The LSA pays tribute to Will Alsop
I know that our students and Faculty members will want to join me in paying tribute to the extraordinary life and career of Will Alsop, writes LSA Founder/Director Will Hunter.
Will was one of the early supporters of the LSA, and aLL Design was one of the first practices to sign up as a member of our Practice Network.
For me, Will played an important role in my career. He was my first boss: I joined Alsop Architects (as it was then) for my year out in 2002, a heady time in the office shortly after the Stirling Prize win for the Peckham library, and with commissions flooding in. Every week, I’d grab the AJ to read his column, and scan BD to read more about his visions for Barnsley or Liverpool. He seemed to be challenging the establishment from inside the gates, right at the centre of things.
It was the intoxicating mixture of design, art and writing – and Will’s own encouragement – that led me to the Royal College of Art, and to Nigel Coates’ influence. The time in his office was my first proper formative experience of architecture.
Later, when I was trying to interest him in the LSA, I showed him a very Alsopian diagram, covered in blobs, colours, and curious patterns that tried to tell him what we were about. I think such a new (and improbable-sounding) venture appealed to his renegade spirit, and he became a firm advocate and sounding board.
Will was forthright and articulate, but in conversation, I will always remember him being at his most communicative not with words, but via his wide range of ‘hmmm’ or ‘mmms’ or ‘ahms’, which could variously be deciphered as ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ or emphatically ‘no’, and be anywhere between twinkly-eyed enthusiasm to furrowed-brow scepticism.
He was a very generous supporter, both with his encouragement and his enthusiasm; his time and his wine – memories I will cherish. He had five LSA students in his office at the last count – Dan, Tim, Jacob, Alex and Aleks. He took a lucky dozen of them to Spain last summer for a week-long workshop so they could get their hands dirty making things. His practice led a Design Think Tank each year.
There will be lots of reflections and tributes to his work in the coming days and weeks. For now I wanted to say he will be hugely missed by the school and its students, and by me personally. Our thoughts go out to his family, and his office at this time of loss.
In turn, we will raise a glass (of red, naturally) to his many great achievements at an appropriate time soon.
LSA Graduate, Daniel Lee writes:
I first met Will Alsop on his beach at Testbed 1, Battersea in 2015. I had prepared lots of drawings for my interview naively thinking I’d impress him with images. His response was:
‘Hmm you must really like people, do you like people, hmm hmm?’
‘I love people,’ I replied.
‘Very good,’ said Will.
I worked with Will as part of my practice placement at the LSA for two years. During this time I got to design cities, buildings and sculpture in the UK, China and Spain. Will seemed to find delight in throwing people in at the deep end, knowing that they would be fine.
In the office he’d surprise us every day – with each turn of his sketchbook he showed us that to design can be endlessly enjoyable if you’re honest, self-confident and naughty. Each and every scribble gave a witty middle finger to convention.
He always encouraged us to look in different directions: when the computer was asking too many questions he inspired me to pick up a paint brush, something I wish I had thanked him for.
We have all been touched by Will’s independent vision, wisdom and generosity. We’ve lost an irreplaceable mentor, boss and friend.
RIP Will. You will be missed desperately.
Daniel Lee graduated from the LSA in 2017.