I first met Will in a rather dingy lower ground floor office in Wigmore Street, London W1 in the late 1970’s. I was a fresh faced design graduate who had morphed into anarchitecturalrecruitment consultant. Will was an ambitious young architect seeking “fill in” temporary work while establishing his own practice after graduation. I recall at the time he didn’t quite know what he wanted ‘Will Alsop – Architect’ to be, but he did say that ‘whatever it becomes it must be memorable’ and indeed memorable it was.
Even as a young designer with no real projects under his belt, there was something about him. I was enthralled by his personality, optimism and huge ambition, all this coupled with an amazing portfolio, the likes of which I had not seen before (and very rarely seen since!).
Will asked me to create a lifeline to give him some breathing space, a bit of drawing board work so that he could practice on his own competitions in the evenings & weekends. Sheepishly I sent him to meet a client for a contract job that was available. The client subsequently scalded me for sending someone who was a ‘million times better” than what was needed for the position available. Will would often refer to this occasion whenever we would subsequently meet.
Fast forward to the 1990’s when Will called me out of the blue from his practice Alsop & Stormer and said ‘Malcolm, we have won a competition in Marseilles, can you help me build a team?”. This was the Hotel Du Department, arguably amongst the best buildings of his legacy.
A few years on, Will’s practice faced difficult times and we spoke about an opportunity that had become available to merge with RMJM. This became the brand “Will Alsop at RMJM which Will himself jokingly likened to “Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s”.
I last spoke to Will in January this year to organise a get-together over a bottle of Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux. Unfortunately we just didn’t quite get to confirm a date to meet, moving it forward from month to month. In hindsight, like so many things, I now regret not having set a date in stone while time was available.
Often called the “Enfant Terrible” of the architectural world, he will remain in my mind as a larger than life character, who challenged the norm of design and bent the rules of conformity.