Tony Fretton Q&A
Architect Tony Fretton chews the fat with us at the British pavilion.
Why are there so many different approaches to housing in this show?
This is an exhibition about housing in Britain, which has traditionally been provided in many different ways. In contrast, in Holland, housing is quite monocultural. Single houses for private individuals has always been a strong part of British architecture. Inevitably, we work outside Britain. Any British architects with any ambition have to work outside the UK.
What are the key cultural differences?
We’re applying the empirical approach we learn in the UK to our work in Europe. At the same time, we’re learning about organisation and construction methods in Holland and how they might apply to the UK. Very few developers in the UK understand development like Dutch developers - they understand that there’s a social element. In the UK, they’re only interested in the money.
Are you downhearted about the British appreciation of the arts?
Creative industries never reach their full potential in the UK. Think of the initiatives - the British Council, the Arts Council - Britain doesn’t have an intrinsic appreciation of art. We’re all survivors - that’s the reality of it.
So do you think you’re in an antagonistic position?
No, it’s more subtle. We couldn’t build the Red House in Holland, for example, they’d think it was outrageous. Certain elements of British society are very restrictive.
Can you bring Dutch models of construction and development to the UK?
No, you can’t replicate the cultural and political tradition. All architects in the UK make it work - you’re in a productive tension. An architect in Manhattan would be the same. Tension drives societies along. A Dutch architect would be in tension with what they see as the mediocrity of Dutch society. You have to make sense of the present.