Architect Will Alsop dies aged 70

Tributes from around the world have poured in for the British architect and artist Will Alsop, who died on Saturday (12 May) aged 70 following a short illness.

Alsop – who once stated that “architecture is the only profession that actually deals in joy and delight” – was known for his bold, colourful and often avant-garde buildings, including Marseille’s bright blue Hotel du Departement; the Ontario College of Art & Design; 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, or to remodel Barnsley in the theme of a walled village in Tuscany. As a respected columnist and academic, he was a strong advocate for a bolder and brighter approach to design. In an interview with CLADglobal last year, he said: “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!”

Alsop graduated from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1973, and worked for a time with the pioneering Cedric Price. Over four decades he founded six different firms, and in 2011 he established aLL Design, whose projects include the sculptural, recently-completed Pioneer Village and Finch West subway stations in Toronto.

In a statement, the studio’s co-founder Marcos Rosello said: “Will has inspired generations and impacted many lives through his work. It is a comfort to know that due to the nature of Will's work and character, he will continue to inspire and bring great joy.

“He had an exceptional ability to recognise particular strengths in individuals which he would draw out and nurture. His design ethos, essentially to 'make life better', is evident in the architecture of his buildings and their surrounding communities.

“On behalf of the studio we send our condolences to Sheila, Will's wife, and to his three children, Ollie, Piers and Nancy. Our thoughts are with them. We will miss him greatly.”

The profession pays tribute

In a moving tribute, Alsop’s son-in-law Alexander Larman, wrote: “He had a sense of vitality and bonhomie that infected everything he did, whether it was his architecture, his painting or his life with family and friends. Being ‘the life and soul of the party’ can often be an imposition, a sense of having to play a part, but for Will, any room that had him in was instantly a brighter, warmer and friendlier place.”

In a post on Twitter, designer Adam Nathaniel Furman said: “So incredibly sad to hear of Will Alsop’s passing, one of our great creative spirits. It has recently been fashionable to ridicule his work, I hope there can be pause from the easy snarking now to reflect on a career that very much enriched our architectural culture.”

The architect Charles Holland posted: “I think Will’s work invigorated and energised British Architecture and challenged it’s more tedious tendencies towards piousness. His buildings were formally bold, thoroughly audacious and huge fun.”

Many other colleagues, friends and peers have also been posting their tributes and memories to Will Alsop.

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