London’s Architectural Association, one of the world’s most prestigious schools of architecture, announced last week a shortlist of five candidates to serve as the school’s next director. The selected candidate will replace former director Eva Franch i Gilabert, who was fired in 2020 after her strategic plan suffered a staff and student vote of no confidence.
The shortlist includes two American women: Jill Stoner, the former director of Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism in Ottawa, and Ingrid Schroder, currently head of design teaching at the University of Cambridge. (Although Schroder studied for her undergraduate degree in the U.K. and has lived there since 1990, she was born and raised in Washington, D.C.)
Also on the shortlist are two internal candidates, one of which is the joint candidacy of John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog. The duo, both of whom are currently course masters at the A.A., run the analysis and advocacy practice Territorial Agency. The other internal candidate is Mark Morris, the school’s current de facto leader and its head of teaching and learning. Under Morris’s leadership, the school has weathered the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic and opened a high-profile temporary creative space and gallery on a nearby thoroughfare.
The shortlist, which includes far more proven British academic success than the list that included Franch in 2018, is completed by Andrew Clancy. Originally from Ireland, Clancy has had a successful tenure as a professor of architecture at the Kingston School of Art near London, helping place the school at the leading edge of European aesthetic debate.
The five candidates were chosen by a search committee composed of elected representatives from many constituencies within the A.A.—students, academic and administrative staff, as well as the school’s governing council members, aided by employment consultancy Anderson Quigley. An advisory vote of staff and students, following a series of events and presentations by the candidates, will be held in April. And in May, the governing council will announce its final decision.
Franch’s experience of the school’s unique governing structure may prove to be a cautionary tale for its next director. She initially benefited from the singular power that the A.A. constitution gives its community members when she was elected director in 2018. The electorate, impressed by her charisma and dynamism, chose her from a shortlist of three candidates. But two years later, she was censured when her strategic plan—not normally put before the school—was specifically rejected in an advisory vote called according to the institution’s rules.
In recent months, the A.A. has had to rework elements of its governance to comply with new U.K. legislation covering its charitable status and the granting of degrees to overseas students. But uniquely among top architecture schools, the A.A. still grants its students and staff a vote in all key decisions.