Design, Action, Leadership and the Future; Breaking Into, Up and Out – Paris HotHouse

Aug 2012 Design, Action, Leadership and the Future; Breaking Into, Up and Out – Paris HotHouse

The most critical aspect of the Hothouse is not what happens at it but what occurs after it’s over.

Based on the continuation and advancement of the project of institutional change in design education introduced at the Brisbane HotHouse 2011 an international invitation was sent out for the Paris HotHouse 2012. The event was intended, not only to gather kindred spirits, but to establish an ongoing and unstoppable process of affirmative change.

The Paris HotHouse was hosted, 10th – 13th July 2012, by the American University of Paris with the support of Pi Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London and the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University.


The HotHouse’s have been established in the recognition that for there to be a future, institutional education, with a focus on design education, must change. In order for this to be achieved it is necessary to find like minded people who can work towards meaningful institutional change with the support of a change community.

The gathering was based around the following conversational framings:

  • the remaking of education
  • the remaking of design as a praxis beyond its professions and their restrictions of it as practice
  • the mobilization of design remade against the nihilism that negates  our future and life itself
  • the building of a global change community of focused thinkers, activists and leaders
  • confronting the price of taking action

As with the Brisbane HotHouse, Paris was structured to create an intense conversation to guide the formation of a global change community with the intention of establishing the Urmadic University.

The intention of the Urmadic University is for it to be an ‘educational institution without a place’ able to structure and facilitate the exchange of knowledge, projects and research programs all aimed at creating a futured future.


The HotHouse was led by led by Associate Professor Oliver Feltham and Professor Tony Fry with six team leaders: Associate Professor Oliver Feltham (American University of Paris), Mr Duncan Fairfax (Pi Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London), Ms Anne-Marie Willis (Editor, Design Philosophy Paper) Dr Oliver Vodeb (QCA, Griffith University), Professor Tony Fry (QCA, Griffith University) and Ms Bec Barnett (Pi Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London).


HotHouse Two began with the introduction of three projects currently underway, facilitated by the Urmadic University. This was done to provide an example of the kind of project the Urmadic University facilitates as well as give participants the opportunity to become involved in the projects.

The projects presented were –

Kerala Ethnocidal Action: Anti-globalization counter cultural creation – with Tony Fry

Key elements of traditional culture of Southern India and the values they carry are being rapidly destroyed as a modernizing economy and culture arrive. This culture in many respects cannot be saved. The Urmadic University arrives to forge cultural partnerships able to start a process of generating new practices of cultural sustainment out of selected enduring ‘old’ values.
(Images are: 1. one of the three families
2. 1000 year old book of instruction on the Samavarda Festival written on palm leaves.
3. a reproduction of a Jacquard loom.
4.the proto-computer of a Jacquard loom currently in use in Kerala.)

Transformation City: The Detroit roadshow – going nowhere/going somewhere – Kiersten Nash

Detroit has become a symbolic focus of the life, death and possible rebirth of a city of modernity – its lessons are global. As a place with an expelled and wasted labour force, and an industrial base that’s been made redundant, it’s mostly seen as an exhausted city. Yet something is on the move. Is there a story to take on the road? The presentation of this project will explore this issue in the context of the Urmadic University.

Port Hedland: Launching the urmadic overplan – with Eleni Kalantidou & Bec Barnett

Port Hedland, Australia is set to become one of the world’s biggest ports. In this project it becomes a case study of one of the major cultural issues Australia, and other parts of the world, will face in this century; rapid urban growth against the backdrop of an unsustainable culture, in this case mining. This project will present, via situational analysis, design fictions and a process of ‘designing in time’, an approach to city creation and re-creation based on new modes of habitation.
Port Hedland VIDEO and HAND OUT

Following this the participants were broken up into five groups to work on a rigorous examination of educational institutional transformation via thinking, talking, reflecting, planning and acting. This examination was structured around five strategic and convergent points of entry.

The five groups were:

  • Red Group: Information and Radical Communication asks: what can ‘now’ be deemed radical and, thereafter, whether informational content itself can actually be made radical.
  • Green Group: Political Action invites the very nature of politics and action to be named and examined prior to the designation and undertaking of a ‘political act’.
  • Black Group: Transformative Education Content asks questions of what is to be transformed: how is education to be understood, and does content imply institutional context.
  • Blue Group: New Practices asks of design: do such practices assume a failure of the old, what are they, how are they created, what do they aim to do?
  • Yellow Group: Change Communities, here discussion goes to what actually is community, what is to change and how can a community be constituted on the basis of acting toward change.

As with the first HotHouse 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 educational institution.

Below is documentation that was given to participants in the lead up to or during the hothouse as well as the outputs from the HotHouse.

Paris Hothouse Invitation

I ♥ Sustainability by Cameron Tonkinwise 

HH Group Reader - HotHouse Handout

Outputs of each group (presentation text, diagrams, video, etc) are hear available here:

Red Group, Information and Radical Communication: VIDEO, URMADIC KITCHEN PRESENTATION and TEXT


Black Group, Transformative Education Content: URMADIC UNIVERSITY; THE SECRETARIAT and TRANSCRIPT


Yellow Group, Change Communities: PRESENTATION


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