20 July 2011

The First Architecture Students Assembly

The Architecture Students Assembly aims to be a new independent network of student representatives from the schools of architecture within the United Kingdom. It came about as a legacy project from the European Architecture Students Assembly (EASA) who last year (2010) held their annual event in Manchester. During the two weeks conversation with the Standing of Heads of Schools of Architecture (SCHOSA) took place, principally at the SCHOSA Summer Meeting on Friday 6th August 2010 that was held in Manchester, about the establishment of a new student network (and issues of European mobility). The conference on Monday 20th June 2011 was the next step in this process, having been instigated by the EASA organisers of the 2010 event and members of SCHOSA. Manchester was chosen as the venue for the event as part of the EASA legacy and because the Manchester School of Architecture were willing to provide a co-oordinator/secretary to help stage the event. Invitations were sent to every school of architecture in the UK, via SCHOSA, calling for two representatives from every school to attend the event.

Colin Pugh spoke about how SCHOSA was
eager to support an active student network.

Eleven students attended the conference, an additional 5 students who had expressed an interest in attending the event were unable to, and representatives from SCHOSA, Archaos, RIBA Education and EASA. The event began with a brief introduction from Tom Jefferies, Head of the Manchester School of Architecture, and Luke Butcher, a student at the Manchester School of Architecture who was chairing the event. Sam Patterson, a UK National Contact for EASA, gave a presentation that outlined the nature and scope of EASA, highlighting the sort of event that can result from communication between students across Europe. Colin Pugh, a Principal Lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture and a representative of SCHOSA, then outlined how SCHOSA would be able to support the new student network and how they would like to see a durable network that would offer a point of reference of harness student opinion.

Following a lunch break, where students were able to view the Manchester School of Architecture End of Year Degree Show, the afternoon was a three hour discussion about the nature of this new independent network, what its aims should be, its structure and organisation. The original intention of the day had been to draw up a charter or constitution during this session but as the afternoon progressed it became clear that this would be an ambitious task. James Benedict Brown documented the discussion through two mind maps that were presented ‘live’ on a screen in the room, providing a live ‘map’ of the discussion.

Caine Crawford, a co-chair of the national student body Archaos, gave a brief presentation during the afternoon session about the role of Archaos and its achievements in its ten years of existence. Caine explained how he thought that the time may be right for Archaos to be refreshed by a new body of students and made an offer to the students that the new student network could take on the Archaos brand, 10 years worth of research and papers, website and funding.

A series of key aims were decided on however it was agreed that this would need wider discussion with a wider audience and that this would take place at a second event to take place in October, again in Manchester due to the financial support (in the shape of coordinator/secretary) being offered by that institution. The name of the network was also debated. The discussion about whether the new student network should be agenda or event based, or a combination of both, was mainly unresolved. Despite being unresolved the discussion and debate were both positive and constructive and it is important that this continues so that the new student network can gain momentum.

Moving Forward

With the first conference complete there needs to be continued discussion amongst those who attended the day and a wider audience who were unable to attend. A method/forum for this needs to be arranged.

A number of attendees were present at the RIBA’s ‘Tough Times’ Students Forum on Tuesday 21st June 2011 in London. The Monday conference was mentioned by Professor David Gloster in a talk about communication, raising awareness for the idea. Some members of the student audience, principally the RIBA Student Representatives believed that any new network should make use of and build upon the RIBA Student Representatives however others felt it should remain independent.

The conference was mentioned in Building Design Online in the following article from James Benedict Brown – ‘Could tough times spell the end of Archaos?’ – 22nd June 2011

A date for the next event will be announced in due course but in the meantime there needs to be more discussion about the agenda for that event. If you are interested in taking part or finding out more you can contact the Manchester Student Society of Architecture via email.