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robertogreco : elishacohen   2 Blog / Unlearning hierarchy at the Free School of Architecture
"The Free School of Architecture is an experimental, tuition-free program founded in 2016 that brings architectural thinkers to Los Angeles for several weeks of participatory learning. Four of the original participants – Elisha Cohen, Lili Carr, Karina Andreeva and Tessa Forde – took over the project in 2017 and organized the 2018 edition, which is extensively archived on We caught up with them via email to hear their thoughts on alternative education in art and design."

"FSA takes a maximalist and inclusive approach; this has the advantage of allowing us to connect seemingly different people and projects who might never have met, and between whom unexpected collaborations start to happen. It attempts to bridge the gap between academia and practice and allow the space for conversations about architecture that are often overlooked. This maximalist approach means that there will be some unavoidable confusion as a result. We focused on growth and development of participants over clarity to outsiders. Still transparency was a constant topic of conversation and a goal for us as the organizers, and we realize that this is an area we drastically need to improve.

At the core are a few aspirational (and perhaps naive) values that we hope FSA can act as a testing ground for, no matter how the program evolves in the future:

- Non-hierarchy

- Interdisciplinarity and inclusivity

- Freeness (free from constraints of academy and practice, tuition-free, free to be silent or to question)

Leo: How did you structure things in 2018? Were there instructors and students, or did every participant take on a range of roles in relation to one another?

FSA: We sought to challenge the typical hierarchy of a school and emphasize the value of those attending by removing the impetus on the ‘teacher and student’ relationship. We purposefully avoided using those terms. Everyone involved became a ‘participant.’

This began with the application process. Anyone could apply to be a participant by writing a statement and demonstrating experience engaging with a form of practice relevant to architecture. Then, those who wanted to could also submit a teaching proposal. Not all participants had to host a session, but those who did were also there to listen to others.

This included the organizers—we also submitted our own application statements. This was important because the second stage of admissions was peer-evaluation. We sent each applicant three other essays to respond to in order to be accepted. Some responses were funny, some were graphic, while some wrote long, thoughtful reactions. Here is one example. Most importantly, it generated a dialogue before the school was in session and set the tone for what was to come.

Leo: What do you think you took away from the challenges and advantages of being a more "horizontal" organization?

FSA: The structure and organizational model was a huge learning experience for all of us. It had some incredibly powerful results, including a truly non-hierarchical working dynamic between the four of us that enabled unanimous decision-making and open discussion. We shared responsibility for almost every aspect of the organization. To do this productively took time, discussion, and trust. It is certainly not the most efficient, but we believe in its benefits over this downside.

Despite our intentions as organizers to make the program itself non-hierarchical, it became difficult for us to blend into the participant group and separate ourselves from those roles as we attempted to hand over the torch. The incredible complexity of running a school and the huge amount of admin work involved proved almost impossible to part with. This is an area that we plan to focus on in the future. In many ways we did too much, and further iterations of the school may reimagine it with more flexibility and with a more established system for handing off responsibility."

"Leo: Has working on Free School of Architecture offered ways to share knowledge with other groups thinking about alternative education?

FSA: We are only one example of many types of alternative educational initiatives arising, in the architecture education world but also in the art world, as education becomes increasingly more expensive and continues to perpetuate the agenda of those with cultural power and capital. We have been in touch with other schools with similar intentions, like Utopia School, Learning Gardens, and Aformal Academy, and there is an incredible opportunity to develop a kind of global network of knowledge and ideas exchange. Eventually, we would like to compile a “Free School Tool Kit” to allow others to run similar events and build on what we have learned so far. In fact, we used throughout the summer as part of this same intention towards knowledge sharing. We wanted it to be both a resource for participants but also a growing archive to document the summer in the hopes that it might be interesting or useful to others. It still needs another layer of editing and uploading in order to work as a full archive or tool kit, but it did act as an ongoing platform for exchange at the time. Hopefully in the future we can continue to use it as a way for non-participants to engage as well.

Next up, we (the organizers) are traveling to the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany to take part in their “Parliament of Schools,” along with others from around the world, including Public School for Architecture, Open Raumlabor University, and many more. It should be a fantastic occasion to engage with and learn about other organizations and explore the future of pedagogy within the architectural field. We’re very excited about how it might influence what we do next!"
unlearning  hierarchy  horizontality  elishacohen  lillicarr  karinaandreeva  tessaforde  2019  freeschools  2017  2018  unschooling  interdisciplinary  freeness  inclusivity  responsibility  decisionmaking  participation  participatory  experimentation  experience  architects  architecture  design 
april 2019 by robertogreco / Blog – Alternate Digital Realities
"Writer David Zweig, who interviewed Grosser about the Demetricator for The New Yorker, describes a familiar sentiment when he writes, “I’ve evaluated people I don’t know on the basis of their follower counts, judged the merit of tweets according to how many likes and retweets they garnered, and felt the rush of being liked or retweeted by someone with a large following. These metrics, I know, are largely irrelevant; since when does popularity predict quality? Yet, almost against my will, they exert a pull on me.” Metrics can be a drug. They can also influence who we think deserves to be heard. By removing metrics entirely, Grosser’s extension allows us to focus on the content—to be free to write and post without worrying about what will get likes, and to decide for ourselves if someone is worth listening to. Additionally, it allows us to push back against a system designed not to cultivate a healthy relationship with social media but to prioritize user-engagement in order to sell ads."
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april 2018 by robertogreco

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