Brisbane Hot House

Oct 2011 Brisbane Hot House

Design, Action, Leadership and the Future; Brisbane Hot House

In January 2011, an international call was issued for expressions of interest for fifty people to participate in a ‘HotHouse’ to form the basis of a global change community to work towards sustainment.

The HotHouse was hosted by Griffith University, Queensland College of Art, and took place at the South Bank Graduate Centre 22-24 July 2011.


The gathering was based upon a shared view that:

-     design practice is at a crossroads;

-     notwithstanding the introduction of ‘sustainability’ design still dominantly

-     serves the unsustainable;

-     the move toward ‘sustainment’ requires radical action;

-     for such change to happen a dynamic, global change community of focused thinkers, activists and leaders has to be created;

-     action has to go beyond current options;

-     design remains an intellectually underdeveloped practice;

-     the future of the human species is in the balance.

The HotHouse was structured to create an intense conversation to guide the formation of a global change community.

Its larger ambition was to initiate the process of creating an ‘educational institution without a place’ (an ‘Urmadic Academy’) that can structure and facilitate the exchange of knowledge, projects and research programs.


The HotHouse was led by Professor Tony Fry (Griffith University, QCA, Brisbane) with four Group Leaders: Professor Cameron Tonkinwise (Parsons/New School, New York); Professor Lisa Norton (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Mr Duncan Fairfax (Goldsmiths/University of London) and Dr Abby Mellick Lopes (University of Western Sydney).


The 50 participants worked on a common process in four Groups exploring redirective change via thinking, talking, reflecting, planning and acting. This was structured around four strategic and convergent points of entry.

The four Groups were:

-     Group Red: Projects driving: politics, ‘things’, practices – led by Cameron Tonkinwise

-     Group Blue: ‘Things’ driving: projects, practices, politics – led by Lisa Norton

-     Group Green: Practices driving: ‘things’, politics, projects – led by Duncan Fairfax

-     Group Yellow: Politics driving: practices, projects, ‘things’ – led by Abby Mellick Lopes

The objective was for participants to leave with a selection of projects, design actions, new practices and political strategies, informed by their own context, to form the basis of new collaborations – all of this to assist in the creation of a new kind of education institution.


The Group work was resourced via papers circulated prior to the event, and by joint sessions during the two days with presentations, a performance and a panel discussion. These are available here:

Hot House Program – The agenda for the Hot House

Hot House Welcome – An introduction to the themes and ambitions of the Hot House.

Hot House Group Reader – The entire Hot House welcome pack

Ur Notes – Tony’s notes on the etymology and theories behind the creation of the Urmadic

The Project Pool - more information on the project pool

Kronophobia – Tony’s essay on Kronophobia

Tree of Knowledge – The description of the Tree of Ur-phenomena presented at the Hot House by Clare Mayberry, Lani Weedon and Zoe Yakimoff
Students of GriffithUni/QCA Master of Design Futures program acted as note-takers for each Group and all the joint sessions. These notes have been minimally edited, so as to capture something of the nature of each group or session; they do not claim to be a complete record, nor are they uniform in style and detail, as the dynamic of each group was different.

Red Group Notes

Blue Group Notes

Green Group Notes

Yellow Group Notes

Joint Sessions Saturday pm and Sunday am

Joint Session Sunday pm


Outputs of each Group (presentation text, diagrams, video, etc) available here:

Red Group Brief Generator

Red Group video

Blue Group Pictures -

Leave a Comment