RCA talks

The Peter Dormer Lecture 2018: Scribes and Squares

3 November 2018 | 6pm – 8pm

Battersea, Gorvy Lecture Theatre

Free, but booking is essential

The Peter Dormer Lecture is the UK’s major annual applied arts lecture, held in memory of Peter Dormer, the writer and critic who died in 1996. Organised by a committee of his friends and colleagues and hosted by the Royal College of Art, the lecture aims to continue the debate about applied art and society that was central to Dormer’s concerns.

Peter Dormer’s writings embraced art, architecture, design, technology and education; and his critical and curatorial work helped to promote the crafts into the freeflowing currents of postmodern visual culture. This connectivity is something these lectures celebrate and promote – previous speakers have embraced architecture, ceramics and modernism, the implications of digital technology, craft history and criticism, and design innovation.


Speakers: Tom Emerson & Stephanie Macdonald

Craft has re-emerged with remarkable force over the past decade in almost every area of daily life, from craft beers and espressos to fine art and even literature. In architecture, such a renaissance is rather less visible, perhaps because craft has never entirely disappeared despite the efforts of a century of Modernist rhetoric. The work of London-based 6a architects is sometimes highly crafted, deeply engaged in the material traditions buried in the layers of the city. At other times it appropriates the apparent expedience of contemporary commercial construction but, perhaps more often than not, the work emerges out of a form of bricolage that draws on many different skills, technologies and materials. They are however always concerned with the nature of making, whether wood, concrete or silicone. Tom and Stephanie will attempt to describe a contemporary understanding of craft through scribes and squares, two loose categories of making that define our age and how craft may remain a useful, even progressive force within it.

Stephanie Macdonald and Tom Emerson met as students at the Royal College of Art before founding 6a architects in 2001. The practice has gained an international reputation for producing award winning cultural buildings, especially in the arts. Their work is defined by a simple humanity and material clarity, coalescing the historical and contemporary narratives around a project to find its form.

Recent projects include the new South London Gallery Fire station; Cowan Court student housing; Churchill College, Cambridge and Coastal House. Current work includes MK Gallery, Milton Keynes due to open in early 2019 and projects across the UK, in New York, Hamburg and Melbourne. In 2017 their new photography studio for Juergen Teller was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Award. In 2018 Stephanie was nominated for the Women in Architecture Award. In the same year Tom was awarded the Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Prize for his work with ETH in Zürich for the Manifesta Arts Biennale. Tom has taught as Professor of Architecture at the ETH Department of Architecture in Zurich since 2010.

They have lectured and been published in the UK and internationally. In 2012 Stephanie and Tom received the Schelling Medal for Architecture. Their first book Never Modern with Irénée Scalbert was published in 2014. In 2018, architectural monograph El Croquis published El Croquis 192: 6a Architects (2009–2017).


This event has been organised by the RCA School of Arts & Humanities. Please contact soah-administrators@rca.ac.uk for more information.