research-driven agenda’ and engagement with local projects as ‘test beds for research’ will set Lancaster’s architecture teaching apart.

She is hoping the university attracts ‘students with a passion not only to become professionals but to be activists as well. To be the generation of architects who will fundamentally change the profession and we will be giving them the tools to do this.’

This is an exceptional opportunity to bring fresh thinking to the next generation of architects

Architect Des Fagan, previously leader of the Institute of Architecture at the University of Central Lancashire, has already started as the new director of architecture at Lancaster University. He said: ‘This is an exceptional opportunity to bring fresh thinking to the next generation of architects, optimising place, craft and technology whilst engaging with key stakeholders in industry and smart city strategies.’

Fagan, whose research interests include future methods of practice, was project architect for the London Olympic Village with Glenn Howells and Glasgow Transport Museum for Zaha Hadid Architects. He will continue as an independent advisor and member of the Architectural Registration Board (ARB) committee that prescribes all UK courses of architecture.

Lancaster University is seeking prescription of both architecture courses by the ARB and recognition by the RIBA.

Qualified architect Ana Rute Costa, who has experience in practice, research and teaching, is the third member of the new academic team. She has previously taught at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto, Norwich University of the Arts and Birmingham City University, where she was deputy programme director for the BA (Hons) architecture course.

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Excited to see how this course develops. It's the right approach for these challenging times. Paul Beaty-Pownall, BPR Architects

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  • Anarchitects?!

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  • Should not all schools of architecture encourage an environmental activist agenda?

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  • Many of them don’t even have an active agenda, beyond ensuring that the VC earns £500k...

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  • It would be a radical move to teach them some basic construction knowledge so that they are competent enough to earn a decent wage when they leave. After interviewing at least 30 architects over the past 8 years I have only met 2 who could describe what a vapour barrier is and where it goes. That's an indictment on an inadequate education system.

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