The Public by Will Alsop



Here are a few snaps of The Public, a new arts building in West Bromwich, England, designed by architect Will Alsop.


The building opened at the end of last month.


Here's some text from the architects:


The Public represents a radical gesture for community architecture, born from the conviction that art and architecture can be catalysts for regeneration and renewal.


On five principal levels, the building is intended to give great scope to exhibition designers, artists, educators and users of all kinds, while encouraging and challenging all users to work in innovative ways. The Public is intended to inspire new ideas from its creative users rather than simply make way for them. The building itself is a statement of its creators' belief in art, in the broadest sense, as a means to empower communities and individuals, and to permeate lives in surprising and beneficial ways.


Among its many functions, The Public will host exhibitions of local and international interest, exploring new kinds of visual art, by new kinds of artists, for diverse audiences. It will be a centre for people in the community to take part in art projects, and to engage in lifelong learning in a wide range of skills and subjects, with IT and digital arts given special prominence. There will be events, performances, art, dance and drama workshops, conferences, seminars and meetings, with spaces specially designed to accommodate them.


Contained within a simple rectilinear form, The Public was conceived as a 'Box of Delights' offering a wide variety of spaces, forms, angles, curves, surfaces, vistas and atmospheres.

The 113m x 21m x 22m box envelope of the building is punctured by a scattering of 'jelly-bean' shaped windows that pierce the sides of the aluminium cladding. Those approaching the building are able to glimpse its interior through these openings and through a glazed 'skirt' at ground level on which the rectangular form sits.

Inside, simplicity of form gives way to complexity: rugged, multi-faceted or curved forms appear to balloon into the space at random, sitting on, or suspended from a table structure -- a wandering, large-scale ramp links the spaces. These forms are containers for the many different functions in the building. There are, for example, 'pods' for displaying art, as well as a huge 'sock' containing two large galleries; a 'ramp' contains a major proportion of the displays; an events space 'rock'; and a WC 'pebble'. At the top of the building, suspended from the roof, a series of 'lily-pads' -- dish-shaped floors with brightly coloured interiors -- house lettable workspaces.

Posted on Monday July 7th 2008 at 1:21 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Looks shockingly similar to this place in Tokyo:

  • Zenza

    OH MY GOD!

    That’s a complete ripoff from that site in Tokyo :O :O :O :O :O

  • edward

    From the Fun Haus School of Architecture. This would be a great attraction in the old Coney Island.

  • KKL


    thanks for the reference.
    But I can see only a vague similarity.

    I am – let me say – “surprised” by the take of the alsop building, which has the charme of a developers version of japanese predecessors. …

    What happened to Will Asop?
    What seemed – some years ago – to be an alternative take, sometimes truly radical has turned in blanc irony. Yes, one can agree this is funny! – at least for a few moments. But this building will last a little bit longer ….
    This marshmellow architecture, this “fun approach” – peaks in its facade:
    A most superficial design approach is underlined with a most superficial text:

    A short excerpt says more:
    “punctured by a scattering of ‘jelly-bean’ shaped windows that pierce the sides of the aluminium cladding … are able to glimpse its interior through these openings”
    This says it all – “the yelly bean allows one to take a glimpse”

    With its futhter textual reference to art, the architect makes a most basic mistake: Mistaking the image of “the artistic” with the content and potential of the artistic.
    Is this what Alsops architecture is about – after all those years of exceptional and mind enhancing concepts …

    One more question is allowed:
    How can a project like this become awarded with a spot on this website?

  • You’d get a FAIL mark if you did this in architecture school. Exterior is terrible and the interior is quite scatter-brained. makes no sense in a material point of view. Wood used as a wall, yet the human connection of a railing is in cold steel. Meh. Terrible.

  • alex

    now that’s what i call a beautiful building!

  • dee

    The Tokyo one looks way better.

    Oh alsop… what are we going to do with you?

  • Theo

    This seems so confused and bitty, everything shouts for attention, yet the building as a whole says nothing to me.

    Alsop has never been given over to conceptual clarity, but this is just a mess.

    Still, the local planners are to be commended for allowing something like this through the UK system.

  • Mario

    where is the architecture??

  • brett

    KKL –

    If you’re going to present us with a pretentious full-blown critique, I suggest you check your spelling before submitting.

  • will alsop’s bitch

    it’s really good, stop being so jealous

  • required name


    Please, the internet is an international thing. Don’t pick on the spelling, it’s about making a point.

  • Bozo

    Yeah KKL,
    Do we have to read that crap

  • mi

    too much money and no ideas. Please, stop with all this architecture that is so average!!

  • Vico

    ooh I like that Tokyo facade. The difference is that Alsop hasn’t extruded his windows, they’re cheaply done subtractions from the building envelope. I would suggest that the “box of tricks” idea is a bit of architectural “Positivspeak” intended to put an intellectual spin on the reliance on a dumb envelope to arrange a reasonably complex program.

    To be fair,however, I quite like the eclecticism of the interior – I can imagine the general public getting quite amped by those spaces.

    It looks a lot like the sort of low-budget aesthetic public buildings produced by ARM in my hometown Melbourne.

  • beckham

    Looks a little bit overwhelming.. a bit Alice in Wonderland like dont you think?

  • cpcp

    i agree about the facade… dissapointing
    but i really like that white structure supporting the walkways

    i dont think this is the sort of project that can be properly represented in 6 photos – more please dezeen – maybe some plans/sections perhaps???

    it looks a bit incoherent/messy/unresolved/jam packed to me but who knows. maybe it makes sense when you’re there.

  • John


  • Kez

    Pure genius =)
    Will’s buildings always make me smile.

  • rodney

    I heard the developers took over, and re-designed a lot of this shortly after construction started.

    I think alsop’s original vision was much clearer than the result.

  • mr jelly

    the project started 10 years ago, probably a long time before the tokyo project

  • joso kikaš

    I guess that the architect gave to his baby-son to draw facades.