Architecture As Performance: From The Lisson Gallery To Westkaai Towers
Tony Fretton (Tony Fretton Architects)


Tony Fretton

©David Grandorge

I want to talk about the approach I have to architecture. It is a different approach, because I (and a lot of people know this) but a long while ago I by chance started working in performance, and the sort of interregnum between being an architect... and performance artists were using the same material as architects: spaces, situations, people. They were using them, well they were looking at them through the lens of conceptual art, which meant that they could see political and social values and objects of use and something I understood that I could do. And I did the Lisson Gallery with that spirit, and it's been a prevailing tendency in all my works.


The Red House, Chelsea, London, UK. Exterior. Tony Fretton Architects 2001

©Helene Binet

For example when I got to The Red House, The Red House I could handle, well it's always called history but it's not. What I felt I could do in The Red House so I could use any building from any time, that I liked, which I felt had relevance to the present moment. To make an argument, post rationalising argument for that, is that it is a modern building. Because if you think outside architectural modernism into paintings, literature, music; Stravinsky would use Russian motifs in contact with what he found in Debussy and the French school of writing, of modernist writing. And we know that James Joyce used the structure of the Ulysses myth for his book of same name, but actually added into that, or used in that, colloquial speech that he heard. And if you think of Picasso, he would very freely use motives from the history of painting in combination with cubism.

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