Observers, like Joseph Rykwert, have declared their dismay after the AA School announced its intention to lay off 16 of its employees in addition to the cancellation of the whole exhibitions and publications departments. The Architectural Association is the oldest private school of architecture in the United Kingdom, and it is one of the most eminent across the globe.
A week ago, the laid-off employees have received letters from the school to notify them that they might be disposed of and that a period of consultation has just started. The redundant staff includes six from the department of publications which is the department responsible for the production of the school’s prominent journal of records AA Files. The termination also includes two members from HR department, two from the department of exhibitions, two from membership, and four from development.
Temporary director of the AA, Samantha Hardingham, was the one behind the termination idea. She was appointed to her current position at the AA last August after her predecessor, director Brett Steele, had left the educational facility for a university position in the United States.
Although the school is reassuring the staff that the final call has not been made yet, the architectural society regards this move as an endangerment to the prestigious status and the cultural role of the facility.
Joseph Rykwert, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a renowned architectural historian, criticized the architectural school’s notion of ceasing the production of the AA Files. Rykwert commented, “Closing it down would be very bad for the AA and its reputation around the world.”
Additionally, Ellis Woodman, the director of Architecture Foundation expressed his concerns about halting the magazine’s publication and how “devastating” this can be. “They are the strongest output the AA has had over the past decade and are central to maintaining its international reputation,” Woodman explained. ‘Under Tom Weaver’s editorship, they’ve been enjoying a golden period producing the best long-form writing about architecture in the world.”
He regards the cancellation of the AA exhibitions as a “tragic diminution of architectural discourse in London”.
He added, “The AA has consistently been the only location in the capital putting on exhibitions devoted to contemporary architecture.”
The AA Files board member and the AA former student Irénée Scalbert also said, “To let the AA Files go would be an act of vandalism. It is one of the few things of real quality that the AA has.”
“Under Brett Steele, there was very little happening to provide material for the Files but Tom Weaver managed to fill the magazine with interesting material. To let him go would be as ungracious as you could be.”
Temporary director Hardingham resorted to this economic-based action while the institution has been accepting applications to fill in the permanent director’s vacant seat.
A spokesman from the AA commented, “Over the coming weeks the AA will be restructuring some of its non-academic areas. The actions will in no way affect any of the current day-to-day operations of the school or compromise its units, courses, and programs.”
“The AA is founded on the idea that it must know when to change. This restructuring is being undertaken in the best interests of the AA, and is necessary to support its sustainable future.”