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Tony Fretton - TFA


British architect, Tony Fretton (1945) was born into a working class family in London’s East End.
"His work (...) presents an original contribution and convincing proof of the vitality of contemporary British architecture. A vitality that comes first of all from his ability to critically analyze and develop the contribution of those masters (...) who in Great Britain in the dynamic 1950s developed an innovative interpretation of modern architectural concepts, merged with traditional, nineteenth century, British civil engineering construction design." (R. Vanacore, introduction in the book on Fretton Linguaggio, materia e percezione dell'architettura, Alinea Editrice, Florence 2008).

As a teenager Fretton’s love of art led to his interest in architecture at around 17 years of age. He also worked on a building site for financial reasons. He later said about this period: "I built buildings. I dug foundations by hand, I mixed concrete, I worked with bricklayers and scaffolders. I liked the building materials, the shape of excavations in the earth, more than the finished building. In fact, I was more interested in art” (from the interview with I. Scalbert in “a+t” No. 18, 2001).
He subsequently graduated from the Architectural Association (AA), London, the oldest and most prestigious independent school in the UK.

During the Sixties, he worked for well-known firms such as Arup Associates, Neyland and Chapman Taylor, prior to founding his international design studio, Tony Fretton Architects (TFA), in 1982, being joined by James McKinney in 1992.
The practice, based in London, is noted for a myriad of projects, often participating in invitations to tender, when he designed government offices, commercial buildings, housing and prestigious public buildings.

His is an “analytical-configurative architectural design approach (...) aimed at radically changing crucial points in the modern architectural process concerning: 1) the organizational criteria of the construction framework 2) arrangement and characterization of interiors 3) perceptive impact of visual channels and paths in the trade-off between inside and outside 4) the relationship between the internal nature of the body and the urban (or natural) exterior environment 5) accepting the process of modifying/interpreting architecture as an ‘adaptation’ over time to meet the different needs of users" (M. Costanzo, Hortus No. 63, 2012).

Obvious examples include the renovation and transformation of buildings in London, exhibition spaces at the Lisson Gallery (1986 & 1992), and Camden Arts School (2004), in a late 1800s Victorian building.
Notable examples also include private residences amongst Chelsea's 19th century buildings, such as the Red House (2002), and Anish Kapoor House (2008), also the reconstruction of a neo-Georgian building.

The Red House, in particular, is the 650 sq.m. home of an art collector with distinctive red French limestone facades which give the house a "three-dimensional appearance determined by the double height floors, which deliver a stylish, deep-seated eloquence".
Winner of numerous awards, the Red House is also "an ideological free space which gives the impression of being unfettered by dogmas, and at the forefront of a new wave of beauty" (R. Maxwell, in Casabella n° 710, 2003).

Outside of London, Fretton has also created multi-purpose public centers of major importance socially, including the Centre for Visual Art, Sway (1996) and in particular the Faith House in Poole, Dorset (2002), for Holton Lee Charity which promotes the use of artistic forms to help disabled people.
Striking and self-contained, the structure is designed for individual contemplation, with a larger space for religious assembly, meetings art exhibitions and rehearsals. Located"at the top of a raised path resembling a miniature Greek temple", the Faith House is a flat roofed, timber-framed structure with full-length windows providing views of the surrounding countryside.

The interior is "enhanced by a circle of cut trees, installed from floor to ceiling in the center of the quiet room, creating a contemplative ambiance in which nature and art can be admired and studied.
The construction also meets Holton Lee’s environmental requirements, using an unpainted, windproof, red cedar cladding, recycled paper insulation and a sedum roof.
The building won the ACE/ RIBA Award for Religious Architecture and Guardian Best British Building of the Year Award in 2003. A second construction phase on the site involved converting a barn into an artists’ studio (2005).
TFA design studio also completed the British Embassy in Varsavia (2009) and Copenhagen (2010).

In addition to his considerable advisory work, Fretton taught at the AA in London (1988-1992) and Harvard (2005), and was visiting professor at the Berlage Institute, Amsterdam, Lausanne Politechnic, and ETH, Zürich. Among Fretton’s exhibitions, special mention should be made of the “Minis” exhibition at the London Betts Project Gallery (2016). The designer exhibited an anthology of his digital sketches created on an iPad, which "lie on the boundary between cutting-edge technology and primitive drawing" (M. Coulon, exhibition curator, Domus).
Tony Fretton selected works and projects
- Dunant Gardens, Gent (Belgio), 2019
- Appartamenti e case nel quartiere Houthaven, Amsterdam (Paesi Bassi), 2018
- Blue Clothing, Huntsworth Mews, Londra (Regno Unito), 2017
- Westkaai Towers, Antwerp (Belgio), 2017
- Abitazione privata Kensington Court, Londra (Regno Unito), 2013
- Crematorio e parco, Aalst (Belgio), 2012
- Heine Park Residences, Amburgo (Germania), 2011
- Ambasciata britannica, Copenhagen (Danimarca), 2010
- Progetto Phillimore Gardens, Chelsea, Londra (Gran Bretagna), 2010
- Complesso residenziale nel quartiere Kirchberg, Lussemburgo, 2010
- Tietgens Ærgelse, Frederiksgade Square, Copenhagen (Danimarca), 2010
- Nuova ambasciata britannica, Varsavia (Polonia), 2009
- Vassall Road Housing and Healthcare Centre, Londra (Gran Bretagna), 2008
- Progetto Erste Campus, Vienna (Austria), 2008
- Anish Kapoor House, Londra (Gran Bretagna), 2008
- Fuglsang Art Museum, Lolland (Danimarca), 2008
- Artists Studios - Holton Lee Centre for Disability in the Arts, Poole (Gran Bretagna), 2005
- Camden Arts Centre, Londra (Gran Bretagna), 2004
- Villa privata, Weimar (Germania), 2004
- Faith House, Holton Lee Centre, Poole (Gran Bretagna), 2002 (prima fase) e 2005 (seconda fase)
- The Red House, Chelsea, Londra (Gran Bretagna), 2001
- Memoriale per la Principessa Diana, The Serpentine, Hyde Park, Londra (Regno Unito), 2001
- Edificio per due appartamenti e teatro per bambini, Groningen (Olanda), 2001
- Quay Arts Centre, Newport, Isle of Wight (Gran Bretagna), 1998
- Laban Centre for Dance, Deptford (Regno Unito), 1997
- Centre for Visual Arts, Sway, Hampshire (Gran Bretagna), 1996
- Lisson Gallery, Londra (Gran Bretagna), 1986 e 1992
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