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The Architectural Association

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[STUDENT SHOWS 2011] Variety defined this year’s AA summer show – or a palpable absence of any one singular direction, at least

Where parametric design had once been the dominant theme throughout the school, this year’s exhibition announced a determined intention to move beyond the parametric and to broaden the school’s architectural horizons.

Of the many themes currently running through the school, one in particular kept reappearing, namely the idea of architecture as a social and political force in the City. Newcomers Diploma 14 (run by Pier Vittorio Aureli, Barbara-Ann Campbell-Lange and Fenella Collingridge) and Diploma 4 (run by John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog), along with well-established Diploma 10 (run by Carlos Villanueva Brandt), all appeared to be driving this agenda. That said, they all seemed to be driving it in different directions. For Diploma 10, the socio-political force of architecture continued to be explored in direct action engagement with the city and its inhabitants, often resulting in non-physical interventions. For Diploma 14, it was all physical intervention, since architectural form was proposed as the only way in which to achieve ‘architecture’s political motivations’. Diploma 4 approached the topic from yet another direction. Here the problem of scale was central to the discussion, as the participants took the Coast of Europe as their site, and then proposed to reassemble its complex urban forces into an integrated plan. What is clear from observing the work of these units, and numerous others which have not been mentioned, is that the AA continues to be a school which challenges the boundaries of architecture.

Unfortunately, despite this overwhelming wealth of ideas, overall, the exhibition read as a series of teasers. Had the work been more singular or aesthetically similar, this may have been less noticeable. But given the variety of work on show, coupled with the fact that the exhibition showed everything from foundation, through to diploma and even continued on to the many postgraduate studies of the school, the show did give the feeling of a lot of everything, but not much depth in any one thing. A little disappointing, given the teasers looked so good.

Amid the plethora of agendas and techniques exhibited in the show, a little green badge was being distributed. It read: ‘The future is beginning to become a project again’. Open to interpretation, but as the school moves from its parametric past into an uncertain future, this little badge certainly goes a long way to spark one’s curiosity.

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