Culture is our making
Culture at the School of Art, Architecture and Design is a cross-school enterprise. It frames the thinking in the making. Making is part of our DNA and has been since the inception of its parent institutions. It lies at the absolute heart of our pedagogy. Making is where learning begins, through making decisions and choices, engaging both with the matter at hand and the constituency of makers.
In a sense, all the different forms of cultural enterprise relate back to this primal thing. We make friends, we make decisions, we make dinner, we make love, we make policies and political decisions, we make institutions and governments, we make exquisite metal objects, chairs to sit on, things that work and works of art, we make ephemeral sounds and moving images, we make spaces and buildings, pavilions, landscapes and cities to dwell in. Together they constitute our culture of making.
Ideas are cast through words and writing. So Culture engages with how we make history and theory, how we construe the cultural landscapes we live in, how we give voice to our values. It is not an armchair discipline. We make ideas where we find them: in the archives and museums, out in the city and back on the streets, in the myriad places where people live their lives.
Sir Ken Robinson famously argues that our current educational system is designed to squash creative talent. Cities like London provide an antidote: they foster creativity; they brim with variety. So we use London as our library, the city as our seminar room. Indeed the inspiration for Culture at our School as a ‘culture’ is London because London is both a world city and a world within a city. We have the biggest collection of cultural resources our doorstep, from actual treasures to a diversity of people to an abundance of ecologies; from world heritage sites to circus fleas, bell foundries to opera houses, nearly three hundred museums and as many again libraries, twice as many galleries and named localities, not to mention all the extraordinary artefacts, buildings, artworks, folk, events and situations we encounter every day.
In 2012 we began building a Faculty-wide programme called CCS (Critical and Contextual Studies) to complement the design studios. The specific curriculum and teaching delivery remains firmly under the wing of the seven subject clusters but our undergraduate programme now shares a common structure in things like learning outcomes, resources, study skills, timetable, and assessment types, weblearn and online submissions through Turnitin (summarised in our Handbook Cass Writing). In September 2014 our shared framework allowed us to launch our unique invention, the ‘Dissertation Studio’, twenty-four of them, all of which were open to final year undergraduate students across the Faculty. Students could choose to work with someone from their subject area or any of the other discipline. They did both in equal quantities. See: Archive of Dissertation Studios.
Each Dissertation Studio offers a thematic topic in a seven-week course that takes them out on visits, rehearses them in how to do research, how to assemble a topic and structure a thesis. They offer a wide range of approaches from continental theory to interviews with East End makers, from histories found on London Walks to drawings tucked away in archives, from the cultural DNA of objects and images to the consequence of gender or the anthropocene.
Research across the school reflects our deep commitment to social engagement. We have a PhD programme with award winning students and a research based masters course, the MA by Project. We support a spectrum of staff and student led research projects that are developed in and around the teaching studios and are fostered by our close associations with leading edge practices and institutions. Research underpins our live projects, adds value to our links with industry, and forms the basis of our partnerships. Research is part of what we do. Culture is responsible for running the School Research Committee and helping calibrate the synergies between research and teaching, research and practice.
We are looking at how we share what we do more broadly, particularly our pedagogical approach and our research and postgraduate forms of study. Plans are afoot to construct a different kind of offering that is inherently less monolithic and exclusive than the current degrees structure. The details have yet to be confirmed but suffice it to say the new programme will be up and running by the spring and represent another step jump in the ecology of the school. This programme will take its bearing from the range of work represented in the Dissertation Studios, their close cousins in the postgraduate programmes and our current research activities. But it will also instigate another level of play: working with more institutions and partners, introducing new ideas and topics, finding new people and situations to work with. Culture aims to work outwards and grow its community out of its common interests.
Dissertation Studios 2019-20
Studio 01: ideas in places
This studio prescribes a direct treatment of place, whether subjective or objective.
Studio 02: Narrative and Storytelling
This studio focuses on modes of storytelling and narrative conventions. We will particularly consider how narrative intersects with, and informs, identity.
Studio 03: The Conquest of Joy
This studio encourages dialogues around the cultural production at a time when narratives founded on certainty have ceased to make sense.
Studio 04: Bullshit, propaganda and post-truth
This studio will look at the emergence of the notion of ‘post truth’ and explore links between other ideas around propaganda and Harry Frankfurt’s argument about ‘bullshit’. We will consider the usefulness of these ideas, and how they can be explored in creative practice.
Studio 05: Meaningful Work
This studio will consider the value of making -in itself, independent of the product or outcome, exploring the idea of craft as meaningful work.
Studio 06: Writing Rough
What are the outer limits of the essay? Write on the edge of the possible in a rich, researched and evidenced discussion which creatively explores the expanded field of the essay.
Studio 07: Thinking with Ruins
This studio pays heed to these cultural forms and persuasions but asks, how might we productively think with ruins in the present?
Studio 08: The things you can tell just by looking (or, Oriented Writing)
Writing tells us who we are and how each of us thinks and interprets the world.
Studio 09: Le Marteau Sans Maître
Digging through the deepest layers of archaeological time, André Leroi-Gourhan (La geste et la parole, 1964) concluded that for millions of years, human culture and technology evolved without complex language, rational planning or abstract ‘thinking at a distance’.
Studio 10: Globalism
For good or ill, we live in a global world. Whilst this may appear to be obvious, globalism is only a relatively recent term as is the phenomenon itself. What do we mean by this? How did we arrive in this place?
Studio 11: Performative Acts: Art, Architecture and Writing
Nico de Oliveira
In the last decade or so we have moved from objects to subjects or audiences. In parallel, the word performative has been adapted from a theoretical term to a key rubric within the discourse of contemporary art, architecture and beyond.
Studio 12: Decay, Repair and Back Again
Things break down and decay. In this studio you will experiment repair as strategy to negotiate breakdown, and you will practice mining patina and weathering for information and stories.
Studio 13: ‘If I stay silent nothing will change’: Identity, Politics, Social Change and Creative Culture(s)
This cross-disciplinary studio considers how power, culture, politics, identity, representation, activism, social media, and mass culture theory intersect with a range of arts practices, including photography, architecture, design and fine art, film studies, fashion and music, sound, pop art, and theatre.
Studio 14: A Material World
As the title suggests, this Studio will be based on the processes that are intrinsic to the design and making of textiles, however it will also be looking at the materiality of these textiles as objects.
Studio 15: Souvenir
This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past. It considers the role of memory and how it is embodied in cultural artefacts.
News from the School
LIVENESS: The Summer Show 2020
29 June - 10 July 2020
Annual celebration of student work will see launch of ambitious new online portal and event project.
ONLINE: Pandemic architecture: Adapting to the architecture of home-based work
26 and 30 March 2020, 6.30pm to 8pm
Cass Research present two online seminars led by Dr Frances Holliss, Emeritus Reader in Architecture.
EVENT: John Meunier and Patrick Lynch come to The Cass
Monday 9 March 2020, 6pm to 8pm
Cass Research are delighted to announce the first in the Cass Research Book Events.
Writing Black Lives
A free, open event at London Met will explore the Black British experience through creative writing and oral history.
Cass tutor named overall winner at World Illustration Awards
Anna Mill claims top prize at the prestigious annual event for her work on the graphic novel Square Eyes.
Cass Summer Shows 2019 – dates announced
Students from The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design showcase their talent with a season of summer events.
Graphic novel co-authored by The Cass foundation lecturer Luke Jones and architecture tutor Anna Mill will be published by Jonathan Cape.
EXHIBITION: The Photo-Diaries of Mick Williamson
8 October - 1 November
Exhibition for Photomonth celebrating the work of leading photographer and long serving undergraduate course leader Mick Williamson.
Fielding Talk 2018
Leading designer/maker and Cass Reader in Metal Simone Ten Hompel to deliver annual Crafts Council lecture
September 6-30 2018
Cass lecturer Clare Qualmann's walking and art project takes her to New York for exhibition.
Venice Fellowship 2018
Recent Furniture and Product design graduate Ella Merriman reflects on her experience as a fellow at the Architecture Biennale this summer
The Cass Session 4 is published
Latest yearbook celebrates student work and achievements in 2017-18 academic year.
Cass Summer Shows 2018 – dates announced
Students from London Met’s Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design showcase their talent with a season of summer events.
Design for Cultural Commons
March- May 2018
Lecture series curated by Torange Khonsari coincides with launch of new postgraduate programme.