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Will Alsop on Architecture and Travel

Interview Date: 16-02-2011
(More interviews from this person)

VIEW the entire interview on VIDEO!

What is the importance of architectural tourism?

Architectural tourism, of course, is a quite new term. But this concept is an interesting concept and it’s actually true. Historically and also particularly in Europe because there is a lot of old staff, people travel around for weekends and they choose spaces where there is a lot of older architecture to see.

But over the last 20 years in particular they’ve suddenly caught under the fact that new buildings can really be exciting too. So a combination of those cities, Barcelona is one for example, they have some interesting new buildings and a lot of history as well. So, it makes them a marvelous tourist destination. Athens could do better.

What is the importance of traveling, especially for architects and humans in general?

That’s a very difficult question. It’s nice to travel. And if you don’t travel it’s really nice to travel or to think about traveling. If you travel all the time like I do, I dream of staying at home. You never get what you want. But, generally speaking to answer your question properly, I think it would be very important for local authorities like the councils and politicians to travel around to do architectural tourism to see what other cities and other places in the world are doing.

Because in forums, it’s so often, taking a smaller city, the people who make decisions about the future, buildings and urban conditions, they’ve never been anywhere. Therefore, they’ve got nothing to compare with. From that point of view, travel for certain people is very important. Other travel is for pleasure. It should be for pleasure.

What do you think is the added value that architecture creates within a city?

Ideally, talking now as an architect, the best thing we can do, the thing that makes me more proud is when people feel happy. Because of what you’ve done.  Adding joy, a sense of fun, a sense of color, a sense of intrigue, a sense of surprise; these are all important things that architects can do, which ordinary builders can’t do and engineers can’t do. They’re not thinking that way. So, it’s about experience.

If there are rich experiences especially in terms of the objects then of places, then they’ll feel better about their lives. Most people who dislike this are quite miserable. They’ve replaced that sort of production line factory working with the same thing, but it just takes place in offices, people work on computers all day. Which one would you rather do, work in a factory where you can go outside and have a smoke, or work in a big office, so far down to the grand floor and have a smoke, maybe I won’t or maybe I will but spend ages about it.

I think the creeping corporate world is actually in danger of creating a body of people, I’m not talking about the western world, that goes for the eastern world too, who are just talked to conform. We need some misbehavior, naughtiness, individuality, really important. Then people would make their own minds about things and they’d become a part of the debate, rather than just consuming what they’re given. I’m really worried about your generation.

At the end, can you please provide your personal proposal for 10 buildings (constructed and visitable) which you think as the most important worldwide that someone must visit anyway?

It could be quite boring, but it’s true. So one of the buildings is an obvious one, is the Sydney Opera house. Which, I was always aware of, but the first time I went actually to see it physically, it’s fantastic. It’s really much better than the images. There are some beautiful images of it, but once you stand there then you understand the presence of that building. It’s a really important building. Almost wasn’t built. But that’s an important building.

I had to have two projects here because the one led to the other. One building which was never built, it’s called the Fun Palace by Centric Price which was to be at the East London at the time. It was really the blueprint for the Centre Pompidou.

I like Centre Pompidou; it’s very much in its time, one of the first hi-tech multi-use buildings.  I had a social idea but it came out with Centric Price’s work. So, I still think that Centre Pompidou is an important building today.

The City Hall in Toronto which was done by one of Alto’s students is a magnificent building. It’s a peculiar building. You are seeing an office building I know it has one side of it, no related to it. This is current, but it’s a fascinating building. About 45 years old. That’s variable.

The Unite Building in Marseille by Le Corbusier is a very important building. That’s fascinating. For all sorts of reasons, that’s a really good one.

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