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Will Alsop: the real reasons why I'm going back to painting

Will Alsop has told the AJ he is not leaving the daily grind of architecture for the money

The founder of Alsop Architects, Will Alsop, announced last week he was walking away from the day-to-day world of architecture to pursue his love of painting.

Explaining the move, Alsop said: ‘I’m not doing it for the money. If I was I would be in deep shit.’

The Stirling Prize-winning enfant terrible of British architecture will continue to work for the firm, which has been owned by parent company Archial (formerly SMC) since 2004, in a consultancy role.

‘This decision has nothing to do with the economic downturn [either],’ said Alsop. ‘I went to art school before architecture school and want more time than just weekends to paint.’

Alsop revealed that the lack of new public projects contributed to his decision. ‘Over the last 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.

Despite his ‘shift’ towards painting, Alsop admitted he would be keen to try his hand at healthcare.

He said: ‘I’d still like to do a hospital. But if you haven’t done a hospital you never get to do one. The ones that have been done are not very good. They don’t make you better. They make you ill even before you get in.

He went on: ‘My advice to younger architects would be to get on a plane and go elsewhere.

‘When I first started in Germany I had no track record. But nobody asked what I’d done before. That didn’t worry them. They were buying your ideas and approach.’ 

Alsop has just designed a coffee spoon and cup for Italian company Alessi and recently worked on the design for Blackfriars Investments’ £250 million Thames-side hotel, which will replace the existing No 2 Puddle Dock office building and the Mermaid Conference Centre in the City of London.

In his role as a consultant, Alsop will continue to work with clients to the concept stage. He added: ‘Clients have been OK with it. They know will get me when I need to be there. I’m not going to let something I don’t like go out [from the practice] with my name on it.’

Alsop Architects will continue to practice under the leadership of Duncan Macaulay.

As to when his first new wave of pictures will be revealed to the public, Alsop concluded: ‘I’ll put on an exhibition when I’m ready.’

Readers' comments (5)

  • On this web-site more column inches have now been devoted to Alsop's retirement than 9/11 or the death of Michael Jackson.

    I wish Mr. Alsop all the best for his painting career, after all even Velazquez had to start somewhere.

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  • Well said, for once I agree with him (Will). The whole procurement system & general lack of quality due to it, & the perception of architecture generally, is disheartening. I'd love to get on a plane & go elsewhere, but not all of us have such a luxury. Perhaps though, Will should bear in mind that many of us get even less of a look in than he has in recent times.

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  • I'm not a fan of Will's buildings but that's not to say I don't think he is important to Architecture. I used to have an old Ferrari that wasn't worth much. However, unbeknown to me, my little Ferrari appeared in some Milan Ferrari Club register and my motor was suddenly alot more valuable. Anyway, good luck Will RA.

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  • LIAR!!

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  • denis currie

    go for it Will ! paint Lulworth Cove !!!

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