Will Alsop, UK architect with exuberant style, dies at 70

British architect Will Alsop, whose exuberant buildings enliven cities on both sides of the Atlantic, has died, his company said Sunday. He was 70.

Will Alsop
Will Alsop at work. Photo by Malcolm Crowther via Wikimedia Commons.

Marcos Rosello, a co-founder with Alsop of the London-based architecture practice aLL Design, said Alsop died Saturday after a short illness.

Born in Northampton in central England in 1947, Alsop studied at the Architectural Association in London. He cited 20th-century modernists Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and 18th-century British neo-Classicist John Soane among his influences. But Alsop’s work had a playful style all its own.

“Architects are the only profession that actually deal in joy and delight — all the others deal in doom and gloom,” Alsop told The Observer newspaper in 2007.

Alsop’s buildings include the green, copper-clad Peckham Library in London, which won the Stirling Prize for architecture; London’s futuristic North Greenwich Underground station; and the Sharp Centre at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, a black-and-white box poised rakishly on multicolored stilts.

OCAD, Sharp Centre, Will Alsop
OCAD University’s Sharp Centre — signature Alsop. Phot by Raysonho via Wikimedia Commons.

Alsop also completed several residential projects, other transit stations and a striking government building in Marseille, France that is nicknamed the Big Blue.

The finances of his various practices were sometimes precarious, and many of Alsop’s more ambitious schemes were never realized — including plans to transform post-industrial Barnsley in northern England into a modernist version of a Tuscan hill town.

Detractors likened The Public, an Alsop-designed arts centre in the central England town of West Bromwich, to a big black cow. It came to be seen as an expensive white elephant and closed after five years in 2013, to be converted into a college.

His practice, aLL Design, has offices in London; Doha, Qatar; and Chongqing, China, where Alsop had several ambitious projects in the works.

Rosello said Alsop’s design ethos was “essentially to ‘make life better.”’

“It is a comfort to know that due to the nature of Will’s work and character, he will continue to inspire and bring great joy,” he said.

Alsop is survived by his wife Sheila, a daughter and two sons.