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Thursday24 July 2014

Will Alsop attacks non-architects who shape our cities

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Architect also puts boot into Chipperfield and Foster

Will Alsop has publically denounced the amount of influence wielded by non-architects over the way cities are designed.

The architect and artist used a sold-out lecture at the V&A this week to criticise “people who should know better but don’t”.

He complained that architecture critics tend to maul buildings popular with the public. And he singled out Cabe and LSE professor of urban studies Ricky Burdett for dictating how the built environment should look by imposing rules and codes of practice.

“I don’t object to the discussion. I do object to the fact they don’t really know what they are talking about,” he said.

Will Alsop

Will Alsop

In a humorous debate with critic Stephen Bayley on Architecture & Beauty, hosted by the AR, RCA and V&A, he also laid into the majority of Britain’s 32,000 architects, saying they weren’t worthy of the title.

Barbs were also directed at David Chipperfield, Allies & Morrison and Norman Foster.

“Society has decided in this age of austerity that what we need is more David Chipperfield. We don’t need that. It’s depressing,” he said.

“We need more fun, wit and humour. It’s part of the human condition and if you don’t have it you are left with David Chipperfield and a number of others. He is a very good architect and there’s plenty of room for him but not everywhere, and not poor imitations.”

Alsop went on to lambast Allies & Morrison for championing “calmness, boredom, conformity, uniformity” – qualities he described as the enemy – and labelled Norman Foster “grey”.

Alsop also bemoaned the separation of “serious” exterior and “fashionable” interior architecture, blaming it for the ugliness of “so many buildings”.

Tuesday’s event was introduced by AR deputy editor Will Hunter who said the topic of beauty and architecture had been elevated to national prominence by BD’s interview with planning minister Nick Boles who urged the public to “kick out ugliness” from the housing sector.

Bayley, whose latest book is called Ugly, described Boles’s comments as an “extraordinary intervention” and said it was the first time notions of ugliness had been discussed at government level.

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Readers' comments (36)

  • Right on, Will.

    What we need is more vapid cardboard-box-on-rickety-loo-roll tosh and pretend that it's humorous.

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  • Munter Roe

    any audio of this talk?

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  • A: You don't need audio. Just go to his next talk which will be on the same subject. Though sometimes he replaces "chipperfield" with "sergison bates" for variation

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  • Munter Roe

    I wouldn't go to London for love nor money.

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  • The less architecture Alsop does, the better for our cities. Agree about Burdett though.

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  • @Munter Roe
    That's a relief.

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  • casual observer

    The headline raises the issue of non-architects who shape our environment, but then mentions nothing of them in the article, but concentrates on rivalries between architects ... I don't want to hear about what one starchitect thinks of another starchitect. I want to find out how architects can work together and with others to improve our cities and the places where we live and work.
    Please try harder!

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  • And Barnsley IS a tuscan hill villlage.

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  • Just west of Barnsley in the alpine resort of Saddleworth we still hope that our none 'starchitect' aspirations are turned into reality. It's not the weilding of the stick at ideas and design stage which is shaping the design, it's the weilding of the eraser when it comes to what is perceived as 'value'.
    Still much better to read of Will's stand up routine than further RumJum tosh.

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  • Kirsten Elliott

    How unbelievably arrogant! Mr Alsop should be reminded that it's the public who has to live with these designs. Or are we hoi polloi meant to suffer in silence?

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