One of Britain’s best-known architects has announced that he is quitting the profession to spend more time painting as building work becomes increasingly scarce during the recession.
Will Alsop, whose acclaimed designs include North Greenwich Tube station and Peckham Library, which won the Stirling Prize in 2000, will leave the practice that bears his name after running it for 30 years, according to Building Design magazine’s website.
The architect, who is 61, has suffered a series of setbacks, including having to sell his practice after it went into receivership in 2004. He was also the designer of The Public, the Â£30 million arts centre in West Bromwich that has still not opened its main gallery three years after it was scheduled.
Alsop maintains that he is on good terms with Archial, the company that bailed out his practice in 2006, but his decision to limit himself to a consulting role comes two years after he was involved in an attempt to separate his practice from its parent company.
The architect described his career move as a “serious inquiry into painting”. He said: “This will make me happier. Whatever age you are, you shouldn’t be afraid to make changes.
“I need time to pursue my painting and so on but I’ll still be associated with [Archial] projects and the promotion of new work. I’m also going to do a bit more teaching in North America. Architects are always interested in more things than just architecture.”
Marco Goldschmied, a founding partner of the Richard Rogers Partnership who attempted to buy Alsop’s practice in 2007, suggested that Alsop would be relieved to spend less time dealing with the parent company. “I’m delighted that Will has finally cut the knot with his slavemasters. But I can’t imagine that any client [of Alsop’s practice] would be fooled with Archial’s retention of the name. I also can’t imagine a world without Will Alsop running a practice in some form or another ... and I would expect [his long-term colleagues] to migrate [to join him] in due course.”
Chris Littlemore, the chief executive of Archial, said that he looked forward to “maintaining an ongoing relationship with Will”.
Alsop said that he had not become jaded by architecture, but had a sudden urge to paint. “[[Archial] are quite supportive. I just want to do this other stuff for a while. Who knows? I might find that the painting is terrible. I just want to do it with serious intent. I want to say, ‘I’m going to work, and I’m going to be painting.’ ”
Alsop said that his company was still profitable, although he admitted that it had shrunk since the recession caused building work to dry up.
One long-term collaborator suggested that Alsop had become frustrated by being a creative architect trying to do bold work during difficult times. Sean Griffiths, director of the practice FAT, said: “The scope for doing what we all love — designing — is becoming minimal.”
Alsop, who will also teach at Ryerson University in Toronto and the Vienna University of Technology, has made plans for a collaborative project with psychiatric patients at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and another show in Florence next year.
Hopefully it will not be too long before his clients tempt him back