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Will Alsop leaves RMJM

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Will Alsop has abandoned RMJM to set up a new studio with fellow Alsop at RMJM principal Scott Lawrie

Over a month after AJ revealed Alsop’s plans to leave the troubled company, a statement from RMJM confirmed the departure as official.

RMJM chief executive Peter Morrison said: ‘We have been in discussion with Will and Scott for some time and all parties feel that this is the best way forward. Will and Scott have played an important role internationally for the firm and are undoubtedly architects with enormous talent and an excellent reputation.

‘We are extremely grateful for their contribution to the business over the past two years and whilst I understand their desire to start something new, our intention is to continue to work together on a number of ongoing projects.’

According to Lawrie, the duo’s aim to create an experimental creative community  was ‘not a priority’ for RMJM.

In a statement he confirmed that the new studio had financial backers from ‘senior businessmen in the creative industries’ however a spokesperson for Lawrie and Alsop said the backers preferred to remain anonymous.

Lawrie said: ‘Not only does this give us a secure financial base but the group are fully involved with our objectives and will give our new practice access to emerging technologies and new skills.’

Will Alsop added: ‘There has been much to enjoy at RMJM and their people are of the highest quality. The culture at RMJM has given us a free rein to produce an extremely high standard of work but Scott and I feel the time is right to develop our own studio. But we are also looking forward to maintaining a relationship with RMJM and working together in the future.

‘The new practice with Scott will focus on integrating art, architecture and design. It is where I have been heading for 35 years and it feels very exciting. We are going to be inclusive and work with our neighbours, other practices, all kinds of creative minds and technical innovators, and with different clients all over the world. We have a number of project opportunities in the pipeline.’

Alsop’s new practice will focus on architecture, masterplanning interiors, landscape, product and graphic design. Alsop’s Testbed performance space and art gallery in Battersea was also described as an ‘important part of the concept’.

His departure – 22 months after joining RMJM from rival Archial (AJ online 01.10.09) – coincides with RMJM’s financial problems and a spate of recent high-profile departures.

In August last year, five of RMJM’s key figures, including the chief executive of its Asia and Middle East operations, left to set up their own studio in Hong Kong. In March, 35 workers at RMJM’s Hong Kong office moved across to work for Aedas.

Despite the global downturn RMJM holds a $210 million pipeline of project fees and has recently won design contracts for a $1.6 billion resort in the Bahamas and the $3 billion Gazprom headquarters in t Petersburg, Russia.

Morrison added: ‘Whilst the market throughout the world continues to be challenging, our range of architectural talent within the business has underpinned a strong, ongoing growth across the group.

‘Many of our clients who were forced to postpone major projects due to the global economic downturn have now restarted them and we are also feeling the significant benefits of maintaining active offices in the Middle East when large numbers of our competitors retrenched back to their home markets.

‘The fact that we now boast an unbroken office presence in the Middle East for over 40 years is regularly commented upon by existing and prospective clients and those relationships are proving extremely beneficial.’

Alsop’s new practice will operate under a new name and out of Alsop’s existing studios in Battersea, south London.

The decision to leave RMJM and rebrand marks yet another twist in the ongoing saga of Alsop’s practice, which has undergone six name changes since its genesis in 1981.

His first office, Alsop and Lyall, lasted a decade before becoming Alsop and Störmer, after Alsop’s Architectural Association classmate John Lyall left and was replaced by Jan Störmer.

Alsop then founded Alsop Architects in 2000, but six years later was forced to sell the practice to SMC Group due to financial difficulties. The outfit was then rebranded as SMC Alsop Architects.

After another name change to Alsop Sparch, he left SMC (then Archial) in August 2009 under the ruse that he was retiring to concentrate on painting. Two months later, he became international design principal at RMJM and opened his current Will Alsop at RMJM office.

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