Architecture Education Needs “Decolonisation and Decarbonisation” Says London School of Architecture Head
Alice Finney, Dezeen, February 24, 2022
At just 32, the self-proclaimed “outspoken” historian Neal Shasore has become the head of the London School of Architecture. In this exclusive interview, he told Dezeen of his plans to make the school a beacon of inclusivity.
“Decarbonisation goes hand-in-hand with decolonising,” said Shasore. “It means encouraging students to think about their projects in terms of sustainable and regenerative design solutions.”
Shasore, who was appointed the London School of Architecture (LSA) head and chief executive officer in June 2021, believes that architecture education needs to respond better to today’s social and political climate.
Changing with the times
He argues that “decolonising” the study of architecture – a contested term which broadly means separating it from the legacy of European colonialism – can pave the way for a more diverse industry.
“We need to look for radical territory and the new frontiers,” the 32-year-old told Dezeen from the top floor of the LSA‘s east London base.
“Decolonialsim is an incredibly creative, stimulating and radical critique of the world,” he added.
The LSA was founded in 2015 as an independent school of architecture – the first to open in England since the Architectural Association was established in 1847. Shasore is the first Black head of the school.
“One of the founding objectives of the school was to broaden access and make more affordable architectural education,” said Shasore, who is a historian of Nigerian and Indian descent.
“But the LSA’s vision was written before Black Lives Matter, before the declaration of a climate emergency, before Rhodes Must Fall and before George Floyd,” he continued.
Shasore argues that the LSA’s ethos must now adapt in line with recent political events such as the furore over the statue of 19th-century imperialist Cecil Rhodes and the wave of Black Lives Matter protests following the 2020 murder of African American George Floyd at the hands of police.
“I think that making more prominent those calls for racial equity and spatial justice need to be front and centre in that vision,” he continued.
His call for such a shift comes at a moment of racial and social reckoning within the architecture industry.
Progressive steps such as Scottish-Ghanaian architect Lesley Lokko becoming the first Black architect to curate the Venice Architecture Biennale are broadening diversity within the field.
At the same time however, allegations of sexist and racist treatment in the industry have become more widespread, as in the case of The Bartlett School of Architecture.
Shasore cites listening to marginalised voices and broadening access to higher education as key ways to achieve “spatial justice”.
As part of his plans for the school, Shasore also launched Open Up, a fundraising campaign designed to support prospective LSA students from underrepresented groups.