Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Portrait of the artist / Will Alsop / 'I've learned never to trust anyone with big feet and a small head'

 'I'd like to do a gap year' ... Alsop painting in his studio
 Photograph by Sarah Lee

Portrait of the artist

Will Alsop
'I've learned never to trust anyone with big feet and a small head'

Interview by Natalie Hanman
Tuesday 24 October 2006 12.03 BST

The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Thursday October 26 2006
The architect who gave Will Alsop the advice that Alsop quoted in the interview below, was Cedric (not Sedrick) Price.

In 1,000 years' time, what will your buildings tell us about the year 2006?
I'd be very surprised if they were still standing. That very fact would tell you how much society decided to spend on their buildings at that time.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Winning the Hôtel du Départment building in Marseille, where it came down to two architects, and the other was Norman Foster.
If you weren't an architect, what would you be?

A sculptor. I seriously considered doing that when I was younger, and it's something I adore.
What would you most like to forget?
2004, because that was the year the Fourth Grace [the 'Cloud Building', planned for Liverpool's waterfront] I was working on was abandoned, and it would have been a great building. I felt a deep loss.
What tip would you give to a tourist about Britain's arts scene?
Find out where people meet to eat and drink, and go there. Museums and galleries don't reflect what is going on in the arts scene in Britain today.

What song would feature on the soundtrack to your life?
Bob Dylan's Girl From the North Country.
Who or what have you sacrificed for your art?
My wife.
Are you fashionable?
No, neither in myself nor my work. Fashionability is not a consideration for architects.
Who would you most like to work with?
The French architect Jean Lavallée.
What cultural form leaves you cold or confused?
Rap. It all sounds the same unless you spend the time trying to listen. When I do, I don't understand what they are talking about.
What would you do with £1m?
I lust after one of those two-seater Bentleys. I'd like to do a gap year - go round the world, in the Bentley, with my wife.
Who's the next you?
Possibly Sean Griffiths of FAT [Fashion Architecture Taste].
Is the internet good for art?
I think so. Art becomes more accessible to a larger number of people, but there is no substitute for actually going to a building.
What are you doing tonight?

Sitting in the garden, drinking like mad.
What work of art would you most like to own?
The Endless Column by Brancusi.
What's holding you back?
In the UK, a general lack of clients with true architectural ambition.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Cedric Price, who I used to work with, told me: "You should never trust anyone with big feet and a small head." I always thought it was a funny thing to say, but I've found it to be true.
In brief

1947, Northampton




Creator of modernist buildings, distinguished by their use of bright colours and unusual forms. Established Alsop & Lyall with John Lyall in 1981

High point

Peckham library in south London

Low point

Plans for the 'Cloud Building' on Liverpool's waterfront were cancelled two years ago due to rising costs and unrealistic design. Soon after, his practice went into receivership

Portrait of the artist / Siri Hustvedt / 'I don't read reviews'

Portrait of the artist / Michael Rosen / 'Kids don't get the chance to enjoy poetry'

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