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Defuturing an architecture of destruction: a reconciliation of Van Berkel and Bos to the new design philosophy of Tony Fry

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conference contribution
posted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by Richard TuckerRichard Tucker, A Thonissen
For some time now Tony Fry has promoted the idea of 'The Sustainment', an idea that asserts a paradigm shift in attitudes to consumption. 'The Sustainment' recognises that increasingly human futures are products of self-determination and not chance. Fry’s hypothesis can be understood through his concept of Defuturing, a philosophy that questions the role of design and the responsibility of designers to facilitating the ability to sustain (Fry 1999).
Central to Fry’s philosophy is an awareness that it is in the best interests of designers and their clients, as inhabitants of cultures increasingly driven by technology, to be aware of the relationships between the products and theories of design and the processes and implications of technological change. This is an awareness that is central to the concepts, work, and methodologies of the ‘UN Studio’ of Van Berkel and Bos described and elaborated upon in Move – Imagination, Techniques, and Effects (Van Berkel & Bos 1999). Here, Ben Van Berkel defines the parameters and methodologies employed by UN Studio in an environment of technological and socio-economic change. The Dutch practice could be said to exemplify something of a zeitgeist in current architectural design that sees architects, as Van Berkel and Bos view them, as “fashion designers of the future, dressing events to come and holding up a mirror to the world (Van Berkel & Bos 1999, back cover).” It is a zeitgeist that Fry might see as aligned to the resilient hype of ‘new creativity’, ‘globalisation’ the ‘romance with technology’, and the vacuous-ness of the world of fashion. (Fry The Voice of Sustainment: on Design Intelligence 2005).
A source of breaking down such design propaganda is identified by Fry in the notion of ‘scenarios,’ which “provide a mechanism for politico-practice assemblage in which dialogues and narratives of change can be rehearsed in ways that enable participants to re-educate themselves via critical confrontations” (Fry The Voice of Sustainment: on Design Intelligence 2005). From such a perspective this paper aims to practically illustrate and ground the Defuturing of Fry by establishing a dialogue between his writings and the theories that have generated the architectural designs of Van Berkel and Bos and there UN Studio. This will be a ‘scenario’ that examines therefore an appropriation and transformation of the applied intellectual practice of Van Berkel and Bos. Through this confrontation we shall explore the question of why sustainability appears to be so low in the agenda of many pre-eminent contemporary architects, and how we might refocus therefore practice and theory on the ability to sustain.



Australia and New Zealand Architectural Science Association. Conference (39th : 2005 : Victoria University of Wellington)


1 - 7


School of Architecture + Design, Victoria University of Wellington


Wellington, New Zealand

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Wellington, N.Z.

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Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright owner.

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E1 Full written paper - refereed

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2005, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Architecture + Design


H Skates

Title of proceedings

Fabricating sustainability unofficial proceedings of the 39th Annual Architectural Association Conference

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