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Alsop shock: 'Art career was ruse, I'm off to RMJM'

Will Alsop has revealed that his retirement to focus on painting was a smokescreen to conceal a move away from Archial

Alsop admits he exaggerated his desire to concentrate on his artwork (read his original comments here) to divert public attention away from a top-secret deal to move to commercial giant RMJM.

He told the AJ: ‘It was a bit weird, but I couldn’t come clean with anybody.’

A spokeswoman for RMJM confirmed that his move would have been announced sooner, however that would have been ‘really difficult with contracts to negotiate’ so had been pushed back.

The practice said the Stirling Prize-winning enfant terrible of British architecture – and the founder of Alsop Architects – would work in RMJM’s London office once his contract with parent company Archial comes to an end in February 2010. He is to create a studio called ‘Will Alsop at  RMJM’.

‘This will give me my freedom to set up an office under my own name that can build anything anywhere in the world,’ Alsop said this morning.

He added: ‘RMJM approached me in the first place, and I was quite impressed. What attracted me was the fact they put much higher store in design quality. Another aspect was their collaborative work with Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel. And from a personal security point of view, they are running a successful business.

‘I see this move as long term, I think my best work is yet to come.’

At the time of his original announcement Alsop, said his ‘decision has nothing to do with the economic downturn… I went to art school before architecture school and want more time than just weekends to paint.’

Alsop also attacked the lack of new public projects landing on his drawing board. ‘Over the past five years I’ve found it very difficult to get on any public projects or even on the lists. Am I doing anything for the Olympics? The answer is no. It sounds paranoid, but I’m fed up with the whole procurement system, particularly in London.

‘If you are not in the little black book you don’t get anything. It has led to using dull architects and dull architecture,’ he added.

The life of Will Alsop

1947 – Born in Northampton
1975 – Graduates from the Architectural Association, works briefly for Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew
1977 – Joins Cedric Price
1981 – Joins Roderick Ham
1981 – Set up his own practice, Alsop & Lyall in Hammersmith.
1991 – Practice renamed Alsop & Störmer after Lyall’s departure and the arrival of Jan Störmer
2000 – Alsop forms Alsop Architects as he and Störmer divide into separate practices
2000 – Awarded Stirling Prize for Peckham Library
2006 – Alsop sells his practice to SMC Group for £1.8 million
2009 – Announces departure from Alsop ‘to focus on painting’

Readers' comments (25)

  • I believe this is a good thing for RMJM. Up until the end of the Scottish Parliament building, RMJM had a solid core of talented architects who could compete with the very best. That project took its toll on the office and some very key people left - the office had lost its core and the vacuum was filled by a mixed bag whose only commonality were their averageness. In short, lunatics took over. Its a great shame RMJM found themselves in a position wherein they had to promote mediocre architects to very senior positions. Will may readdress the balance weed them out to make RMJM great again. RMJM were never about two-tone cladding and neon lights !

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  • Sound familiar?

    In a statement released late yesterday, both McColl and Alsop said they were delighted with the deal.

    McColl said: 'I am very excited at being able to bring into the SMC Group such a world-renowned architect as Will Alsop and his team.

    'This acquisition will increase our profile within the international architectural industry, significantly increasing our global exposure, particularly to larger, higher-margin projects.'

    Unsurprisingly, Alsop agreed: 'At Alsop's, we attract exciting and dynamic design commissions from all around the world,' he said.

    'Joining the SMC Group will allow us to continue to apply our creative skills within a successfully structured business environment, with a strong project-implementation record,' he added.

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  • Fat cats. Nice photoshop job done on the fag in Alsop's hand though.

    Is that some of his 'artwork' on the wall behind him? Will he get whole new pack of crayons at Rumjum all to himself, and fresh walls to scribble on?

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  • I didn't believe when he said he would give up architecture for art, as I bet he knew what his art was.
    I heard about this from a RMJM guy a few weeks before this new release and I kept it to myself. I must say I was a bit surprised he chose RMJM but now I think it makes sense cos this is a good firm that has plenty of work and need a star for some biddings.
    I wish the collabration work out but why should we concern about Alsop anyway?

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  • Blimey!
    some real hate stuff out there towards Will

    probably jealousy from all those whose cv's were binned.....

    Its a pretty amazing experience working for Will.

    J

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