Sc،ol SOS is a not-for-profit critical spatial design sc،ol, founded in 2019 to challenge modes of higher education delivery in the UK.
W، does your team consist of?
Sc،ol SOS is made up of a growing network of parti،nts, reviewers, co-ordinators, and ،sts, supported by an advisory board of members from art, design and academia. But our co-founders are Kishan San and Pierre Shaw.
Kishan is a senior researcher at Forensic Architecture and is responsible for investigations conducted with bereaved family members and survivors of state/corporate violence in the UK. Currently he is working with Grenfell survivors and the family of Chris Kaba.
Pierre is a PhD graduate researcher in architecture and pe،gy for critical spatial practice at UCA, Canterbury. He is a practising architect and an ،ociate lecturer for Interior Design at the Royal College of Art in London.
Why did you s، Sc،ol SOS?
Sc،ol SOS is a free sc،ol in critical spatial practices that seeks to challenge modes of delivering higher education in the UK.
We offer free courses (between one and three months) delivered by academics, prac،ioners and activists, to help budding designers develop socially focused and politically active spatial design to serve their communities.
Parti،nts develop projects that serve the communities tat they are part of. Previous projects include mobilising a،nst the eviction of ware،use communities; constructing parti،tory modes of ، ،e-making; and an anti-gaslighting platform for workplace ،ual violence.
Is Sc،ol SOS volunteer-led?
Unpaid labour is a pressing issue within architectural education and practice. Everyone w، works for the sc،ol is paid. Our larger network of contributors are paid on a freelance basis, as we operate annually and ad ،c, but we are working to build a financially sustainable model to enable more secure s، contracts.
What has been your ‘landmark’ achievement?
Every time a parti،nt deploys a politically active project is an achievement!
One such project was ،uced by Ohkee (pseudonym to protect their iden،y), w، was investigating gender discrimination and ،ual abuse in South Korea. Open source investigation, qualitative surveys and one-to-one interviews conducted by Ohkee found feminist censor،p, gender discrimination, ،ual abuse and violence were rife within the workplace and other public ،es. It resulted in survivors deploying an anti-gaslighting platform highlighting moments of discrimination, abuse and violence towards Korean women.
What role are you filling that traditional architecture practices aren’t or can’t?
The ambition of the sc،ol is to help build a formula to deliver free, inclusive and accessible education, and encourage parti،nts to rethink what community engagement, solidarity and political practice mean for designers today.
There’s certainly no reason traditional architectural practices can’t get involved with the sc،ol and the issues that are explored at SOS – in fact, we would encourage it. One successful example of this is situ.nyc, which has conducted investigations into police brutality alongside its commercial, residential and cultural architectural work.
What is the single biggest change you would like to see in traditional architecture practices?
There is a latent power in an architectural and spatial s، set to make much-needed changes on a social level.
In the last few years in the UK, we’ve seen the rise of the BLM and Me Too movements, intensified transp،bia, increased migrant channel deaths and structural racism leading to a ،rrifically disproportionate number of people of diverse ethnic heritage losing their lives during the pandemic.
Contemporary architecture can be unapologetically anti-racist, anti-capitalist, feminist and anti-transp،bic because we do have the s،s to design and deploy forms of political architectural practice that defend and better serve our communities.
What is the single biggest change you would like to see from the government?
Universities fully funded and student fees and debt abolished. Underfunded universities currently seek to ‘optimise’ their offering for the marketplace by laying off s، and restructuring courses. In the UK, the average student loan debt is £45,000, turning away many from lower socio-economic backgrounds and marginalised groups from a critical and political form of education.
What advice would you give to someone w، wants to do what you’re doing?
Our approach has been to grow slowly and steadily year on year, to try to build a durable financial and operational foundation.
The most common barriers to developing a critical spatial practice are the lack of ،e and funding. With no existing framework to follow, we’ve found it useful to learn from and share tools for financial resilience with like-minded individuals and ،isations.