ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo

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


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: Myrtha Wellness
Myrtha Pools was founded in 1961 in Italy by the engineer Giorgio Colletto and through research and development has become leader in the swimming pool industry and has created an international brand.
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
features
The Gaîté Lyrique Theatre, Paris
Judges praised Manuelle Gautrand for her suprising, bold urban architecture
"I have tried to use my European roots to re-enchant architecture and our cities"

On winning the 2017 European Prize for Architecture

The sky pool was engineered by Arup Associates, Eckersley O’Callaghan and aquarium designer Reynolds
The project is the brainchild of Ballymore CEO Sean Mulryan
"It will feel like floating through the air while you’re swimming "

On his plans for the London 'sky pool'

AL_A’s design concept for the project was to ‘make visible the invisible through large moves and small details alike’
AL_A’s design concept for the project was to ‘make visible the invisible through large moves and small details alike’
"There is no other institution that would be quite so audacious in its commission"

Pulls off the V&A's new £55m courtyard

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
The Perelman is organised in three levels: Public, Performer, and Play
Prince-Ramus was the founding partner of OMA New York, before rebranding the firm as REX in 2006
"If there are many possible solutions, we choose the one that is most beautiful"

Rem Koolhaas’ protege on the challenges of designing a truly flexible arts centre for Ground Zero

The hotel’s historic Art Deco features were carefully restored
Respecting the hotel’s heritage was key, says Maria Vafiadis
"We were very conscious of the heritage we were dealing with"

MKV completes the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane redesign

features
Alison Brooks
"The profession is changing"

We need to help the public understand that architects are on their side, argues The Smile designer

Winding pathways lead visitors through the site, connecting Whiting Forest with Dow Gardens
Alan Metcalfe
"When people are a bit scared, they gather together"

Featuring a vibrating glass platform and one of the US’s longest tree canopy walks, Whiting Forest has been designed to bring visitors closer to nature and to one another

The Vo Trong Nghia-designed Roc Von restaurant opened in rural Vietnam earlier this year
The Vo Trong Nghia-designed Roc Von restaurant opened in rural Vietnam earlier this year
"Without green design we’re finished"

Pushing green design practices and caring for the natural world

cladkit product news
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
Jaffe Holden helps bring Academy Museum of Motion Pictures alive
Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics for the Academy Museum
Magali Robathan
Acoustical consulting firm Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics and audio/video design services for the recently opened Academy Museum of Motion ...
cladkit product news
Fabio Alemanno Design uses elegant semi-precious stones to create memorable spa experiences
Alemanno believes the stones are well-placed in the spa environment thanks to their capacity to positively support physical and mental health
Megan Whitby
Fabio Alemanno Design has expanded its collection with semi-precious stones to enhance spas, wellness facilities, hotels and private residences. The ...
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
cladkit product news
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
Eden project uses drones to spell out climate change warning
Magali Robathan
Almost 300 drones were used to signal an environmental message above the Eden Project’s biomes, during the UN Climate Change ...
ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo