Appointment of the Architectural Association School of Architecture Director

Welcome

Dear candidate

Thank you for your interest in the role of Director of the Architectural Association School of Architecture.  As head of institution, you will hold the most senior executive position within the School, reporting direct to the AA Council.

This is an exceptional opportunity to lead one of the most prestigious schools of architecture in the world.  The oldest independent school of architecture in the UK, it is internationally recognised as a global leader in architectural education.  Its graduates include many of the world’s leading architects, scholars, critics and educators who have studied and taught at the AA School’s historic premises in Bedford Square in London and its woodland campus at Hooke Park, Dorset.  Democratically organised with around 1,000 students, the School has a reputation for creative thinking and innovative design and continues to push the boundaries of architectural education.

We are now seeking an inspirational Director to provide strategic leadership and help shape the AA’s future.  This is an exciting time in the development of the School, which was awarded taught degree powers in 2019 and offers a suite of programmes including a PhD validated by the OU.  Opportunities include furthering the School’s position on the cutting edge of contemporary architectural, social and environmental agendas and augmenting its global impact.

The new Director will be a proactive and motivational leader who can build an excellent relationship with staff, students and the AA Council.  In addition to successful leadership and strategic experience at senior level, the successful candidate will have a track record of relevant internationally-recognised practice, research, publications and/or exhibitions and a familiarity with the global architectural community.  Ambassadorial skills will also be important to promote the work of the AA in its communities of practice and study as well as within its local and wider community.

The AA School of Architecture is a truly exceptional and special place, and you can find out more about it on this site.  If you are excited by the opportunity to take on this high profile role, we would like to hear from you.

Our advising consultants at Anderson Quigley would be delighted to discuss the role with you. Their details can also be found on this site.

Yours faithfully 

Victoria Thornton OBE
President of the Council

About us

The Architectural Association is one of the foremost schools of architecture in the world. Founded in 1847, the Architectural Association (AA) is a registered charity with the object of ‘promoting and affording facilities for the study of architecture for the public benefit’. Its principal activity is the operation of a school of architecture, promoting the most experimental, radical and forward-thinking standpoint in the field. The AA is a global institution with an international assembly consisting of around 1000 students, 350 academics and 140 administrative staff. Additionally, it is a learned society (the ‘Association’) comprising members and alumni.

The principles on which the AA was originally conceived, by students and for students with ‘good trust in self-reliance’, were intended to provide a place where they could associate freely with one another as a school of architecture. 174 years later, the School remains independent and at the forefront of responses to the social and global issues of the 21st century. Nimble by nature, the AA continues to push the boundaries of architectural education.

Being democratically organised, the AA is an institution of cultural, social and racial diversity where all may speak freely, equally and be heard. Supported by tutors who set their own agendas, students develop their own positions on research and design experimentation. This work is undertaken out of a personal enthusiasm that ultimately informs their professional careers. Questioning and redefining the nature of future practice is an integral part of the School.

Since the AA’s invention of the studio ‘unit’ in the 1960s, which has since been widely adopted by schools of architecture worldwide, undergraduate studio teaching has thrived under this pedagogical system. Each unit proposes its own agenda and methods, enabling students to chart their own direction within the five-year programme.

In 2019 the AA obtained the power to award its own degrees, and the AA Diploma is now recognised internationally as an MArch. The School is currently seeking approval for indefinite Taught Degree Awarding Powers, and considering Research Degree Awarding Powers.  It offers BA (Hons), MArch, MSc, MA, MFA, MPhil and PhD degrees (the PhD is currently validated by the Open University).

The School Community is essential to the democratic mission of the School. It includes all registered full-time students, contracted staff (both academic and administrative) and all Council members, but not the Director. It is a forum for discussion across the AA and a voting body, and makes recommendations to the AA Council on matters regarding the School’s future.

The main premises of the AA have been in Bedford Square since 1917. Uniquely, a rural campus, Hooke Park in Dorset, was added in 2002, which houses the residential Design and Make postgraduate programme and the Wood Lab research group. The AA’s reach extends beyond these physical campuses through its international programme of Visiting Schools – short courses and workshops open to individuals worldwide – and with global networks of alumni, visiting lecturers and consultants; the School’s location in the heart of London offers connections to world-renowned academic and cultural institutions.

For more information about the AA School including its academic programmes and its governance, visit https://www.aaschool.ac.uk.

The role

Architectural Association School of Architecture Director

Job reference:
AQ1229

Role description 

The AA is seeking an inspirational Director to provide strategic leadership. This is a high-profile role offering an opportunity to further the School’s position on the cutting edge of contemporary architectural, social and environmental agendas. With support from the Council, the Director will be responsible for developing a strategic plan to shape the AA’s future and promote the School’s reputation for creative thinking and innovative design.

The Director will lead in the development of a plural vision that is relevant in a broad international context and compatible with the School’s ethos, resources and organisation. The climate emergency, the information revolution, human migration and urban concentration, as well as diversity and equality within the architectural profession itself, are some of the pressing issues that need to be discussed and translated into the School’s pedagogical models, modes of working together and daily management.

The Director is elected by the School Community, with an obligation to maintain its confidence, and is formally appointed by, and responsible to, the AA Council for the delivery of agreed institutional goals.

Main duties and responsibilities 

Strategic leadership and management

  • Develop a strategic plan for the AA School, encompassing the Bedford Square and Hooke Park campuses and the Visiting Schools programme, and lead its implementation.
  • Build an excellent relationship with staff and students, providing proactive and transparent leadership and acting as a role model of appropriate behaviour.
  • Abide by the AA’s recently implemented Dignity at Work and Study policies, and ensure they are implemented effectively.
  • Work in a collegial manner with the Senior Management Team and guide the evolution of School management structures, including communication pathways.
  • Develop a strong and effective relationship with Council, maintaining the highest standards of leadership, management and corporate governance. Attend meetings of the AA Council and report routinely on relevant School matters.
  • Oversee the ongoing process to secure indefinite Taught Degree Awarding Powers, and to articulate the Common Research and Academic Framework of the School in consideration of acquiring Full Degree Awarding Powers.
  • Exercise effective oversight of the management of the AA’s resources, including its property, finances and assets, to ensure the institution’s long-term financial sustainability.
  • Diversify the AA’s existing revenue sources through strengthening relationships with industry and accessing increased funding for research and scholarships.

Academic leadership

  • Guide the School in exploring new approaches to teaching and research, including the development of new programmes, pathways and pedagogies, and maintain the AA’s reputation for innovation.
  • Engage directly with the work produced by the School and the student body throughout the academic year, fostering a positive learning environment.
  • Oversee the extension of the AA’s existing public programme, exhibitions, publications and visiting schools to promote global exchanges of the highest calibre.

Stakeholders

  • Represent and promote the AA externally, augmenting its global impact.
  • Encourage the development of an alumni network to maximise untapped opportunities.
  • Oversee the development of a fundraising strategy with the support of the AA Fundraising Framework.
  • Safeguard the AA’s reputation with policymakers and regulators, including relevant UK government authorities as the Chief Accountable Officer.

PERSON SPECIFICATION

  • A commitment to the flexibility, fairness, honesty and transparency required within a participatory democracy, and to the promotion of well-being within the learning environment.
  • A commitment to the furthering of the theory and practice of architecture fit for the 21st century, demonstrated through internationally-recognised practice, research, publications and/or exhibitions.
  • A doctorate in a relevant field or evidence of equivalent professional standing or academic achievement.
  • An interest in and commitment to pedagogical innovation.
  • The intellectual standing to attract talented teaching staff, and the commitment to promote individualised staff development, both academic and administrative.
  • A familiarity with the global architectural community and the ability to promote exchange with individuals and institutions.
  • A proven track record of successful leadership and strategic experience gained at a senior level in a complex organisation, preferably a Higher Education (HE) institution.
  • A familiarity with the UK HE sector, including regulatory requirements, or a recognition of the importance of acquiring such an understanding.

Personal Qualities

  • The ability to inspire students and staff.
  • An interest in seeking out excellence and encouraging the best in others.
  • A desire to learn, and to enable learning.

Terms of appointment

The post is offered on a full time basis and for a 5-year term, renewable subject to satisfactory annual and 5 year term performance and election by the School Community.

A competitive remuneration package will be agreed with the successful candidate.

The AA School offers a wide-range of staff benefits including a defined contribution pension scheme.

How to apply

Anderson Quigley is acting as an employment advisor to the AA.  An executive search process is being carried out by Anderson Quigley in addition to the public advertisement.

Should you wish to discuss the role in strict confidence, please contact our advising consultants at Anderson Quigley: Imogen Wilde on +44 (0)7864 652 633 imogen@andersonquigley.com or Elliott Rae on +44 (0)7584 078 534 elliott@andersonquigley.com.

The closing date for applications is noon on Wednesday 5 January 2022.

As an equal opportunities employer, the AA School welcomes applicants from all sections of the community regardless of age, sex, gender (or gender identity), ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status.  All appointments are made on merit.

Applications should consist of:

  • A full CV.
  • A covering letter (maximum of 2 pages) setting out your interest in the role and details of how you match the essential requirements in the person specification plus a vision statement (maximum of 2 pages) setting out your vision for the AA School’s role in the development of architectural education in light of pressing global issues.
  • Please include current salary details and the names and addresses of two referees. Referees will not be approached until shortlist stage and not without prior permission from candidates.
  • Please complete the following online Equal Opportunity Monitoring Form.

Completed applications should be uploaded at www.andersonquigley.com/candidates using the reference number AQ1229.

Proposed timetable

Closing date: noon on Wednesday 5 January
Longlisting: by 23 January
Interview with the Search Committee: w/c 31 January, 7 or 14 February
Possible second round interview with the Search Committee: w/c 28 February
Shortlisting: w/c 7 March
Interview with the Appointments Committee: w/c 14 March
Candidates on final shortlist engage with the School Community (2 days): w/c 25 April or 2 May
School Ballot and appointment decision by the AA Council w/c 9 May