These three quite different projects, a school, a sports pavilion and a cruise terminal, originated in the same office – Alsop’s Battersea studio in south London
But, by the time they were completed (although the cruise terminal in Shanghai has a few months remaining on site), two new architectural practices, one called Alsop Sparch, the other called Sparch, were claiming credit for their design and the man responsible for landing the commissions, Will Alsop, had left to establish a new studio with RMJM.
It’s a complex story. Here’s the short version: Alsop announced his new venture in October 2009 and in March this year relaunched his brand as Will Alsop at RMJM at Mipim in Cannes. At the same time Alsop Architects was rebranded as Alsop Sparch, despite no longer having Alsop on board. In Asia, the Alsop studios in Singapore, Shanghai and elsewhere were rebranded as Sparch (with no Alsop attached).
Today, Alsop Sparch is led by four directors, Duncan Macaulay, Jonathan Leah, Max Titchmarsh and Shaun Russell. They were fundamental to the success of Alsop Architects, enjoyed many fruitful years working alongside Will and now must forge a new identity for Alsop Sparch, which sits within the Archial Group.
Sparch, however, is an independent firm, a wholly-owned foreign enterprise and no longer part of the Archial Group. It is led by Stephen Pimbley (his initials form the first part of ‘Sparch’). But Pimbley, too, is an Alsop graduate; he first joined Will in 1990.
These projects are doubly loaded. They represent the first steps for both Alsop Sparch and Sparch in their search for an autonomous identity, but they are also testament to the quality of architecture Will Alsop produced alongside his former colleagues. In sum, they represent eight years of hard graft by one of Britain’s most talented groups of architects. Rory Olcayto