Architecture: Colourful ideas of wilful Will

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WILL ALSOP uses the word 'wilful' to describe the memorable forms of his powerful buildings. 'Wilful,' he says, 'but not gratuitous. The shape of the 'Deliberatif' at the Hotel du Department is designed to cope with the fierce winds that batter Marseilles. Yes, it's a shape I happen to like and have employed elsewhere, but I wouldn't have used if it had been irrelevant.'

Beyond their distinctive egg-like forms, their talkative use of columns, struts and supports, wilfully angled, Alsop's colourful buildings are adaptable and energy-efficient, as well as being powerful symbols of their organisations.

The office space in the Le Grand Bleu, for example, can be reorganised into any number of permutations. The great, glazed lobby is refreshed during the baking heat of the Mediterranean summer by underfloor water pipes: place your hands on the floor and it is cool to the touch. Escalators rising into the ovoid 'Deliberatif' run only when needed; and when office windows are opened, nearby air-conditioning shuts down.

Alsop (b 1947) trained at the Architectural Association in London. At 24 he was runner-up in the competition to design the Pompidou Centre. Since then, his most important work has been in Germany: the Ferry Terminal, Hamburg; the extension of the German National Museum, Nuremberg; an office complex under construction in central Berlin; and a museum of erotica on Hamburg's Reeperbahn. In Moscow, Alsop & Stormer has designed a furniture factory, with other projects promised.

In Britain, the practice's work has been on a smaller scale: a public swimming pool in Sheringham, Norfolk (1987); the Visitors' Centre, Cardiff Bay (1990, revamped last year); and Tottenham Hale station between Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport (a triumvirate of fine English buildings). A second station, North Greenwich on London Underground's Jubilee Line extension, is under construction, and a third, an underground station at Paddington for the putative CrossRail project, promises to be spectacular.

An adventurous design for the National Literature Centre, Swansea, was rejected last year because of local political machinations.


(Photograph omitted)