Form, Colour & Behaviour
Will Alsop (aLL Design)


Belfast Leisure Centre. Plan

©Alsop & Stormer

The work of the practice has developed, I think, in three important areas: there's the area of climate and function, the area of form, structure and function, and the area of landscape and urban design. Going back to the first thread, as I call it, I maintain that this started off with an examination of what an urban part of Belfast might be. This was a commission from the Department of Environment to initially look at the DeLorean factory with a possible conversion of it into a leisure centre. I reported to them that it made a jolly good car factory, a jolly rotten leisure centre for all sorts of reasons. They then stated that some of the ideas that I was beginning to talk about, which couldn't be included in the DeLorean factory, would actually be very suitable for the centre of Belfast. And the significant point about the centre of Belfast is the only place in the area where Catholics and Protestants will actually mix. The point was: what should such a centre be, how could you attract people from both communities into an area in which they could interact for at least a short period in their lives and forget the troubles that they have? What interests me in the subsequent work was that it became a centre for a combination of sporting activities, and that these were all brought together in the form of a street which had a cover on it. The cover could come off during good weather, and it combined the idea of learning to cook, for example, with the idea of selling the produce for the other people that come to the ice-skating event, for example. So there was a direct relationship between leasing, selling and just enjoying the street for what it was. The resultant building, as such - because it was a building - really gave rise to then a number of other projects. The building that we had in the Belfast urban park was full of moving parts, was full of uncertainty in the way that it could be used - it was really a combination of a series of suggestions as to how it should be used but would allow other people to come in and use it in a very different way if necessary. And for the first time I saw that there was also the possibility, by introducing movable parts, to produce a building that could respond to the weather conditions in this specific part of the Earth's surface.


Expo '92. Project For UK Pavilion. Model, 1990

©Alsop & Stormer

That entered into the back of my mind and didn't really re-surface until I was invited to, as a part of a competition for the Department of Trade and Industry, to prepare designs for the British pavilion in Seville for Expo '92. Here in Seville, there was a certain freedom that was given by the idea of an Expo, anyway in the architecture, that was important. But more important was the fact that the climate in Seville is obviously very much more severe in terms of the heat than Belfast, and it became apparent that when the actual exhibition opens in April that it is still conceivable that you can have temperatures below freezing, and obviously in July and August then you have very high temperatures particularly in the middle of the day. Part of the Department of Trade and Industry's brief was that there should be full air conditioning and that there should be sunshades for the queues, up to an hour and a half long, to get into the British pavilion. I decided that we would try and produce a building that had no air conditioning, that would use natural methods of cooling, and also to produce a building that would have no queues either. So the resultant project is full of moving parts again, similar to Belfast, but this time a little more refined. We would actually engineer the passage of air over the building in order to draw air in underneath over fountains and using, I suppose to sum it up, many of the traditional techniques you can find at the Alhambra - plenty of shade, plenty of air passing through the building - and that this would actually be more comfortable. I was thinking here particularly of the visitor from other climates going into an air conditioned pavilion, then out into the heat, then back into another one; this is basically not good for you, and also the running costs are a significant item as well. To deal with the problem of the queue, I made the 18 m frontage into one door, so when the British pavilion was open you could always walk inside and begin to get the first part of the experience.

Thanks for previewing this talk

If you would like to view the whole talk please follow one of the following links


Or if you already have an account: