Movie: Will Alsop on Gao Yang and working in China
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China more open to new architecture than risk-averse UK, says Will Alsop

World Architecture Festival 2015: British architect Will Alsop says there are more opportunities for ideas-driven architecture projects in China – like his Gao Yang development, which features a four-storey hanging restaurant – in this movie filmed in London (+ movie).

Will Alsop portrait
Will Alsop. Copyright: Dezeen

"In China, you can have much more wide-ranging conversations about the possibilities of a project," says Alsop, who will be a judge and guest speaker at World Architecture Festival 2015 in Singapore next month.

"In the UK, the idea of risk has become a much bigger factor. You come to the conclusion that it's only about money."

Gao Yang in Shanghai, China, by Will Alsop
Gao Yang in Shanghai, China, by Will Alsop. Photograph courtesy of aLL Design

Alsop says the attitude towards architecture in the UK has changed dramatically since he studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in the 1960s.

Gao Yang in Shanghai, China, by Will Alsop

"It's completely changed since I was a student," he says. "The real interest was the quality of the idea and did it move things forward? Did it contribute to a conversation?"

Gao Yang in Shanghai, China, by Will Alsop

Alsop has designed a range of buildings in China and his current practice aLL Design is working on a number of projects in the country. He says the project he is "most proud of" is a mixed-use development in Shanghai called Gao Yang, which is situated on the bank of Huangpu River as part of a large ferry terminal.

Gao Yang in Shanghai, China, by Will Alsop

"It's 800 metres of waterfront," Alsop says. "It has some offices, there's shopping. It's a real mixed development. It's good, it's nice."

Gao Yang in Shanghai, China, by Will Alsop

Completed in 2010, when Alsop was at Alsop Architects, Gao Yang features a hanging four-storey restaurant and two bars suspended in brightly coloured pods.


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"Generally speaking in China – if you get the right client – they are very open and you can have a conversation about the sort of architecture you want to explore," Alsop says. "Sadly you can't do that in the United Kingdom any more."

Gao Yang in Shanghai, China, by Will Alsop

Alsop, who was awarded with the Royal Institute of British Architects' Stirling Prize in 2000 for his Peckham Library project, launched his first firm in 1981 with then-partner John Lyall. He sold his business in 2004 and quit a few years later, going on to join international firm RMJM in 2009.

He founded aLL design in 2011, running the studio from a shared building in Battersea, south London, which also acts as an arts hub.

His other projects include The Public arts building in West Bromwich, which caused controversy over its running costs, and the Chips residential building in Manchester.

This movie was produced by Dezeen for the World Architecture Festival.

WAF 2015, where Alsop is a judge and guest speaker, takes place in Singapore from 4 to 6 November, alongside partner event the Inside World Festival of Interiors. Dezeen is media partners for both events.

Photography is courtesy of aLL Design unless otherwise stated.