Down on the waterfront
So, what exactly makes architect and artist, Will Alsop, the so-called ‘enfant terrible’ of architecture?
WAN’s Editor-in-Chief, Michael Hammond, met the man himself down on London’s Battersea waterfront to find out in person. A rebel since his teens – Will hated school so he left at 15, found a job at an architect’s office, then spent three months learning to draw a brick – his designs have often caused controversy.
However, even his detractors would have to admit that while you may not like what he does, you certainly can’t ignore it. His avant-garde modernist style and use of bright colour in his buildings have also won him many admirers.
In 2000 he won the UK’s prestigious RIBA’s Stirling Prize, for the delightfully quirky Peckham Library in south London, and in the same year had the honour of being made a Royal Academician.
During the course of the interview – which takes place at a bar on the riverside ‘beach’ beneath his studio in the Testbed creative arts centre (where Vivien Westwood and the Royal College of Art number among his creative neighbours) – Will points out some of the famous buildings that surround them. These include Albion Riverside by Norman Foster, of which he says: “I quite like the back side of it, more than the front.”
Will talks us through his illustrious career and mentions those who have influenced him along the way (this includes a neighbour who made ‘fantastic ice cream’ and lived in a Peter Behrens house).
He also tells Michael about (another) rebellion when he was a student at the Architectural Association in London. (In that instance, the oppressive force was Shirley Williams, Minister for Education back in the 70’s.)
He also recounts a very good week where everything that could go right did, and reveals his liking for late night music on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Night Waves’ programme when all the world’s asleep and he picks up his sketch book.
Will Alsop is a WAN AWARDS judge.
To hear the rich tapestry of Will’s story in full – and to hear his views on many things from Mark Knopfler to the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport and how talented younger architects deserve more exposure – listen in to the podcast now…