Little Architect and NASA…Architecture on Mars with David Nixon.

On March the 4th, 2017 something magical happened at the AA. We organised our first family event and it was a very special one!! It was open to children and their families from different backgrounds. We all gathered that Saturday morning to learn about futuristic architecture and to design buildings for a future city on Mars.

I had the tremendous honour to work alongside space architect and NASA collaborator David Nixon. He was founder of “Future System” next to Jan Kaplický and for some years astronaut quarters designer.

On the workshop day, it was great fun to share the unusual keynote presentation full of artefacts and futuristic designs that we had prepared together some weeks before. We discussed with the children how we could grow lettuces inside a spaceship or how we should design moving architecture for a windy planet and dig deep wells looking for water.

Children had time to draw their own buildings, debate and compare their ideas before creating a collective future city on Mars. Parents and carers were also invited to dream of utopian buildings with us. We allowed time for each child to explain her or his design so it could not have ended better! Thanks a million to all the children who made this day so special! 

Inspiring people

Happy (belated) New Year,

I found this illustration and I though of sharing it here. The author is Roger Icaza. For me, it represents the capacity that we all have to stand out,,.convenient or not, aaaaall of us are influencers…maybe we are not in a famous ranking…but regardless our position in society, our actions inspire and move others all the time. Our own children, friends, family, colleagues, students…etc. For the good or the bad, Little Architect will influence just a tiny bit on the Architecture field, so my wish for the new year, which actually is the same like in 2017, 2016, 2015…and so on…is to be lucky on planting seeds to grow better and more committed citizens, we need our children to speak out, to shine!! and to take care of the planet and their own  happiness. 

Yes, She Can! Making female architects more visible. 11th November 2017

Last Saturday, November the 11th, we celebrated our first YES, SHE CAN! event for families at the AA. We are incredibly grateful to all the families who attended and to our inspiring speakers. They shared their knowledge and gave us a fabulous hint of their interesting work in architecture. Children aged 7 to 16, learnt that being an architect enables you to develop a wide and diverse array of activities.

Architecture is a complex and rich discipline and not always the general public have been informed about it ( I would say that we have neglected the communication with society during decades). Architecture is a humanist career that prepares the student not just to design buildings but to aim for changing and improve our cities for the better. With this new format, children and young people understood that female architects are involved in all sort of processes and they discovered that we are able to develop all kind of interesting professional roles!

Hopefully, this is just the first of many Yes, She Can! to happen.

Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido.

Please find below a summary of our day.

We are calling all budding architects, designers, artists, and writers! Come along to the next Little Architect Family Workshop – Yes, she can! – part of AA XX 100, celebrating 100 years of women in the Architectural Association. Boys and girls aged 7-16 are invited to hear from and get creative with female architects working in the profession: Cristina Garcia (Principal, KPF), Samantha Lee (Artist), Samantha Hardingham (AA Interim Director), Caroline Rabourdin ( AA tutor), Manijeh Verghese ( AA Public Programme Curator), Dolores Victoria Ruiz ( AA Little Architect director) after listening to their brief Keynote presentations, we will draw buildings, write stories and make a group collage. These women will share their different approaches to architecture and will offer a positive role model to your children. Places are free, but limited, book now at can’t wait to see you there! with all our drawings together. It is a great opportunity to offer new female role models to your children! 



Our speakers have been: 

Samantha Hardingham (AA Dip 1993) is an architectural writer, editor and curator. Her most recent and celebrated work is the award-winning, two-volume anthology Cedric Price Works 1952-2003, published by the AA/CCA in October 2016. She also wrote the famous book, London: A Guide to recent Architecture in 1997 amongst many others. Samantha has a wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of the AA having been a design studio tutor across all undergraduate years at the AA since 2008, as well as chair of the AA’s Undergraduate Management Committee since 2015 and member of the Senior Management Team. As Interim School Director she looks forward to leading the AA in this very special year as the school celebrates a centenary of women at the AA, with the culmination of the AA XX 100 project.

Manijeh Verghese is a tutor, editor, designer and curator interested in the different forms of architectural practice, and the communication of architecture through various formats. She graduated from the AA with Honours and previously did a degree in architecture and mathematics at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. In addition to teaching Diploma 12, she is the Head of Lectures & Curator of the AA Public Programme, editor of the website AA Conversations, and a seminar leader for the Architectural Professional Practice for Fifth Year Part 2 course. Since 2015, she has been teaching a postgraduate design studio at Oxford Brookes University. From 2012 to 2015 she was a design tutor of AA Intermediate Unit 11. She has worked for numerous architecture practices including John Pawson and Foster + Partners, and has contributed to design publications such as Disegno and Icon.

Cristina Garcia. is Design Principal in KPF, an international architecture office, she obtained her architectural diploma from the ETSA Barcelona. She has more than 24 years of experience designing complex office, masterplanning, residential, and education projects across the UK, Europe and Asia. She consistently delivers buildings that take advantage of their climatic location as she advocates for sustainable design. Just to name a few of her projects, in Moscow, she was responsible for revitalising the south bank of the Moskva River, in Delhi, she is in charge of a project that will combine an airport and commercial facilities to form the main gateway to India and in Amsterdam,she designed the Campus for the Amsterdam University of Applied Science, which allowed the relocation of almost all of the university’s institutes to the city centre.

Dr. Caroline Rabourdin, is a French architect, essayist and academic living in London.Her current research includes spatial theory, geometry, phenomenology, spatial literature and comparative literature as creative practices. She graduated from the INSA in Strasbourg (1999), holds a Master in architectural design with distinction from the Bartlett, UCL and a PhD from University of the Arts London, UAL for her thesis ‘Le Sens de la Translation: Essays on the Bilingual Body’. She currently teaches at the AA School of Architecture in History and Theory,  Media Studies, and for the MA in History and Critical Thinking. She initiated and is the director of the AA Visiting School PARIS, titled Architecture & Ecriture, which celebrates writing as a critical and creative practice.

Samantha Lee is a Canadian-born, Korean architect and artist based in London. She graduated from the Architectural Association in 2012 and co-founded digital arts practice UniversalAssemblyUnit in 2013. She is currently completing a MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Arts. Her practice encompasses light installations, 3D scanning, and moving imagery to explore virtual environments and spatialize the digital image. She’s interested in the omnipresence of technology and the consequences that has on our understanding of both human and non-human identities

Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido (Lola), has been the author and director of Little Architect, the Architectural Association’s programme for UK primary schools, since 2013. She obtained her architectural diploma from the ETSA Sevilla and her Master in Art and History in Jaén University. Lola was director of her own architectural office Semisótano Arquitectos based in Andalusia, Spain and has over 16 years’ experience in designing private and public projects. She is also co-founder of the Spanish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) and a new collaborative office called ANDA. Her practise is winner of several national and international awards. Her work involves communities in the design process and places emphasis on a responsible and sustainable approach to the environment. She created Little Architect with the aim of changing the way in which architects communicate with society, especially in culturally deprived sectors, and to improve the understanding of contemporary architecture for the good of our future cities and the wider architectural profession.


Little Architect, invited to participate in the International Conference AAXX100

Ruth Asawa, whose commitment to art education and the improvement of the school curriculum, has clearly influenced my work, was a Japanese American art and education activist devoting many years of her life to create and consolidate an intertwined relationship between artists and primary schools through her successful Alvarado Art Workshop in San Francisco. Asawa, who studied at the Black Mountain College, knew that artists are key figures for schools and I firmly believe that architects, more specifically female architects, should go to schools too. WHY? Because after many years, more than twelve, practising architecture in my own office, I realized that a real dialogue towards better design of cities, can´t happen if the counterpart has no knowledge about the main points of the conversation. In my view, it is our duty as architects to offer knowledge about architecture and cities, to establish bridges of profound communication with society and to make visible and tangible our role as women in architecture.

Little Architect is an educational program introducing school children to the topic of architecture. We are part of the Architectural Association Visiting School and have been offering our lessons in London primary schools since 2013. The goal of our work is to educate school children, aged four to eleven, in the observation, understanding and questioning of their own built environment. Our aim is to create a proactive and committed relationship between citizens and the city. I will show how Little Architect uses architecture as a tool to transform and enrich children´s understanding of their habitat. The chosen context for these lessons, state schools, offers a wide and diverse spectrum of children, enabling the programme to bring new role models into the classroom, unmasking a male based curriculum, while fostering a creative way of thinking. Little Architect teaches children to think about architecture, not to make architecture, to empower children in having firm attitudes towards a local and global sustainable development, very much in line with the Unesco objectives for 2030.

Little Architect, was originally sketched out by Mark Cousins in 2011, but the strict rules of children safety made it impossible to be developed. In 2010, I came to live in London and after spending a couple of years researching and testing a methodology to incorporate architecture in the UK school curriculum, I offered my experiences to the AA. Natasha Sandmeier in the first instance, but primarily Christopher Pierce´s, director of the AA Visiting School, rapidly saw the educational strengths of this project and gave the green light to the programme which has so far reached nearly 5,000 children.

The beginning of the negative female stereotypes starts as far as Pandora and Eva, which means a quasi-eternal “guilty” portrait of women. After generations of women fighting for equality we still find behaviors, songs´ lyrics, adverts, movies or music videos, giving us a distorted image of women, shaping and perpetuating the “white male hero”, so when we, female architects, visit the primary school classroom we are not just teaching about architecture and the city, we are making various feminist statements.

Learning is never an isolated process, it is contextual. Learning happens everywhere, through formal and informal education. In both types of education, we find the official, the hidden and the null curriculum.[1] The official curriculum in the UK is the one that Little Architect has carefully studied to incorporate architecture in the statutory learning hours but what we are doing from inside the education system is an attack to the hidden and the null curriculum. We do our approach from three angles: 1.Taken down stereotypes about contemporary architecture and modernity 2. Incorporating a positive, powerful and active female role into the children´s imagery 3. Re-training[2] the senses in order to grow children´s capabilities to observe and being curious, hence their critical thinking.

Maria Acaso, Spanish writer, art activist and professor, maintains that any act of teaching is a performance[3], we share her idea and we have designed the scrip like this:

 We go to teach to schools. In GOING, in moving ourselves towards children rather than expecting them to come to our place, we have made one of our fundamentals. We are setting horizontal relationships and generating in the children an unconscious feeling of self-steam. We are erasing hierarchies. Architect = Primary School teacher. We, female architects, become part of their daily environment thus we become familiar and trustful. Bruno Munari´[1]s called for demolishing the myth of the “star” artist, in our case we are demolishing the “star” architect.

At early ages children, usually don´t know the meaning of the word architecture and generally they confuse our discipline with archaeologists or builders. Showing that we, female architects, have: Designed architecture, controlled a building process, know about materials and construction systems, know about maths and structures, have convinced clients and politicians and ultimately make people lives´ happier: we are offering a brand-new female role model, strongly linked to concepts such as power, knowledge and care. We highlight the role of female architects bringing examples of their work and introducing a narrative to communicate their ideas to children: Alison Brooks, Sarah Wigglesworth, Benedetta Tagliabue, Anna Heringer, Marta Parra& Angela Muller or Zaha Hadid, Lina Bobardi, Gego…etc,

  1. A) Zaha: the super clever woman who lifted a building to run for longer.
  2. B) Benedetta: The caring architect that designed a new landscape for the neighbours. Architecture for the people.[2] “Rebuilding London” Mayor of London. The connectivity and the seeking for new audiences. 700 schools and school teachers.
  3. C) Dolores Victoria Ruiz (Little Architect figure in the class) Tangible, approachable, reachable

Neil Postman´s wrote a poetic definition of childrenChildren, are the living messages that we send to a time we will not see”[3]but it creates a gap too open between adults and children. We like to celebrate the creation of a team and to work for a better future together: Children and Adults.  Social empowerment needs to come together with teaching the tools to reach the ones in power. Some examples of our lessons fostering this empowerment are: Sending postcards to Boris Jonhson(Ex London mayor) sending proposals to improve the Caledonian Clock Tower to the Islington council or improvements in The Royal Dockyard in Chatham to the Heritage Lottery Fund. In less than 15 or 20 years these children will be in charge of London acting like doctors, school teachers, taxi drivers, architects, shop keepers, or maybe politicians and we, female architects, are empowering them to claim for better cities.

“Welcome to the AA, the greatest school of architecture on the planet! In words of Brett Stelee,  there is no other place like The AA, but regardless if his words were accurate or not, the AA is today an influencer, it is a reference in the architecture realm and as Marshall McLuhan stated: The medium is the message, and the message consist of an independent self-funded architectural school teaching architecture in deprived areas of London, this is the most significant aspect here, it is its replica capability, the legacy that it might leave in the educative sector and the position that we, female architects, will address as time passes.

Thank you very much. Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido founder and director of Little Architect AA Visiting School.

[1] Jackson, Life in Classrooms, 1968 ( p. 33-34)

[2] Re-training refers to older children attending the last courses in Key Stage Two ( Year 5 and 6) that learnt about their own senses in Nursery and Reception but due to the current use of mobile devices have been

[1] Bruno Munari, Design as Art. 1966

[2] Yona Friedman, Architecture with the people, by the people, for the people. MUSAC. 2011

[3] Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood. 1982

[1] Jackson, Life in Classrooms, 1968 ( p. 33-34)

[2] Re-training refers to older children attending the last courses in Key Stage Two ( Year 5 and 6) that learnt about their own senses in Nursery and Reception but due to the current use of mobile devices have been

[3] Maria Acaso, Pedagogias Invisibles, 2013

Heritage Lottery Fund and Little Architect: Three wonderful projects

Dear Little Architect followers,

Please, find below some pictures from the projects developed thanks to the award given by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A small grant can achieve big targets! We reached children in Chatham, Medway, in Sywell Northhampton and in Clerkenwell, London. Most of them did not know that Architecture and their local Heritage are as relevant and interesting as they are. BIG THANK YOU to everybody involved! More pics coming soon!

Don´t miss them! 

Little Architect supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.



Great News!! We have been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant. 

Little Architect has been awarded a grant to run two community projects out of London and one in the borough of Islington!

The activity is called “Your Future Local Area”, it encourages children to create new, futuristic urban environments and to pay attention to the amazing world around them, discovering hidden treasures in their local heritage and unknown stories in their community. This project triggers a new relationship within our heritage from the past, our contemporary architecture and its local surroundings, encouraging children to care for but also to be critical of the cities we all inhabit. This project allows them to express their ideas and desires for the future of their local area after learning and researching by themselves about the past and the present.160511-EcoleJM-Louise-Vincent030


Image: School bus ( cable car) from Bedford Square gardens to the rooftops.

How? We teach that our heritage is part of the urban environment evolution. It is important for us to convey to children that the city is a constantly changing place,and so as citizens of the city, they are able to change it for the better. Children feel empowered to participate in improving the present and build together an inspiring future: “Dynamic heritage” During our lessons children act as teachers, researchers, architects, artists and also politicians working in teams and deciding and expressing through different media what they want for the future of their local area.


IMG_3534Active learning: We have developed a timeline-based methodology where we teach about the past, the present and the future of the local area incorporating walks, sketching journeys, buildings´ visits, research time and also providing games, cartoons, movies and books relating to children’s popular culture. We design learning packs ordering images in such a way that children note numerous things which had changed in the built environment and in society. We present several examples of contemporary and utopian buildings and introduce children to the importance of walkable areas, urban ecosystems, extensions, and second opportunities to buildings through rehabilitation. Incorporating the future in our lessons we are developing a pro-active attitude towards children´s community.

This project aims to:

1- Empowering children to become active members of their society.

2- Highlight the relevance of heritage and the local history behind buildings.

3- Getting to know in depth the local area.

4- Fostering long lasting skills such as observation and creative thinking . 4- Encouraging discussions, critical thinking and teamwork 5- Fostering drawing as a communication tool.

5- Creating children´s own legacy for the community.


Creative, curious and conscious citizens for the future

Little Architect-016-Betty Layward

Little Architect Project in Betty Layward School. Hackney.

To create good architecture there are two necessary ingredients: good architects and good clients. Our mission or responsibility as architects is not just to design or to teach others to be architects, it is also to bring architecture to society and to create an awareness about architecture with the people who use it. This is why, in a similar way to how the AA Public Programme makes architectural education accessible to adults, we ( at the AA Visiting School) have decided to start teaching architecture to children. 

Little Architect, is a move towards an aim of raising committed citizens with knowledge about contemporary architecture and an appreciation for design, which, in turn, will naturally generate more good clients for the future. When the magnificent opportunity of designing a new project comes along for any architect, having an interested, engaged and knowledgable client means that the discussion would be egalitarian and productive. By making architecture accessible to clients to make them interested and informed, the terrain for making architecture will no longer be a battlefield but a place for negotiation, agreement, understanding and especially a place for making dreams a reality. If we could just have a generation of children who were educated in contemporary architecture, it suddenly would be really easy to find support for campaigns such as the one led by the Twentieth Century Society and Richard Rogers to save Robin Hood Gardens from demolition.

Another powerful reason to push for this programme to grow is because even today children´s literacy, toys and many movies are sending them the wrong message regarding the ideal house. For most of our children, in an overpopulated urban environment like London, it will be nearly impossible to afford a “lovely house with a garden and a garage,” which is hardly even a reasonable sustainable model to foster. We have to change their expectations or at least give them other valuable options. It is serious stuff! If we don’t improve the way architecture is being perceived by children today, and if we don’t talk to them positively about vertical architecture, communal areas and communities, shared spaces, etc, we are betraying them by setting them up for a future of disappointment and unfulfilled dreams.

Little architect 015-Kate DaviesThis is why as an architect with my fair share of grey hair already, I decided to start teaching children to admire, enjoy and embrace contemporary architecture, utopian projects, new materials and shapes although always with an eye towards our cities’ heritage. They need to learn about the tangible and the intangible, the built environment and the beautiful net of human relationships and interactions – which are all equally important to creating good design.

Architecture will not develop itself further, if clients tend to fear any deviations from the norm as well as the architects who propose to do so. 

I’ve largely designed buildings during my career, but my expertise lies in urbanism. For this reason I know how important it is to have good politicians to plan the future of our cities. Educating children about architecture is not only about creating good clients, it is also about informing the next generation of decision-makers. Some of our kids today will be the politicians and public servants of tomorrow, and our future cities will need them to have a certain amount of knowledge or at least curiosity for contemporary architecture. We need sensible urbanism and sustainable actions, and the seeds for all of this needs to be sown in schools. Primary and secondary school education is an experience nearly all of us share. Primary Education is the most relevant of all the educational stages since it is the one which shapes our society, whereas subsequent education shapes professionals.


Childhood is the moment where our bodies and minds are thirsty for novelty, our curiosity is intact and our creativity is immense. This is when we need to learn that architecture is an art with infinite capabilities and that we have to learn to enjoy place – our towns and cities, as much as we love our countryside. Clients, consumers and users should admire the future and the present, not just the past! The past had glorious moments but the future is ours.

The mission of Little Architect is to instil this feeling of ownership and responsibility for our built environment in children from a young age, because we need more creative, curious and conscious citizens for the future. Little Architect is a form of architectural outreach on behalf of the AA, and my humble contribution to a more committed and critical future for London’s built environment and society.

Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido-May 2016