London’s Architectural Association reveals shortlist of contenders for its new director

The Names Are...

London’s Architectural Association reveals shortlist of contenders for its new director

The Architectural Association School of Architecture’s Bedford Square campus in London. (Jeremysm/Wikimedia Commons)

The Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture has revealed its shortlist of five potential candidates—including one joint candidacy—to lead the prestigious London institution in the role of director. One of the individuals vying for the position is currently based in the United States while a small handful of the hopefuls hold posts at the AA.

The selected candidate will replace former director Eva Franch i Gilabert, who was dismissed in July 2020 following weeks of considerable internal turmoil springing from uncertainty about her future with the school. Earlier that month, it was revealed that Franch and her 2020-2025 Strategic Plan had received votes of no confidence from the AIA community. Franch, a Catalan architect, served as chief curator and executive director of Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City before being selected to lead the AA in 2018. She was the first woman in the school’s 175-year history to hold the role of director.

Seventeen months after Franch’s sacking in December 2021, the AA formally commenced its search for her permanent replacement. With the announcement of the shortlist of potential new directors, it appears that the search to fill the vacancy is coming along. The candidates vying for the position are:

Andrew Clancy, Professor of Architecture at the Kingston School of Art and director at Clancy Moore Architects;

Dr. Mark Morris, Head of Teaching and Learning and Chair of the Senior Management Team at the AA School of Architecture;

John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog, co-directors of Territorial Agency; Diplomacy Unit and Course Masters at the AA School of Architecture;

Dr. Ingrid Schroder, head of Design Teaching and director of the MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (MAUD) at the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture;

and Jill Stoner, Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley.

As detailed by the AA, the new director will be revealed in May following a vote by students, faculty, and Council members that is “in line with the school’s constitution following a series of events and presentations.” The outcome of the vote will be advisory to the Council. The new director, who will serve a five-year term, will assume their role in time for the next academic year.

As for Franch, questions regarding her future with the school publicly surfaced after the AA community, including the school’s council, held internal polling on her leadership and long-term vision for the school. The results of said polling were decidedly not in Franch’s favor, with 52 percent of those polled voting in agreement that they did not have confidence in her as director; a further 80 percent of the community voted in agreement that they did not have confidence in her five-year Strategic Plan.

More than 150 architects and educators put out a letter of support a week after the poll was made public, but to little avail, as Franch was officially fired on July 13, 2020. “At the heart of the decision is the failure to develop and implement a strategy and maintain the confidence of the AA School Community which were specific failures of performance against clear objectives outlined in the original contract of employment,” wrote the AA in its official announcement of her termination.

Those urging the AA to reconsider its decision claimed that the polling process was unduly influenced by gender bias and “pandemic turmoil,” and went on to describe Franch as “one of the most inspired leaders and radical thinkers of a younger generation of architects.”

Franch is currently Visiting Professor at the Princeton University School of Architecture.