It is generally believed once students-become-graduates, they leave the institutional chrysalis and go out into the world to forge new paths. As the stories around the forms of collective and socially–engaged practice forged within the School of Architecture show, however, the attitudes fostered within the school lead to a series of continued conversations among students and staff, between cohorts, and across the college too.
These conversations take place between students and tutors, as ADS share their expertise and research, encouraging students to elastically develop these ideas into new realms of engagement. Students bring their own knowledge and backgrounds to the work, shifting between studios during their two years in the school and developing cross–ADS dialogues. For example, Xcessive Aesthetics (XA) – an all female collective of architectural designers, artists and researchers – was born out of ADS8 ‘Data Matter: Digital Networks, Data Centres & Posthuman Institutions’, and informed by previous years of study in ADS3 & ADS4, and a studio space that glues all of the students together. Here, knowledge is socialised and collaborations and support blur boundaries of ADS/institution/education and practice.
The conversations continue among students. While conducting the ‘Radical Practice’ module, XA reimagined forms of collective labour, writing a manifesto that has been used as a blueprint to explore themes of digital transparency, data ethics and the use of data in public space. The ideas within this work continued to reverberate within the school, informing projects like Guy Mills’ ‘The Wild Network’, Divya Patel’s ‘Fake Deep’ and Meera Badran’s ‘On Behalf of the Voice’.
Through their work, XA has built on the school’s commitment to socially–engaged practice by further demystifying and visualising the obfuscated world of data that surrounds us all. These principles are present too in the work of Maees Hadi, Timothy Chan, Matilda Lewis and Anabel Garcia Kurland, who have continued this line of inquiry by overlaying multiple readings of public and private realms, which facilitate greater collective critiques and analysis of power structures.
These conversations also continue intergenerationally between cohorts and focus as much on building the practice of architecture, as growing and strengthening practitioners. There is a collectivity and community amongst students, that builds friendships, networks and collaborations across cohorts that reveals itself as the strength of the programme and the school and shapes the work that we explore. Poignantly, when pandemic and protest hit, XA and Edit – another all-female collective of graduates from the school – came together to extend solidarity to current Black, Brown, Arab, Asian, Minority Ethnic or Underrepresented students. They offered advice, encouragement and support. As the School of Architecture decamped across the globe, relocating to multiple homes and time zones, we came to realise that our community is held together by more than a single building. It exists in our work, our openness, and our shared dialogue around commonly-held ambitions in recrafting a practice of architecture that is as innovative, as it is inclusive.
Xcessive Aesthetics and Thandi Loewenson