Case study: The London School of Architecture

Hackney, UK

"Architecture is a very privileged profession," says journalist-turned-educator Will Hunter, "so the question is how do you ensure that the most talented people get into it rather than those who have the most money?" His answer was to create The London School of Architecture (LSA) in 2015. The notion behind it is to fill the gap between academic and professional life – students in their first year, for instance, are placed in one of the 100 architecture practices that form part of its network for three days a week, effectively learning on the job and earning money while they do it to help off-set the fees.

Hunter’s philosophy, he explains, is to "try and make architecture education much more relevant, not an autonomous, isolated discipline. We’re attempting to connect the teaching of architecture with the city, where students can speculate freely but they’re also trying to think how they’re going to implement it. It’s not an architecture school where there are 20 different units with competing agendas. We’re trying to make students into the best version of themselves."

Importantly too, it uses London as its canvas rather than relying on an iconic headquarters. "We also keep fees low by having minimum physical space and using our practices to offer room as well," Hunter adds. Having started its life in Second Home, before moving to Somerset House, the school now finds itself in open plan offices on Mare Street in Hackney. Designed by Hesselbrand, there appears to be very little in the way of physical separation between students and teachers.

"Everything here is very much articulated," says Hunter. "Nothing is hidden. So you can see how it’s made and you can see what it’s doing. There’s nothing spare here."

Arguably the school’s focal point is the library, with books donated by various practices stacked neatly on USM shelving and the adjacent storage cabinet helping to delineate the space. The storage cabinet was chosen in beige and the bookcase is finished in a shade of blue that complements the rest of the interior.  "We wanted to have a constellation of like-minded organisations," explains Hunter. "And we wanted to engage with brands interested in innovation in architecture and design. Working with USM was about working with a company that matched our own values – I like its rigorous design language."

It’s a project to which USM was glad to lend a helping hand. "We were delighted to donate these pieces to LSA. As a company we’re interested in helping to support the education of architects and designers," confirms the company’s UK CEO Ian Weddell. "If you give people a good product to work with at the beginning of their careers it may set the standard going forward and create a positive level of expectation."


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