Speculation surrounding the financial stability of Alsop Architects has intensified following the departure of managing director James Allen.
Allen's resignation comes hot on the heels of a wave of redundancies at the practice's London headquarters and the closure of the firm's Rotterdam office.
Ironically, it was Allen himself who travelled to the Netherlands in the summer to tell the 11 staff that their future was elsewhere (AJ 23.9.04). With the collapse of the controversial 'Cloud' project on Liverpool's waterfront, the practice found it was no longer commercially viable to keep the studio open. Only two of the Dutch team were redeployed to other offices.
Yet the reasons for Allen's departure, and his replacement with Colin Gilmore-Merchant, remain a mystery.
A spokeswoman pointed towards a managerial reshuffle. 'There has been quite a shake-up of late at Alsops and the management is being restructured, ' she said. 'The focus has changed and we are developing work in Europe while still pushing for new business in North America and the Far East.' The news of Allen's resignation came as a shock to former colleagues, who saw him as a key man within the practice.
One former Alsop employee said: 'James was a cornerstone at the firm and I'm very surprised he has left. He had a good relationship with Will and had his finger on the pulse.
'He is a very nice guy who knew the business inside out and it will be an unfortunate loss to Alsops, particularly as Allen has been an influential figure, assisting the practice's successful global development, ' they added.
However, Will Alsop had his own views: 'James Allen has been replaced by a more talented man in the form of Colin Gilmore-Merchant.' And when asked of the reasons for Allen's departure, he replied:
'It's none of your business.'