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Interview: Will Alsop
Will Alsop

Last Week, Elena Collins attended Ingenious Minds Live in London, an event inspired by the all-new Ford B-MAX. Hosted by British comedian, Alexander Armstrong, Ingenious Minds Live was a panel discussion, in front of a live studio audience, with brilliantly imaginative design experts sharing their ideas on how we will live, work and play in the future from the automotive design, architecture and technology sector. The panel included Lucy Johnson, the founder of creative young talent movement, BrightYoungBrits, Ford trends expert Erika Tsubaki and World-renowned architect and author Will Alsop.

Will Alsop OBE, described by the British newspaper, The Guardian, as ‘one of Britain's most celebrated architects', is a Professor of Architecture and Royal Academician as well as a global practitioner. He also has recently set up ALL Design, a new multi-disciplinary studio. After the panel discussion Elena caught up with Will to ask his views on effective design, technology and sustainability.

What does effective design mean to you?

It depends how you evaluate and measure the success of a design and there are many ways of doing that. To me, the most important thing is if people respond to it in a positive way. For instance, if there is public building, do people go to it? Or if it's a bar, do people feel comfortable in it? I think comfort is a really important word because designers do not always know how to create the notion of being in a


comfortable space. For example, there are some building types such as hospitals which are really important and I haven't seen any new hospitals that achieve that. A lot of people confuse the idea of being comfortable with the idea of being functional and easy to use.

Has your approach to design changed over the years?

Well I don't worry about anything which is helpful! I think you have to be very straight forward, honest and you have to be yourself. You also need empathy because if you are going to live or use this space you have to think of yourself in that space and how you would feel under certain situations. However, there is no formula for this and some architects can create these spaces and some can't. It is a gift.

Do you incorporate sustainable design in your work?

Everything we do is sustainable and there is nothing that annoys me more than architects that go around talking about sustainability as a marketing ploy because they should be doing that anyway.

How do you select what projects you want to look on? Is there a particular element that attracts you to a design?

Potentially all projects are interesting but if the client doesn't have an open attitude to what the project could be then you are going to have a hard time. I like to explore what things could be or to find a better product or better solution. I like the word fun and I get told off about that sometimes but fun is one of the most difficult things to do, so you get boring architects who tell you that architecture should be restrained and follow the rules. However, we don't have to have rules as we have so many materials, ideas and attitudes and somehow the built environment should reflect all these things. I try, not that I am always successful, to be inventive in what I do.

What are the big advances in technology for you?

Clearly the introduction of the computer into the design studio is pretty amazing and we went all computers in the 90's. The switchover was difficult and I do prefer some things about it but what I have noticed in the studio is that it is a much quieter space. When people used to


draw they used to talk and tell jokes because drawing boards were flat so you could see across the room but now we have all these screens so it is a more isolated experience. It is good to have some sort of buzz in the office.

But overall would you say technology aided the designer?

It is extraordinary and one of the most important things is it is easier to change things so you can keep your options open for longer. When it was all drawing you couldn't. It was difficult to do that.

Do you think the teaching methods have changed and is it more geared towards sustainable design?

I think this thing of what is an architect in your training is not asked enough. I think we teach a lot of things they don't really need to know. It is more important to gather information and ask questions. The most important thing is to have an open mind on what could be done and to find who you really are.

Where would you like to see the direction in design to go?

10 years ago when I saw old buildings in London, I would have said knock them over. Today I would say renovate them, maximise them and build on top of them. So I would like to see the air space used leaving the ground floor alone.

What's your advice for young architects?

Be brave, stick to your guns and never ever be boring!

Will is currently working on smaller scale artworks and buildings as well as large-scale urban planning and design initiatives. To find out more about his work, please click here


Elena Collins



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