Avant-garde architect, artist and academic Will Alsop, who won the 2000 Stirling Prize with Peckham Library, has died aged 70 after a short illness
Often controversial, Alsop is known almost as much for his unrealised schemes and ‘mischievous’ opinions as his built work and paintings.
Among his more contentious proposals were a 2002 masterplan for Barnsley, based on a Tuscan hill town, and abandoned plans for a Cloud-like zoomorphic structure on Liverpool’s waterfront, dubbed the Fourth Grace (2004). An ambitious vision to flood central Bradford was only partially implemented.
However during his career, which effectively began when he left school at just 16 to work for an architect, he helped design and deliver many distinctive and bold buildings. These ranged from his early High-Tech projects such as the Hamburg Ferry Terminal (1993) and Le Grand Bleu in Marseille (1994) to the multicoloured Ontario College of Art & Design (2004) with Alsop’s trademark stilts.
Other notable schemes included the 2005 Stirling Prize-nominated Fawood Children’s Centre, his troubled The Public scheme in West Bromwich, the Chips housing scheme for Urban Splash, and stations around the globe such as the Stratford DLR (2007), North Greenwich and a number of recent completions in Toronto.
Born in Northampton in 1947, Alsop was taught by artist Henry Bird at Northampton Art School before studying at the AA.
He worked for a short time for Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew before spending four years with Cedric Price. In 1981 he set up Alsop & Lyall with AA classmate John Lyall and the pair were later joined by Jan Störmer. Following Lyall’s departure in 1991, the practice was renamed Alsop & Störmer.
Alsop and Störmer split the firm into separate practices in 2000 with Alsop forming Alsop Architects.
He was made a Royal Academician the same year, and over the next 18 years his practice went through various iterations – he sold the Alsop brand to the SMC Group (the architectural conglomerate later renamed Archial) in 2006.
His outfit operated under the Alsop Sparch banner, but Alsop left in 2009 saying that he was retiring from architecture to focus on painting.
However, he later admitted that this was a smokescreen to divert public attention away from a top-secret deal to move to commercial giant RMJM.
In 2011 he broke away from RMJM to set up a new one-stop-shop design studio with Scott Lawrie in Battersea under the banner aLL Design. Lawrie left in 2013.
So incredibly sad to hear of Will Alsop’s passing, one of our great creative spirits. It has recently been fashionable to ridicule his work, I hope there can be pause from the easy snarking now to reflect on a career that very much enriched our architectural culture. pic.twitter.com/rRdjyguC5A— AdamNathanielFurman (@Furmadamadam) May 13, 2018
Marcos Rosello, director and co-founder of aLL Design said: ‘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.
He added: ‘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.’
Former AJ editor Isabel Allen
Will was the first columnist I appointed when I took over as editor of the AJ. It was a controversial choice. The magazine – and the most vocal of its readers – had a taste for understated Modernism: Stanton Williams; Allies and Morrison; Sergison Bates. Will – just like his buildings – was deemed too populist, too mischievous and to be having too much fun. In time-honoured fashion, those who disapproved the most became his most avid readers, transfixed by the combination of big ideas and bonhomie – and by his international lifestyle.
Will was deemed too populist, too mischievous and to be having too much fun
His columns would invariably be drafted on a long-distance flight to another extraordinary project in some far-flung corner of the globe. Some were written by hand on a napkin and given to an unsuspecting secretary to decipher and write up. It was up to me to work out which parts of the column had been scrambled in translation and what might have been left out. I didn’t always get it right, but he never seemed to mind. I’d get a cheery message: ‘Thank you for my column. You made a very interesting point.’
Carnegie Pavilion, Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds, by Alsop Sparch
Jeremy Till, head of Central Saint Martins, pro vice-chancellor research, University of the Arts London
What a loss! Personally, he was always very generous to me, supportive and curious. As an architect, the way he brought his originality into the mainstream eye gave many others the licence to play with and question the orthodox Modernist canon. He should be recognised as someone who shifted the sands through his painting, writing, teaching and designs.
@walsop You will be greatly missed. A generous & unique architect & advocate of buildings that promote abundant life. I didn’t know you very well, but remain proud of your summation of my work in the @ArchitectsJrnal’s 40Under40 in 2005. Rest in peace! https://t.co/b86qYoppK8— Rob Gregory RIBA (@_articulate) May 13, 2018