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British architect Will Alsop dies aged 70

United Kingdom - May 14, 2018 - 00:10   2950 views

Acclaimed British architect Will Alsop, the architect best known with his modernist, avant-garde, futuristic and colourful forms, has died at the age of 70 following a short illness on Saturday, as reported by The Guardian newspaper. Alsop's firm aLL Design confirmed the news on Sunday. 

The world-renowned architect was always known with his pictorial, playful and colourful designs. The architect was also described "as one of the architecture's famous maverick" as his architecture are being both praiseworthy and desperate. The Peckham Library, located in the south-east of London, is one of his best-known buildings, who won the RIBA's Stirling Prize in 2000.

One of Alsop's Toronto stations at Finch West. Image © Wade Zimmerman

"It is with great sadness that I must inform you that on Saturday Will passed away after a short illness. 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," said Marcos Rosello, Co-Founder, aLL Design, in a statement published in aLL Design's website.

"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."

"We will miss him greatly," continued Rosello.

Peckham Library, 2000, in the south-east of London. Image © MIMOA

The Sharp Centre for Design, Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto, Canada - the Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre in Cardiff, Wales and the Public in West Bromwich, West Midlands, UK are only a few of Alsop's projects built and well-known in UK and other countries. 

Will Alsop was born in Northampton in England on 12 December 1947. He studied at Canterbury School of Architecture and then at London's Architectural Association under the influence of Archigram and Peter Cook. He worked for four years at the studio of Cedric Price, and Alsop had a profound influence from Price's mentoring and personality on his outlook on architecture and life.

Sharp Centre for Design in Toronto. Image © Richard Johnson

In 1971, when he was still a student, Alsop took part in the Centre Pompidou competition in Paris, won by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, and made second place overall. He was considered one of the greatest contemporary British architects along with the likes of Norman Foster and Richard Rogers. 

He has been awarded the Stirling Prize and has applied his bold, colourful approach to award-winning projects internationally across all sectors. In June 2009 the well-known American publication Fast Company put Will Alsop in first place among the ten greatest architects universally known for their creative, innovative approach. 

Will Alsop’s Information Pod in Cardiff Bay. Image courtesy of Architen Landrell

Alsop is described as "an ardent supporter of freedom of individual expression, just as much as he opposes stylistic trends". His experimentally anti-academic approach and his optimistic enthusiasm today represent an important point of reference for the new generations.

Alsop, often described as the "bad boy" of British architecture, because of his controversial nature and his playful, witty approach to the profession, announced his retirement from architecture in order to spend his time painting and teaching at the age of 62 in summer 2009. 

Chips apartment building in Manchester, Palestra. Image courtesy of wikipedia

Shortly after, Alsop joined the International design colossus RMJM as International Principal of Europe, and that he was going to take the helm of the RMJM flagship European office in London as International Design Principal, renaming it “Will Alsop at RMJM”. 

This umpteenth change in his roller-coaster career (as author Tom Porter described it) represented a fundamental new step which also enabled him to fulfil another of his dreams: connected to his new office in Battersea he established Testbed1, a “space with no agenda” dedicated to the arts, to act as a catalyst for creative and experimental activities. 

The Testbed1 committee is formed by Will Alsop himself, artist Bruce McLean, David Gothard, former creative director of Riverside Studios, Kevin Cassandro and critic and author Mel Gooding.

Alsop has won many awards internationally, including the coveted Stirling Prize in 2000 for the Peckham Library, London, a "pop" library shaped like an upside down “L”, a building which was able to completely change the atmosphere of one of the most deprived districts of London, starting a process of regeneration of the whole area. The Royal Fine Art Commission Building of the Year Special Award for the Fawood Children’s Centre, London, a nursery conceived as a modifiable and assemblable space, where children may enjoy the greatest sense of freedom, which was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2005.

Gao Yang is a prestigious site, prominently located along the Huangpu River, to the north of the Bund in central Shanghai. Image courtesy of aLL Design

In 2011, Will Alsop founded his own firm called aLL Design based in London. aLL Design has also offices in Doha and China. The Gao Yang building in Shanghai was completed, and some new ones have recently been proposed such as a 1,400,000 sq.m area in Chongqing, China, aiming to transform the city “ambiance” into a model for the 21st century, combining romanticism, history and state-of-the-art buildings. 

Haikou master plan, also in China. Image courtesy of aLL Design

Alsop's Haikou master plan, also in China, develops a vision for a futuristic city created along an iconic strip at ground, first and second level and implements a sustainable strategy as one of the most fundamental design criteria.

Will Alsop's design principle is based on a unique approach that is both a vehicle and a symbol of social change and renewal. His philosophy ranges from the design of individual buildings to embracing broader principles of urbanism and city development. By rejecting the hegemony of an acceptable style, he has made the whole process of architecture one of increasing fluidity and transparency, bringing a fresh breeze of renewal into the approach to the discipline.

The Public, an exhibition space in West Bromwich. Image courtesy of wikipedia

Alsop has held many academic posts around the world. He is currently a Professor at the Technical University of Vienna and in 2009 was appointed Distinguished Visiting Practitioner by the Ryerson University, Toronto. For several years he was a tutor of sculpture at the Central St Martin’s College of Art & Design in London and was Visiting Professor at institutions including the University of Hanover, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the San Francisco Institute of Art.

Will Alsop recently spoke to World Architecture Community in an exclusive interview at World Architecture Festival in Berlin, and he discussed recent contemporary architectural scene from different perspectives as well as his latest projects in different geographies.

Top image: Will Alsop © Malcolm Crowther - Malcolm Crowther, CC BY-SA 3.0

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