The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Tutor Curates New Exhibition at The Architectural Association

16 November 2022

‘As Hardly Found in the Architecture Archive’ presents the findings of an ARF-funded research project exploring the history of the AA’s Department of Tropical Studies (now the Development Planning Unit at UCL).

image: Still from ‘Action Painting, Body Planning’ by Albert Brenchat-Aguilar, work in progress for the exhibition ‘As Hardly Found in the Art of Tropical Architecture’, 2022

'As Hardly Found in the Art of Tropical Architecture’, curated by B-Pro tutor Albert Brenchat-Aguilar, will explore ad-hoc curatorial strategies that challenge the single perspective of the early archives of the Development Planning Unit at The Bartlett, conceived 70 years ago as the Department of Tropical Studies (DTS) at the Architectural Association. From the 1950s–60s, the DTS’s work in the Global South included a reorganisation of architectural institutions; regulation of planning practice and legislation; and training of leading architects from Ghana, Nigeria, India, Singapore, and other countries. 

The current DTS archive appears as a coherent whole without much space for dissent. This project proposes the real DTS archive – an exhaustive collection of papers from all those throughout the world whose hard work is hardly found in the archive, including the artists, architects, typists, graphic designers, masons, surveyors, and others who collaborated with DTS architects — who at times were excluded or rejected from being present in the archive. The exhibition explores their rich and diverse ecological approaches to the built environment through an ensemble of archival documents, fictional archival reconstructions, and artworks by Magda Cordell, Avinash Chandra, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Susanne Wenger, and others who worked with DTS architects. Finally, the exhibition includes commissions by artists Ato Jackson and Mariana Castillo Deball that explore hardly found marks in the archive as potential histories for alternative futures. Jackson and Deball will participate in the exhibition’s opening event in the form of a conversation between them and Albert, joined by an external curator.

The project has been supported by a number of grants, including The Bartlett’s own Architectural Research Fund, as well as:

  • the Graham Foundation
  • the Henry Moore Foundation 
  • the Chase Doctoral Partnership at the Birkbeck School of Arts and the Architecture Space and Society Centre
  • the Elephant Trust
  • Fringe UCL
  • the Goethe Institute London
  • Conservation by Design

The Architectural Research Fund also funded Ato Jackson’s commission for the exhibition, as well as curatorial and design assistance from Bartlett alumna Ella Mahalia Adu.

This exhibition has now become an educational and research project under the theoretical umbrella of 'As Hardly Found' that I hope to develop and expand at the BSA soon.”

- Albert Brenchat-Aguilar

Albert Brenchat-Aguilar is a lecturer at The Bartlett School of Architecture, and teaches Research Cluster 1 within Architectural Design MArch. He also tutors the Landscape Architecture MLA dissertation, and is a design tutor for Year 2 of Architecture BSc (ARB/RIBA Part 1). Previously, he co-curated the public programme and publications of the Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL; edited the digital platform Ceramic Architectures; and worked as an architect in Bombas Gens Arts Centre. He is a CHASE-funded doctoral student at Birkbeck and the Architectural Association with the project “Resource: Humans Matter and the Patterns of International Planning ca. 1957–76,” and is also cataloging the archive of educator, architect, and planner Otto Koenigsberger. He co-edited ‘Wastiary: A bestiary of waste’, published shortly by UCL Press. He has published in Architecture&Culture, Espacio Fronterizo, and The Scottish Left Review; curated shows at UCL and the Polytechnic University of Valencia; and exhibited his work at Museu Nogueira Da Silva in Braga, Portugal.

‘As Hardly Found in the Architecture Archive’ opens on 19 January 2023 at the Architectural Association Gallery, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES, and is open to the public until 25 March.

More information

Image: Still from ‘Action Painting, Body Planning’ by Albert Brenchat-Aguilar, work in progress for the exhibition ‘As Hardly Found in the Art of Tropical Architecture’, 2022