AA Archives: Tony Fretton AA Graduation Project Donated

Tony Fretton has extremely generously donated to the Archives his AA graduation project from 1972, proposing a new building for the AA.

In the 1960’s, facing increasing rents and the belief that the school needed to ally itself with an existing university, the AA opened discussions with Imperial College of Science and Technology regarding the possibility of a merger. The proposal included plans for the construction of a new building for the AA, to be sited at Queen’s Gate, adjacent to the ICST’s South Kensington campus. A public appeal to raise funds for the new building was launched in 1969, together with an open design competition. A number of entries were shortlisted but with the withdrawal of ICST from the merger negotiations in 1970, the competition was abandoned. The following year, Tony Fretton took the competition brief as the basis for his own AA Fifth Year project, following closely the requirements outlined in the brief and utilising some of the photographic material provided in the competition for the production of his own images. Outlining the ‘propositions’ upon which his design is founded, Fretton states that ‘All prognostication about future functional demands on the form of a building can only be a product of today’s preoccupations’, with the result that ‘The only valid functional basis for design is an awareness of how the function works today… [and that] thus we can never knowingly design a building which will apposite to the future, and instead we must look for a way to increase the probability of adequate functioning in the face of the changing functional climate.’ Correspondingly, Fretton’s design proposes a sectional form designed to accommodate a wide variety of possible ‘primitive’ functions- satisfying ‘today’s functional requirements while embodying other interpretations of the same genus”.

Tony Fretton studied at the AA from 1966-1972 and obtained his RIBA part 3 examination in 1974. He worked for Arup as an architectural assistant from 1968-1969 and 1972-1975 and as project architect for Neylan and Ungless (1978-1980), followed by Chapman Taylor (1978-1980).  In 1982 he founded Tony Fretton Architects, some of whose notable work  includes, The Lisson Gallery buildings, Marylebone, London (1986 and 1992), the Artsway Centre for Visual Arts, Sway, Hampshire (1996), the Quay Arts Centre for visual and performing arts, Newport, Isle of Wight (1998), Faith House, Holton Lee Centre for artists with disability in rural Dorset (2002). More recently, the practice has been responsible for the design of a gallery for the Arts Council Collection of Sculpture at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2003), the Camden Arts Centre, London (2004), the house and studio of the artist Brad Lochore, Shoreditch (2008)  and the house for Anish and Susanne Kapoor (2008) The practice has also been involved in projects accross Europe such as the British Embassy in Warsaw ( 2009). Tony has also taught as a unit master at the AA from 1988-1992, Visiting Professor at EPFL Lausanne in 1996, the Berlage Institute Amsterdam, 1997, and the Graduate School of Design, Harvard USA from 2004-2005, visiting Professor at ETH Zurich from 2010-2011, Professor Chair of Architectural Design & Interiors at Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands from 1999-2013. He currently teaches a unit at Graduate level in  the London Metropolitan University ‘The Cass’.