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Will Hunter — LSA Summer Show 2020 Introduction

Hello everyone, welcome to our first online Summer Show.

We have transformed our website into an online gallery to host our annual exhibition, where you can see all the work of our graduating students. Each student is on the homepage, where you can click through to see all their portfolios.

Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom their stories – after all their gorgeous drawings – as that’s where their contact details are. And I am sure you will want to be hoovering up the fresh crop of talent that we have produced this year.

And it has been quite an extraordinary year! As I am sure it has been for all of you in your personal and professional lives.

Following the transition to lockdown we had a stern email from the RIBA about maintaining standards, alongside students making a plaintive plea for what might be called ‘sympathy’ marking.

It turns out that neither the RIBA nor the students need to have worried. In both First Year and Second Year, we assessed the work with the same eagle eye we always do. And in both years, the spread of marks moved upwards, as if carried on a rising tide.

It made me think that perhaps every year, to ensure success, we should lock our students in their houses from Easter. But more seriously – a huge congratulations to our graduating cohort who have had the agility and adaptability to thrive in uncertainty. I salute you all.

But saying they have been lifted on a rising tide is not quite the right metaphor, with its unwelcome hint of global warming. It is more like a foundation of layers, as each year has built on the success of previous years, standing on their shoulders to stand a little bit higher and see a little bit further.

And thinking of this brings me back to the beginning. Right back to the beginning.

In 2010 I first had the idea of a new school. I was teaching at the Royal College of Art, and I thought, well how hard can it be to have a little independent school. All you need is good coffee, and good wifi, and good people. And maybe a plotter.

How naïve could I have been! What a fool! I went on the classic journey: from uninformed optimist, to informed pessimist, to emerge as the informed optimist you see today!

I made a new school a new year resolution for 2011 – and I am both happy and ashamed to say that it is the only New Year’s Resolution I have ever kept. I still can’t speak Italian, and don’t – yet – have a six-pack. But we now have a thriving school!

As we gathered people, we gathered momentum. Crispin Kelly, Sarah Ichioka and Niall Hobhouse were my founder ‘governers’ – that word in heavy quote marks, as there was nothing yet to govern.

In the founding faculty, Clive Sall, James Soane, Deborah Saunt, Alan Powers, Lewis Kinneir, Lara Kinneir and Peter Buchanan are still very much in place, and are the driving force of the intellectual and creative life of the school’s teaching. I must single them out for especial thanks from me, for their huge role and continuing contribution.

Then Professors Nigel Coates and Farshid Moussavi joined in what we grandly called our Academic Court, which developed its own unique and stylish rituals.

Then a lunch with Simon Allford, who loved the idea but quickly dismissed my delusion I could set up a school part-time while being at The Architectural Review. Simon signed up AHMM as a Founding Practice, to support our set-up costs.

Incidentally, Simon’s commitment to education and his generosity to the profession are two of the main reasons I am proud to support Simon – an LSA Trustee – in his bid to become RIBA President.

And I must thank my other early supporters in the Founding Practices: Allies and Morrison, Grimshaw, Foster + Partners, Idom, Orms, PDP London, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Scott Brownrigg. They bought into an idea and helped make it possible.

This industry support helped unlock wider philanthropy and we secured the backing of Sir Terry Leahy, Nadja Swarovski, Sir Peter Mason, Richard Collins, Martin Halusa and Davina and Philip Mallinckrodt.

Everything was beginning to take shape. We founded ourselves as a charity. We even managed to poach Roland Oakshett to leave Rothschild bank to become our treasurer.

By this point the list of names of people I need to thank feels like I’m not only name dropping, but scattering great grenades of the glitterati at you. Yet still I have not done justice to the hundreds of people I should thank who have made the LSA possible.

By early 2015, we were in pretty good shape. London Met validation under the belt; ARB submission in. Smashing the balls out of the park. Running like clockwork. But then it dawned we were missing a central component:

 

STUDENTS! 

 

In 2015, we were incredibly fortunate to recruit 30 amazing pioneering students to join a school with no history – on the promise that they could come and make history instead.

Every year since then has built on their legacy. The school evolves and the culture gets stronger. I am incredibly proud of what our students achieve – both in the school, and what they are now achieving in their professional lives.

They responded to an invitation to make a school and to think about how design can make how we live in cities and on the planet better for everyone.

In this they have been supported by the amazing Practice Network. And a truly dedicated teaching and support staff, who give so much time and commitment to the next generation of talent.

This year has been our fifth year in operation: and a year of reflection to us all. We have resolved as an institution that we must do better on our founding principles to widen access to the profession of architecture.

That is why we are developing a Part 1 programme so we can recruit directly from schools, and seek to overcome the lingering and immutable perception that students need maths, art and physics to be an architect. The world has changed and we need different talent streams and perspectives to enliven our profession.

We want to ensure no talented candidates miss a career in architecture because of their background, or simply because it has never been explained to them.

We seek for the LSA, by 2030, to triple in size, and to have a student body that is 50% ethnically diverse and 50% from disadvantaged backgrounds (what is measured in the catchy acronyms of the Office for Students as BAME, Adult HE, IMD and POLAR4)

To achieve this we will need all your help. And when I say that I really mean ALL of you. So any practices or alumni or graduates – consider yourselves as part of this effort to create a huge transformation in the profession. I am sure we are pushing at an open door, as we all seek this change. Together we will deliver it.

Our Practice Network is 130 firms. At its last headcount – admittedly pre-pandemic – it had 20,000 global employees. This is a huge pool of talent to support our charitable objectives.

The Practice Network is central to what we do and how we teach and operate. I am sure you will continue and deepen your support and thank you for everything you have done for the school so far.

And for today’s graduates – who we are here to celebrate – you may feel that this is your last day as an LSA student. But you are family now! It is not an ending – but a beginning! Your work has only just begun!

It is the first day of being alumni. Now you have an ambassadorial role for the school. But even more important than that – you have the opportunity to seek to enact your amazing ideas as reality in the future built environment.

I want to say a huge congratulations to the students and their tutors and the staff of the LSA for making this such an amazing year.

 

A toast – glasses ready – to the Class of 2020!

Will Hunter,

1 July 2020.