Interviews

Theodore Spyropoulos

United Kingdom

Dr. Theodore Spyropoulos is the Director of the Architectural Association’s world renowned Design Research Lab (AADRL) in London and resident artist at Somerset House. Theodore has previously chaired the AA Graduate School, was Professor of Architecture at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt and co-founded the New Media and Information Research Cluster. He has been a visiting Research Fellow at M.I.T.’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies and taught in the graduate school of UPENN, RCA Innovation Design Engineering Department and the University of Innsbruck. He co-founded the experimental art, architecture and design practice Minimaforms. The work of Minimaforms has been acquired by international art and architecture collections that include the FRAC Centre, the Signum Foundation and the Archigram Archive, and has been exhibited at MOMA (NYC), Barbican Centre, Onassis Cultural Centre, MoCA Taipei, Detroit Institute of Arts, Leonardo Da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology and the ICA. Theodore has previously worked for the offices of Peter Eisenman and Zaha Hadid. In 2013, the Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture awarded him the ACADIA award of excellence for his educational work directing the AADRL. He has been published internationally including authoring Adaptive Ecologies: Correlated Systems of Living (2013), Enabling (2010) and forthcoming Behaviors (2020).

The MArch in Architecture & Urbanism (DRL) led by Professor Spyropoulos at The AA School of Architecture was rated 9th in our BAM Ranking 2019 of postgraduate programs of architecture around the world.

We hope you enjoy the interview that Prof. Spyropoulos kindly completed exclusively for the BAM platform.

BAM Interview with Theodore Spyropoulos
April 2020

1.- In your opinion, why is architecture education so important?

We live in a world that is constantly evolving, latent and unknown to us.
Architecture affords us a framework to understand our world through the medium of space. If a problem could be understood spatially it is in my opinion architectural, this aspect I believe gives agency for architects to contribute to many challenges of contemporary society. Our shared and collective approach to knowledge offers a diverse and speculative model of education that is fundamental.

2.- How do you see Architecture Academy in the future? What would you like to be different?

I have concerns that architecture schools are becoming increasingly business oriented and conservative. Ideas find many forms and the challenges ahead of us demand creative, diverse and progressive spaces to address the multitude of contemporary problems. There are those who teach in the “academy” today that seem to not believe in practice or in the possibilities of what architecture can offer to the contemporary world. There is a growing tendency to be a critic of design rather than a creator and this lack of belief in design and the demands that it necessitates both intellectually and technically at times seems myopic. Architecture in my opinion needs open and experimental spaces to prototype our immediate present let along a future. Historical crutches and styles are not good enough in themselves to address the complexities of today. Addressing pressing issues such as climate change, mass-migration, and quarantine for example necessitates advancing our ability beyond language, narratives and forms of representation to actively find the means to collaborate collectively. We need to work with scientists, technologists, and sociologists to offer our ability to actively prototype, simulate and construct scenarios for these complex problems. What you express as the “academy” should be this space to truly explore ideas, conceptualize and construct the possibilities for how architecture can participate.

“Our shared and collective approach to knowledge offers a diverse and speculative model of education that is fundamental”

3.- What are the main characteristics that a good architecture professor should have? Could you highlight the most relevant?

Generosity and an unapologetic belief that architecture matters…

4.- Please describe the beginning of your professional/academic career within The Architectural Association

I started working for the AA in the fall of 2002 after returning from New York where I was working for the office of Peter Eisenman. On my return I setup my practice Minimaforms www.minimaforms.com with my brother Stephen who was studying at Centrals St. Martins and began teaching at AADRL (Design Research Lab). In 2005 I became a Co-director of the program and since 2009 I have been the lab’s sole director. I have continued to teach at the AA for over 17 years where in addition to directing the DRL I have chaired the Graduate School, taught in History & Theory and the Diploma school.

“Addressing pressing issues such as climate change, mass-migration, and quarantine for example necessitates advancing our ability beyond language, narratives and forms of representation to actively find the means to collaborate collectively”

5.- What’s your academic vision at the March in Architecture & Urbanism (DRL)?

My vision for the DRL remains to offer a space for experimentation that is shared and collaborative in nature. I believe it is important to actively engage in issues of design research, urbanism, computation, automation, technology and ecology in the hopes of making a meaningful contribution to the advancement of architectural education and practice.

6.- What do you value the most in architecture students?

Their optimism

7.- What would you like to highlight about the March in Architecture & Urbanism (DRL)?

The DRL has served and remains a community of like-minded people that have come from all over the world the last twenty-two years to explore the possibilities of what architecture can be. Our graduates have set up their own practices, led research initiatives in international offices and academic departments throughout the world. The education and experience of the DRL is one that opens oneself to possibilities in method and practice. It is at the heart a community of people that want to offer more and are committed to explore how to create things for the world.

8.- Which advice would you give to someone who has just finished her/his postgraduate studies and wants to become a competitive professional in architecture?

Stay genuine and find your own way… architecture makes demands and there are no short cuts if you want to create something meaningful.

“What you express as the “academy” should be this space to truly explore ideas, conceptualize and construct the possibilities for how architecture can participate”

9.- What do you enjoy most about being the Director of the March in Architecture & Urbanism (DRL) at The AA?

Working with my students.

10.- Could you suggest another School of Architecture where you would like to teach? Tell us why.

Cooper Union in the late seventies / eighties… Why? John Hedjuk , Liz Diller, Raimund Abraham, Lebbeus Woods, Peter Eisenman, and Don Wall amongst others…

“The education and experience of the DRL is one that opens oneself to possibilities in method and practice. It is at the heart a community of people that want to offer more and are committed to explore how to create things for the world”

The BAM Team appreciates the time that Professor Spyropoulos dedicated to complete our interview and we invite you to learn more about his professional work at the Architectural Association School of Architecture by visiting the following links.

OTHER INTERVIEWS
Director of the Master’s Degree in Theory and Architectural Design (MtDA)
Universidad de Navarra
Spain
Director of the English Program for Master in Architecture
Tsinghua University
China
Director of the MA Architecture and Urbanism
Manchester Metropolitan University
United Kingdom
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