Architecture Education Declares: Response statement 2020

The School of Art, Architecture and Design is proud that our students helped initiate Architecture Education Declares (AED). This climate initiative is not new to us, but sits alongside other environmental, social and political themes broadly designated as a "duty of care", which has been cultivated in the architecture courses for some time. Such themes focus on real issues, so that our students understand how they can harness the agency of the architect to question standard practice, address current challenges and drive change that benefits all of society. 

Through our Projects Office we will continue to build on our partnerships in London with organisations such as London National Park City, and through London Met Cities Research and Architecture for Rapid Change and Scarce Resources we will develop more international partnerships, to address the environmental agenda locally and globally. 

However, before we begin to suggest how others should live in relation to the climate change agenda, we're asking all of the school community to understand the environmental impact of their own lifestyles. For this reason, we have introduced a personal ecological diary as the first task our students undertake when beginning their architectural education. In this way, students consider their own carbon footprint and the changes they can make to mitigate it, capturing the passion for addressing climate change that many students cited as their main reason for wanting to become architects in the first place.

This early induction to individual environmental impact introduces the idea of what it means to be a responsible designer and creates an interest that continues to shape their journey through undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Between foundation and fifth year, and on into postgraduate research, students are encouraged to use various tools to measure environmental impact, both in precedents and their own designs, with increasing depth and independence. Thus, they are encouraged to develop an ideological position in relation to the impact of social, political and technological conditions on environmental design. 

Consequently, environmental issues are embedded in our teaching and supported by expert staff. However, in addition to the basic normative approach, we also teach more critical approaches to design proposals that deviate from best-practice values, including fabric first; timber superstructures; adaptive re-use of existing buildings; net ecological gain on sites; Passivhaus U-value standards; BRE A-rated materials and zero waste. In parallel with these technical strands, we offer social and political approaches that question the carbon footprint of our studios’ field trips and resource use.  

The school comprises many creative disciplines that are all affected by the climate and ecological emergency - both academically and professionally. As such, the students and staff in Art and Design support the declaration alongside those in Architecture. Across the whole school, course content comprises ethics and the social responsibility of all disciplines; and we are committed to working with suppliers, manufacturers and clients to engage with the context of the emergency and challenge common practice.

In direct response to the crisis, we are setting up a cross-school working group to develop our response to the AED manifesto further. We believe the solutions to the crisis are rooted in good architecture and design, and are confident that our high calibre of staff and students, as well as our excellent cohort of visiting tutors from world-leading architectural practices, will rise to the challenge.

 

Find out more

To find out more about Architecture Education Declares, please get in touch with Siân Moxon.