AA Fires Eva Franch i Gilabert

John Hill
14. July 2020
Eva Franch i Gilabert headlining the Vectorworks Design Summit in 2016 (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

Two years after making history by becoming the first woman selected to direct the Architectural Association in London, Eva Franch i Gilabert has been fired from her post over "specific failures of performance."

The firing — reported yesterday on Dezeen and Archinect — came a couple weeks after students and staff at the AA gave a "no confidence" vote in reference to Franch's five year plan for the school. Few specific details were given in reports of that vote, leading to much speculation in the weeks that followed.

Immediately following the vote, an open letter in support of Franch's "extraordinary leadership in the international field and at the Architectural Association" was signed by approximately 200 architects, scholars, curators, and writers. "Even though we have no purview of the precise unfolding of recent events within the Architectural Association," it says in part, "grounded on prior experience we can vouch for Eva Franch’s vigilance, fairness, integrity and relentlessness in demanding excellence. Franch is a tireless intellectual, deeply invested and committed to architectural pedagogy."

Soon after, two course tutors, Ricardo Ruivo and Will Orr, replied to the open letter, articulating some of the issues that would eventually see Franch fired, including "a long historical process of neoliberal management and ideology within architectural academia, academia at large, and the entire architectural discipline" and "systemic problems at the level of managerial transparency, inclusion of diverse voices, and extreme exploitation of labor." Their response signals that Franch was hired to overcome deeply ingrained issued at the school but was not able to meet the expectations of the students and professors.

The future course of the AA will apparently follow the democratic model that led to the vote of no confidence, if the reply to the open letter is any indication. Its last paragraph says, with emphasis in the original:

"No one in the school community knows exactly how the democratic reform process will now unfold. That is yet to be determined by the many people who are actively and actually involved. We ask that, if they wish, those outside the school offer their solidarity to that process, since it is what truly matters."

A statement from the AA on Franch's termination, via Archinect:

It is with regret that AA Council has terminated the employment contract of its Director, Eva Franch i Gilabert.

At the heart of the decision is the failure to develop and implement a strategy and maintain the confidence of the AA School Community which were specific failures of performance against clear objectives outlined in the original contract of employment.

Following the meeting and vote of the School Community on June 29, Council undertook a series of meetings and consultations with Ms Franch i Gilabert to give her the opportunity to outline her plans to rectify these issues. Unfortunately, the discussions did not provide Council with the confidence that she could fulfill her role as School Director of the AA, one of the leading architecture schools in the world.

Council recognizes how difficult this period has been for many people within the AA School Community and thanks them for their heartfelt and thoughtful feedback. Council will now work closely with the senior management team, staff and students to manage the school in the short term and to clarify the role of the School Director going forward before a new search process begins.

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