Tribute

Will Alsop

The British architect spoke to CLADmag in Berlin several months before his death. As a tribute to a remarkable career, we revisit the interview, in which he reflected on his art, the role of public space, and taking fun seriously


Read on turning pages | Download PDF | sign up to CLAD

British architect and artist Will Alsop died on Saturday 12 May aged 70, following a short illness. Alsop was known for his colourful and often avant-garde buildings, including Marseille’s bright blue Hôtel du Département and Peckham Library in London, for which he won the Stirling Prize in 2000.

He was also known for his imaginative, controversial and often unrealised city masterplans, such as a proposal to flood the centre of Bradford. As a respected columnist and academic, he was a strong advocate for a bolder approach to design.

Tributes poured in from around the world for Alsop following his death, from the likes of Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and his colleagues at aLL Design.

On the role of architecture
Architecture is about ideas and thoughts and examining things. Sometimes you’re lucky and find something quite new, but the climate we have at the moment goes against that. People get very afraid of failure, and that prevents them from trying new things. I don’t care about that though!

On taking fun seriously
I often get criticised because I talk about fun a lot, but fun is actually a really serious business. And it’s not easy [designing in a way that encourages a sense of fun]. You really have to work at it. It’s easy to follow a set of rules, but that’s not how it works.

When I’m designing buildings, I ask myself, ‘What would you enjoy?’ Once I’ve got somewhere, I can ask other people. But I’m a user as well as a designer, so my response is as important as anyone else’s, actually.

On creating successful leisure spaces
I think it needs to be a place where people can feel relaxed. That’s really important.

I see a lot of spaces which are over-designed, and that actually inhibits you. I’ve done a few art schools in my life and they always had to be rough and tough, internally, so you don’t inhibit students doing whatever they want to do. And you need social contact, of course.

On the role of art in his work
I’ve always painted and created art. It used to be sculpture, but it’s hard work, sculpture. Exhausting. I suppose it was 1985 when I started to paint as a way of discovering what a piece of architecture could be.

My paintings aren’t illustrations of what the architecture will look like; I paint to free up the mind. It’s a form of exploration.

I have a big board in the studio, with two big canvases, or sometimes one huge canvas, on it, and I work away on that. I just sit and quietly smoke and have a lager if I can; I look at it and think about it. As I get further advanced, I get other people on the team to come and add to the painting.

I like it, because it gets those guys off the computer. Computer screens are depressing. Everyone uses them, of course, but are they really the best thing for designing? The old fashioned way of constructing a model, playing with a few bits of balsa wood and tissue paper is nice because you’re inventing as you go along.

On Peckham Library
I go past it quite often. I haven’t actually been in it for four or five years, but people meet me who do use it, and it sounds as though it’s used very much in the same way it was originally.
Too many people use it, but I’m not going to complain about that.

Gallery
Click on an image to open the image gallery
company profile
Company profile: Gharieni Group GmbH
We strive for a seamless integration of functional equipment to create an unparalleled and memorable experience for clients.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
Vastu Shastra: A matter of principle
"Vastu can be dated back to at least the 6th century and is deeply rooted in the physical and spiritual fabric of Hindu society"

Chris Godfrey of global architecture practice Hirsch Bedner, on bringing a spiritual dimension to residential architecture in India

The house is elevated above a sculptural garden
"Even brushing your teeth in the right space can elevate a daily routine into a ritual"

With a lap pool at the heart of the home, this property is a sanctuary for Rene Gonzalez

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Mia Kyricos is senior vice president and global head of wellbeing for Hyatt Hotels Corporation
"We’re now smart enough to know that it’s the environments we choose to surround ourselves with that impact our health and wellness"

Home wellness is the future, says Hyatt’s global head of wellbeing

The building, with its urban farm, is nestled into a popular residential area of Shanghai
"The key to a happy and successful society is a philosophy that places wellness at the heart of everything"

Calvin Tsao and brother Frederick are reviving the Chinese culture of physical and mental wellbeing with their Octave Living development company, as Christopher DeWolf discovers

features
"It’s important for people to be rooted in place. This is a very special house, with powerful connections to nature"

Jennifier Beningfield has built her dream home in South Africa, using ancient building methods

A playroom/family room in the loft overlooks 
the living area. The room features reclaimed items including two stained glass windows
"If you look closely at the walls, they almost look like layers of the Grand Canyon. When you use rammed earth, you get wavy lines where the material has been compacted"

Well building guru Jason McLennan opens his home and shares his thoughts about environmental design with Well Home

The Hill restaurant at Serenbe focuses on sustainable and locally grown food, and includes produce from Serenbe Farms
"Residents share stories with me of how Serenbe has changed their lives for the better and they are healthier and happier - Steve Nygren"

The original wellness community at Serenbe is expanding, with a new hamlet dedicated to health. Jane Kitchen paid a visit

cladkit product news
Dornbracht launches 'next generation' experience shower
Rainmoon is an innovative sensory shower experience designed for use in the home
Dornbracht is taking experience showers to the next level with its multi-sensory Rainmoon concept. “Rainmoon is a culmination of bliss ...
Tredje Natur launches Climate Tile to bring green spaces to urban settings
Tredje Natur has installed the pilot system of its Climate Tile system in the Nørrebro area of Copenhagen
Lauren Heath-Jones
Danish company Tredje Natur (Third Nature) has recently installed the pilot system of its innovative street paving system in the ...
Carlo Ratti's 'wonder wall' robot could become reality with kickstarter campaign
Unveiled at Milan Design Week, as part of Ratti's Living Nature installation, the Scribit is the result of Ratti's ongoing investigation into and development of writing machines
Lauren Heath-Jones
Carlo Ratti Associatti has developed an intelligent robot capable of writing and drawing on vertical surfaces. Called Scribit, the device ...
cladkit product news
Zaha Hadid Design partners with Royal Thai to create carpet collection celebrating Zaha Hadid's legacy
The carpets capture Hadid's notable use of layering and interweaving as well as her use of light and shadow
Lauren Heath-Jones
Zaha Hadid Design has partnered with carpet manufacturer Royal Thai to create a new carpet collection inspired by the work ...
Designworks launches new glow-in-the-dark tile collection
The tiles contain light-absorbing luminous pigments so they glow-in-the-dark
Lauren Heath-Jones
High-end tile supplier Designworks has created a range of illuminous mosaic tiles for commercial use. Designed to bring light into ...
Bartok Design installs 'transformative' soaking tubs in SpaFusion at Pallazzo Varignana
Bartok Design creates traditional Japanese soaking tubs
Lauren Heath-Jones
Bartok Design, a Japan-based supplier of Ofuro (Japanese bathtubs), has completed a major installation at the newly opened SpaFusion at ...
cladkit product news
Aotta launches sound panels made from hemp husks
The panels are designed to maintain 'healthy spaces' and consist of Hemp husks fashioned into a natural porous membrane that absorbs sound
Lauren Heath-Jones
Russian design studio Aotta has developed a range of eco-friendly, sound-absorbing panels made from the waste products of hemp seeds. ...
EAS PREVIEW: Bright Buildings to exhibit BrightOpen designs
Bright Buildings will be showcasing its range of BrightOpen buildings
At this year’s Euro Attractions Show (EAS), design and architecture firm Bright Buildings will be exhibiting its range of BrightOpen ...
Artemide excites with latest lighting collection
Designer Alejandro Aravena created O to 'reconcile the needs of the natural and the urban environment'
Lauren Heath-Jones
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Herzog and de Meuron, Neri & Hu, MAD Architects and Elemental, the firm of Pritzker winner ...