Leading designers protest against Cass move

A host of designers, including Sir Kenneth Grange and Tom Dixon, warn that moving The Cass design school from Aldgate to Islington “fails to respect the integrity of hands-on creative education”.

Image from the London College of Furniture - a precursor to The Cass
Image from the London College of Furniture – a precursor to The Cass

Tom Dixon, Jasper Morrison and Sir Kenneth Grange are among a host of leading artists and designers who are protesting against plans to move The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design from its current campus as part of a restructure.

London Metropolitan University, which operates The Cass, is planning to move the faculty to Islington as part of its One Campus, One Community strategic plan.

The university says it is investing £125 million in new facilities and refurbishment at its Holloway Road campus to accommodate all four of its faculties – including The Cass.

“Failure to respect hands-on creative education”

However, the move is being opposed by a number of senior art and design figures, who wrote a letter to the Observer outlining their protests.

Among the signature are Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota, Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic and Creative Industries Federation chief executive John Kampfner.

The letter says: “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.”

The “Aldgate Bauhaus”

It adds: “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 letter’s signatories say The Cass’s future is “endangered by a homogenised version of academic education, part of a shortl-sighted national trend in new universities”.

In response, LMU says: “We’d like to reassure people that we are not closing any of our faculties. They will be moving to our Holloway campus, in which we are investing £125m in new facilities and refurbishment at the Holloway Road campus to accommodate all four faculties to deliver improved teaching and learning facilities and improved student experience.

Advancing technology and equipment

“As we make our plans for the locations of The Cass’s studios and workshops in Holloway we are evaluating too where we can improve, where technology and equipment has advanced how we can invest in these facilities to improve our students’ experience.

LMU adds: “Our Cass faculty of art, architecture and design has been instrumental in developing an arts community in East London for many years.

“We are now looking forward to building on that success and bringing it to Islington, where it will have a similarly positive impact on the borough.
The Cass is globally respected for running projects around the world, and we believe that reputation will endure wherever the Faculty is based.”

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