Please see below for an open letter and article published in today’s Observer that joins with us in arguing for the abandonment of the VC’s ‘one campus’ solution and the establishment of a fully inclusive two-campus model that maintains CASS at its Aldgate home.
London Metropolitan University UCU
We, the undersigned, call on London Metropolitan University to review its current strategic plan, One Campus, One Community, in light of its consequences for the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design.
The Cass is a wonderful example of interdisciplinary activity – an outward facing community located in London’s East End, making everything from architecture to city plans, furniture to film, fine art to precious objects. It engages the most up-to-date industries and practitioners; works with local partners and communities; hosts an enviable diversity of students from all walks of life and travels the world with its work; a model that is successful, dynamic and a civic asset.
Its future is endangered by a homogenised vision of academic education, part of a short-sighted national trend in the new universities. As Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, has said, it is essential to develop the skills of making through hands-on learning. It means we need to understand fully the national enterprise of educational reform that began in the mid-19th century, sponsoring the Arts and Crafts movement and the establishment of colleges and technical institutes, which informed the polytechnics as well as Russell Group universities. We should know by now that learning is not restricted to the purely academic: making is also learning. It can be done well or badly. The Cass does it well.
The Cass is named after Sir John Cass, who established one of London’s oldest education charities with a historical mandate to found a polytechnic institute at Aldgate to serve the population of east London. The question of place is significant. Universities are not silos but play a dynamic role in their communities. Threats to move the Cass, dubbed the “Aldgate Bauhaus”, out of Aldgate would destroy its rich ecology and diminish the diversity and opportunities of its East End location.
The Cass inhabits one of the last architectural assets of London Guildhall University, a bold 1960s building opposite the Whitechapel Gallery. The building is being sold to help finance London Metropolitan’s vision for One Campus, One Community in Holloway. The plan is to deconstruct the schools of art, architecture and design, uproot 2,300 students and close courses that don’t conform to the new vision. The prestigious silversmithing and jewellery and the country’s last musical instrument-making courses were among those announced for closure last week. Despite the university’s claims, the most recent survey shows the strategic plan does not have student backing.
The issue is not just about changing address and revisiting the menu, it is about a failure to respect the integrity of hands-on creative education or understand the real skills involved that make it attractive to students and their employers and enable it to thrive. Homogenisation is not the way forward.
London Metropolitan as an institution has had a troubled record of senior management. But the Cass is successful. It is doing everything a more robust institution might hope for in attracting students, improving results, winning awards, engaging with commerce and the community, inventing new ways to work. Cass graduates helped found Assemble, a collective of architects, artists and designers creating projects in tandem with communities, recently nominated for the 2015 Turner prize.
We call on London Metropolitan to pursue a two-site solution that keeps the education of art, making and design alive and kicking where The Cass began – in London’s East End.
Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate; Lord Rogers, architect; Sir Kenneth Grange, Royal Designers for Industry; Sir David Chipperfield, architect; Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow; Earl of Clancarty, crossbencher; Lord Baker of Dorking, chairman, Baker-Dearing Educational Trust; Tom Dixon, designer; Jasper Morrison, designer; Rohan Silva, entrepreneur; Eric Parry, architect; Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery; Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum; John Kampfner, chief executive, Creative Industries Federation; Anish Kapoor, artist, Turner prize winner; Rosy Greenlees, executive director, Crafts Council; Jeremy Deller, artist, Turner prize wnner; Associate Professor Patrick Brill, artist known as Bob and Roberta Smith; Professor Florian Beigel, Diploma architecture tutor, The Cass LMU; Associate Professor Philip Christou, Diploma architecture tutor, The Cass LMU; Professor Peter Carl, Director of PhD programme in architecture, The Cass LMU; Associate Professor Mark Brearley, Head of Cass Cities The Cass LMU; Associate Professor Maurice Mitchell, Diploma architecture tutor, The Cass LMU; Peter St John, Partner Caruso St John Architects, Visiting Professor, The Cass LMU