One of the most prestigious architecture schools in the world has elected a new director and it’s poised to be a historic appointment. After counting votes from 1,077 students, faculty, and members of its community, U.K.’s Architectural Association School of Architecture has announced a clear winner: New York-based Spanish architect, curator, educator, and lecturer Eva Franch i Gilabert.
Franch soared past two other candidates on the ballot, pulling in 67 percent of total votes, the highest majority in the school’s contested elections since 1990. She is also the first woman to be elected as director of the AA.
All of the shortlisted candidates made presentations to the AA community in recent weeks. In Franch’s vision statement, she said:
I believe that architecture is the discipline with the privilege and duty to articulate the different desires and realities of society in a specific moment in time. Architecture has the ability to bring together the social, the economic, the political and the technological in a project of collective aspiration. But more importantly, architecture is the discipline that understands society as a whole, being able to advocate for those who are unable to sit down at the decision-making table. Architecture sits for all.
And a bit further down:
I believe in schools and cultural institutions that are anti-institutional even when being one, that act as cultural forums and civic platforms, and that believe in the importance of constantly redefining how we want to live together.
She also envisions continuing AA’s role as a “hotbed for architectural experimentation” with a “highly calibrated relationship between rigor and madness.” The school boasts a long list of famous alumni including Pritzker Prize winners Rem Koolhaas, Richard Rogers, and the late, great Zaha Hadid.
The official appointment is pending final contractual negotiations by the AA Council. Franch would fill a role most recently held by Brett Steele, who departed to head the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture in 2016.
At the same time, Franch’s new position would leave a hole in another nexus of critical architectural discourse and experimentation on this side of the pond. Since 2010, Franch has been the Chief Curator and Executive Director of Storefront for Art and Architecture, a New York City non-profit that produces exhibitions, events, competitions, publications, and more to advance innovation in architecture, art, and design. She will remain in New York until June. Storefront has already assembled a search committee that will launch an international search for a new director.
This spring, Franch is organizing an architecture book fair for Storefront’s gallery space and local bookstores and cultural organizations. The project, she tells Curbed, is her “parting gift to New York.”