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LSA and Black Females in Architecture (BFA) Announce new partnership

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24/25 Admissions Open Evening – 6 March

Dec 23

2023 LSA GRADUATES WIN RIBA SILVER MEDAL AND COMMENDATION

Nov 23

STEFAN BOLLINGER APPOINTED AS CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES

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STEPHEN LAWRENCE DAY FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP

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APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN FOR OUR PART 2 MARCH FOR 2024/25

Nov 23

Open Evening – 7 December 2023

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BOOK PART 4 NOW: SHORT COURSES – MODULAR LIFELONG LEARNING – FUTURE PRACTICE

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IN MEMORIAM – PETER BUCHANAN

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Become a Critical Practice Tutor at the LSA for 2023/24

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Become a Design Tutor at the LSA for 2023/24

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Pathways: Exhibiting Forms

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City as Campus: The Furniture Practice

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Summer Show 2023: FLAARE Futures Workshop

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Summer Show 2023: Meet Your Future Employer

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Summer Show 2023: Close to Home

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WE ARE SEEKING A NEW FINANCE MANAGER

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Nigel Coates: Liberating the Plan

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AN INTERVIEW WITH ELLIOTT WANG, SECOND YEAR REP

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PART 4 LAUNCH

Feb 23

IN MEMORIAM – CLIVE SALL

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Our Design Charrettes – an insight into life at the LSA

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BOOK NOW – OPEN EVENING WEDNESDAY 8 MARCH

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An Interview with Emily Dew-Fribbance: LSA Alumna and First Year Design Tutor

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Pathways: Optic Translations

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Thursday Talks: Questioning How we Embed Sustainable Design in Practice

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An Interview with LSA alumna Betty Owoo

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Interview with Marianne Krogh – Rethinking water as a planetary and design element in the making of the Danish Pavilion at Venice Biennale

Dec 22

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Dec 22

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National Saturday Club Programme

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LSA Alumnus Jack Banting published in FRAME

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2022/23 Design Think Tank Module Launches

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APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN FOR 2023/24

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Apply To The LSA: Online Intro (23/11/2022)

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LSA Registrar

Oct 22

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LSA Summer Design Charrette

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How fire has shaped London – from 1666 to Grenfell

Jul 22

Voices on: Architecture and Fire Safety

Jun 22

JOB OPPORTUNITY:  DESIGN TECTONICS TUTOR

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JOB OPPORTUNITY:  DESIGN DIRECTION MODULE LEADER

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JOB OPPORTUNITY:  DESIGN HISTORY TUTORS

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JOB OPPORTUNITY:  DESIGN CITIES MODULE LEADER

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Voices on: Architecture and Displacement

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Voices on: Architecture and Fire Safety

In our ongoing series of opinion pieces pulling together voices from the LSA community to explore urgent topics in architecture, we focus on the issue of fire safety, in light of five years since the Grenfell Tower fire, and the new Building Safety Act. We hear from Helena Rivera and Arita Morris.

Photo credit: Jim Stephenson

Helena Rivera: ‘When tenants identify failures and problems, their voice is not heard’

The Grenfell tragedy has affected us deeply at A Small Studio, and we have followed the inquiry closely, trying to understand the complexity of what happened and what lessons we can learn. At the root of our discussions, however, is a wider question of how we can discuss safety in residential buildings without addressing the wider themes of housing, poverty, social injustice, racial inequity and the role of the architect.

 

Even though it is still a contested issue, it is necessary to reopen the discussion about how and why the private sector is currently in charge of delivering housing in the UK to the most vulnerable people, instead of this role being provided by the state. By understanding the themes around this problematic, we discover how there is a systemic marginalisation of ethnic minorities and low-income households from the wider planning process, which invariably leads to social injustice on multiple levels.

 

If we speak to residents that have lived in housing estates where a stock transfer has occurred, some really personal and richly detailed narratives emerge that give us an insight into the struggles of living in social housing under private management. We would learn that tenants distinguish between the design standards of older housing built by the council when it was driven by social objectives in opposition to the newer developer-driven housing projects that reveal the worst aspects of Private-Public-Partnerships (PPPs).

 

We would learn that when tenants identify failures in construction techniques and problems of evacuation, they ask for help and call for the management company to join their resident meetings, but their voice is not heard. And if it is, their voice is silenced. We also learn that if tragedy strikes, rehousing is de-humanised, unorganised, vague and unapologetic.

 

With PPPs being so closely likened to political ideology, there has to be a very strong political will in holding private companies to account. Unfortunately, in Britain today, property donors provide 25% of funds given to the Conservative party. So, Britain is living in a concerning culture of cronyism that, while not illegal, suggests a lack of accountability.

 

And so, at A Small Studio we are working on a project that looks at building safety by revealing the stories and experiences of the non-experts, the non-planners. Communities have an understanding of their environment that is unequivocal and their knowledge should be integrated to an adaptive strategy in future planning and in shaping the future of the architecture profession.

 

Let’s try to understand building safety not only from the perspective of planners and policy-makers but focusing on the resident as a key expert.  Without oversimplifying we could ask: If we try to learn from the past, what happens when first try to learn from its residents?

 

Dr Helena Rivera is founder and director of A Small Studio

 

Arita Morris: ‘New regulations, policies and standards are riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions

As provisions of the Building Safety Act (BSA) come into force, the industry is facing fundamental reform. The BSA’s main purpose is to create an enhanced safety framework for high-rise residential buildings, and includes legal accountability, enforcement and leaseholder protection. Importantly, there are now requirements to involve residents so they understand and can contribute to maintaining the safety of their buildings.

 

For me, any discussion on the adequacy or not of the BSA or indeed the Fire Safety Act, has to be prefaced by the reminder of the human tragedy that has led to these changes. Yes, legal threat is effective, but putting buildings together is complex, involving hundreds of people. It will rely on everyone understanding why it’s important to get things right.

 

During the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recently, Mr Millett QC said: “For many bereaved… five years of material that at times must have seemed very far removed from the ones they lost, who they were and how they died… the individual need to speak and be heard is paramount.” Surely the adequateness of our regulatory framework should be tested against the evidence presented at this inquiry?

 

After two-and-a-half years, the inquiry moved into its final module this month, including expert testimonies from a forensic pathologist, forensic anthropologist and toxicologist. They all point at clear evidence that more people died from smoke inhalation, and a disproportionate number of those who died were elderly, disabled and children, with other victims trying to protect these most vulnerable.

This evidence sets out in extraordinarily tragic detail the consequences of one of the key issues the inquiry examined: the failure to plan for the escape of residents with disabilities. Toxicologist Professor David Purser explained the progressive lethal impact of smoke inhalation – both carbon monoxide and cyanide. But this was worse for those who had been forced to remain: they built up large quantities of asphyxiant gas in their blood, meaning they collapsed almost as soon as they entered the lobby or the stairs. So in effect, the longer anyone remained in the building the more likely they would not survive, even if they were evacuated.

 

One could not but conclude that an escape plan for disabled residents is therefore vital, or that the stay put policy needs to be rethought, but policy is not in agreement. Other new regulations, policies and standards are equally riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions.

 

So, the response to the central question of adequacy of the BSA in protecting lives is still at large. We are not in a place where cause and effect are aligned. Perhaps because the victims and survivors are not front and centre of each document.

 

Mark Wilson, operational lead for policy at HSE, said the BSA “will be risk-based and evidence-based, and in reality, this is not how building controls works at the moment.”  This points to a more promising direction – use of evidence of building physics combined with how humans behave to determine more precisely what can lead to a life threat to people.

 

Arita Morris is director at Child Graddon Lewis