by Lynne Walker
17 February 2015 Architectural Association, London   The Lecture Series organised by AA XX 100 is something of a misnomer as one of our aims is to get away from the idea of the ‘lecture from an expert’. Instead, we have adopted the conversation model, used frequently at the AA, which makes a space where many people---speakers, audience and moderators-- can talk freely from different perspectives.   With input from the AA XX 100 Steering Group and from AA Director Brett Steele as well as Public Programme curator Manijeh Verghese, the themes of the evening events grew out of conversations between Susan Francis, AA-trained architect, educator and writer, and myself, a historian at the Institute of Historical Research, who has written widely on women and architecture. In many ways, the lecture series is based on female friendship. We were delighted to find that we were both involved in the AA XX 100 project and able to bring our ideas together again. We have known each other and worked on projects over many years from women’s access into architecture to workshops and conferences in related organisations, Matrix Feminist Architects (Susan) and Women’s Design Service (Lynne). Susan is fond of saying that social and personal relationships are as important to work as professional skills.   The AA XX Steering Group which commissioned the series is a remarkable collection of AA students, staff and graduates who are working with a handful of historians, including Gillian Darley, who is contributing to the conversation in this series, ‘Hidden from History: Royal Shakespeare Theatre’. With the AA XX 100 conversations series, we want to create opportunities to discuss important issues about making the architectural profession more inclusive and accessible, as well as to build participation in the centenary celebrations of 100 years of women at the AA. At the meetings, you can meet not only fellow students but prominent practising architects, such as Su Rogers, and the group’s chair, Yasmin Shariff, as well as current and past AA staff, including Mollie Claypool, Kate Davies and Ingrid Morris. The AA XX 100 meetings are open to all and we are keen to have as many people as possible join in the activities leading up to the centenary in 2017.
The inaugural AA XX 100 lecture series begins tonight, and will continue over the next four weeks. Below is a brief description for each of the conversations - we hope to see you there!   17 FebruaryIs design an art? Sophie Hicks and Alice Rawsthorn, chair Manijeh Verghese The fluid, repeatedly changing relationship between art, design and architecture is examined by Sophie Hicks, AA-trained architect, designer and developer, and by Alice Rawsthorn, syndicated writer for the International New York Times, columnist for Frieze magazine and author of  Hello World: Where Design Meets Life. In very different guises, architects, designers and artists have long explored the relationship between art, design and architecture and sought to define its terms, query the respective roles and turn the different elements to their own advantage, whereas current architects design and work eagerly with artists and designers. Recently too, it has been argued that architecture is not an art, and design should not be confused with art. In conversation, these tangled but important relationships and their implications will be addressed, while Alice will trace their impact on her work, her experience as a Fashion Editor for British Vogue and stylist for Azzedine Alaia and her long-standing involvement with the world of art and design through her firm, Sophie Hicks Architects, which was founded while she was studying at the AA.   24 FebruaryFeminist theory and starchitecture. Martha Thorne and Hilde Heynen, chair Doina Petrescu This session considers one of the central questions in architectural culture today: does the star system in architecture unbalance the profession and disadvantage women’s practice and recognition? In conversation Martha Thorne, Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize, and Hilde Heynen, the Belgian historian, theorist and author of "Gender, genius and architecture: The star system as exemplified in the Pritzker Prize", address and attempt to unravel the star system in architecture in which ‘starchitects’ tend to be male. The discussion will range from issues of authorship and language to gendered concepts of genius and architects’ traditional role models. The conversation presents and interrogates the positive benefits of the award, its recent encounter with sexual politics and the argument that the star system is exemplified by the Pritzker Prize.
3 MarchHidden From History: Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Gillian Darley, Simon Erridge, Peter Wilson, chair Denise Bennetts This lecture draws architect, client and historian into conversation about their encounter with an historic building from the 1930s, the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. Bennetts Associates’ widely-praised restoration and careful additions to the theatre revealed fully the high quality of the architecture, designed in 1927-1932 by Elisabeth Scott, an early woman graduate of the AA who won the commission in an international competition of 72 entries. However, like many women of her generation, Scott is not included in the history books in spite the cultural importance of this high profile project or that on completion an entire issue of Architectural Review was devoted to her theatre and it was ranked one of the ten most important buildings of its decade. In conversation, Gillian Darley, architectural historian, Simon Erridge of Bennetts Associates, lead architect of the refurbishment, and RSC Project Director, Peter Wilson, pull together the strands of history and architecture, conservation and re-use and reconsider the achievement of a pioneer AA woman and the afterlife of her architecture.   10 March: Urban design from a gendered perspective.  Liza Fior and Zaida Muxi Martinez, chair Anne Thorne What does urban design from a gendered perspective look like and mean? Who does it address, and what does it offer the built environment and its users? In conversation, architects, educators and urbanists, Liza Fior of muf and Zaida Muxi Martinez of Col-lectiu Punt 6, bring their experience to bear, comparing British and Spanish practices and exploring issues, including public space, urban strategies and cultural innovation. Zaida will highlight the work the Col-lectiu Punt 6, a collective of women who research and work for more equal and inclusive cities. The boundaries of art and architecture, public and private, architecture and space, which muf traverse ---and subvert---through their (originally) all-women office will be represented by their latest projects.   For more information or to get involved in AA XX 100: Visit the AA XX 100 website  Follow AA XX 100 on Twitter Like AA XX 100 on facebook Contact AA XX 100 on AA Conversations