The Bartlett School of Architecture


Open Letter to all our 2017/18 students

25 September 2017

Here East Auditorium

From Professor Frederic Migayrou, Chair, Bartlett Professor of Architecture and Professor Bob Sheil, Director of The Bartlett School of Architecture:

We are posting an open letter to welcome all our new and returning students, and to express our appreciation for the vital and inspiring part you all play in this very special school. Together with the expertise, passion and commitment of our teaching, research, and professional services staff, we operate as an assembly that is greater than the sum of its parts.

We aim to make your experience and progression at UCL a creative, healthy and enlightening springboard, as a large part of our success and reputation is built on your talents and ambitions. We say this, as no matter what you achieve in your time as a student, we believe it is what follows after you graduate that should train our focus.

There’s no denying that the world around us is in a difficult and turbulent phase. Our political and economic systems are increasingly troubled by conflict and selfishness. The UK is embarking on a process to leave the EU without any clear mandate, or without any clear plan on what this means. Meanwhile matters such as the calving of the Larsen C Ice Shelf, continued large scale human migration, or tragedies such as Grenfell, that ought to be at the centre of the long-term vision and remedial action of all governments, seem to get sidelined, when for us they are central issues. So our role in being fully informed, and likewise being effective at informing others, is more vital than ever.

In the year ahead we will be seeking to augment our events, exhibitions, films, lectures and books with new formats of public engagement, including panel discussions, showcasing, and participatory events, each seeking new and diverse audiences. We will be relying on the support and engagement of students in making this happen, and will be increasing our efforts to assist the expression of their voice and actions through the Bartlett Architecture Student Society.

Today architecture is a subject and a discipline in rapid evolution; you are about to embark on a year of study where some of what lies ahead is known and the rest is unknown. These realities will stay with you for life, and the core of our educational philosophy is to offer you the means to face the unknown, the uncertain, and the unfamiliar, with the confidence to resolve them through imagination, intelligence, and critique.

Being good at one or two things can be helpful, but understanding how your strengths can be usefully applied across diverse and challenging circumstances and in teams is what the world needs most. This overview underpins our school in every way. Our enquiries are grounded in real world issues that are analysed, advanced, and applied through design, theory, critique, science, collaboration, and demonstration. The aim of our School is thus to provide the best architectural education in the world, informed by the strongest architectural research in the world, in partnership with world-leading thinkers, practices, and industries.

Open Letter: Who we are

What is unique about The Bartlett School of Architecture is the unrivalled breadth and depth of our profile. 20% of our 300 staff are full-time academics, and 10% are full-time administrators. Our high proportion of part-time and international staff illustrates how connected we are to the world beyond the campus, and how being part of the School means so much more than having access to space in Bloomsbury, Here East, or London for that matter.

We are a globally connected school in a university of 45,000 students. Within that number our School's student body is now over 1000 strong, with around 50% from the UK, and 50% from more than 45 other nations. Roughly half of all our students are taking professionally accredited programmes, and 10% of our students are doctoral candidates. There are over 50 distinct design groups in the school, as either units, research clusters or labs, who together with many diverse specialisms in history and theory, and technology, operate as a vibrant federation of many different views on what architecture is, and what it can be. We are a 'bottom-up' school where tutors are responsible for delivering the curriculum in their own particular way, and in a way that expects students to respond independently too.

Locally we are also one of the most proactive departments in UCL for interdisciplinary collaboration. Amongst the University's 72 departments, our staff and students work closely with diverse siblings such as The Slade School of Fine Art, Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, Computer Science, Geography, Medical Physics, Robotics, Anthropology, Art History, and many more. Closer to home, our Faculty is itself a broad conglomeration of world-leading expertise in Energy, Project Management, Planning, Development, and Heritage.

We are immensely proud of our history, culture, reputation and power to transform. Central to our identity is a sophisticated culture for ambitious experimentation, critical thinking, creative innovation, humanitarian concern and technical curiosity. So apart from diving into the personal academic challenge ahead of you, remember to devote equal attention to all the friendships and contacts you will make at UCL.

Open Letter: News and updates

Last week The Provost led a soft opening of UCL’s new facilities in Here East, where we are currently installing new state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities. This extraordinary space will soon be ready for full occupation and will offer an unprecedented resource for collaboration between disciplines in art, architecture, computer science, civil and structural engineering, design, and performance.

High-spec temporary studios are set up for associated staff and student needs a few metres away in the Here East Innovation Centre, and we will migrate across as soon as it’s all ready. We encourage staff and students from all corners of the school to engage with these new facilities, not only those who have signed up to the four exciting new programmes that are located there. The School’s annual festive end-of-first-term party will be held there on Friday 15 December 2017 - do ensure you keep that evening free in your diaries.

Over the summer, over 30 new teaching fellows have been appointed and over 40 existing staff have been transferred to permanent teaching fellowships. We’ve also appointed a new School Manager. With so many to welcome, a message listing all new staff and their roles will go out later this term, with some names already appearing on programme guides and listings. All we wish to say here and now is how excited we are to have so many high-calibre individuals from across the world wanting to either study or be employed here.

Our International Lecture Series starts on Wednesday 27 September with a lecture and book launch by CJ Lim. In the weeks ahead we will host Herman Hertzberger, Philippe Block, Sonja Baumel, Marie-Ange Brayer, Jasia Reichardt, and many more. The series is supported by Fletcher Priest Architects. Our Situated Architectures Lecture Series also begins on Monday 2nd October, curated by Professor Peg Rawes.

We are also launching a new Thursday evening lecture series in Here East called Constructing Realities supported by Populous. Speakers include Victor Burgin, Lucy Railton, Dorita Hannah, Cristian Vogel, and many more. Watch out for a new B-Pro series to be announced soon.

Open Letter: Looking ahead

The dramatic improvements to the physical environment of the School in recent years have made a noticeable and positive difference, however overriding all the issues touched on above, what matters most is your health and well-being, both individually and collectively. As an institution, we need to be effective in supporting you, and as individuals, you need to prioritise and manage a life-work balance. 

At UCL there are extensive means in place to monitor and take action where help is needed (some of them are necessarily discreet), so never hesitate to ask for help if you think its required, especially sooner rather than later. However we need to go beyond this and address the routine culture of work-life balance in a collective way. It’s important to work hard when required to, of course, but it’s just as important to take a rest, find time to think, reflect, recover. We will continue our open dialogue with students at regular meetings on seeking ways to improve the status quo of a work intensive culture - there is a lot we can learn from these conversations, and act on too.

Welcome to The Bartlett School of Architecture, to The Faculty of The Built Environment, and to UCL. Have a great year ahead.

Professor Frederic Migayrou, Chair, Bartlett Professor of Architecture
Professor Bob Sheil, Director of The Bartlett School of Architecture

Image: Dean of The Bartlett, Professor Alan Penn, addresses staff at Here East (15.09.17). Photo: Richard Stonehouse