If “the head that wears a crown is uncomfortable,” David Chipperfield feels somewhat uncomfortable as being awarded architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize.
It’s not because he’s ungrateful — “it’s good to be recognized,” said Chipperfield, the 69-year-old British architect, in a telephone interview from Spain. Because he has long believed that “architecture is more important than architects,” and because he believes that “we face two existential crises: social inequality and climate breakdown.”
These priorities are partly why the Pritzker Board of Directors selected Chipperfield as the 2023 laureate. “He skilfully selected in each case the instruments that were instrumental in the project rather than those that might only celebrate the architect,” said the jury in its citation, announced Tuesday. The architect as an artist. “This approach explains how a talented engineer can sometimes almost disappear.”
Chipperfield is known for merging sleek, modern spaces with historic buildings. in 2013, Complete adding a new gallery to the St. Louis Museum of Art, a polished concrete-and-glass counterpart to the Museum of Fine Arts designed by Cass Gilbert for the 1904 World’s Fair.
The award called for his renewal of the Neues Museum in Berlin (2009) – including the preserved elements of a building destroyed by World War II – because of the “distinguishment between conservation, reconstruction and addition”.
(Michael Kimmelman wrote in The New York Times, describing the project as “the largest Humpty Dumpty project in the world.”
The citation also praised Chipperfield’s restoration of the 16th century Procurate Vicky In Venice (2022), a beloved landmark in St. Mark’s Square, which “invited traditional craftsmen to revive original frescoes, terrazzo floors, pastillons and stuccos, revealing layers of history, while incorporating local craftsmen and building techniques to produce modern interconnected interventions, such as vertical circulation.”
In an interview, Chipperfield was visibly frustrated about the slowness of the sustainability calculation. “It’s not about solar panels and window insulation,” he said, “it’s about making fundamental changes.”
He added, “All of our actions must be measured, not in terms of economics, but in terms of their social and environmental impact.”
As an individual architect, Chipperfield said he could do little to make further progress, since he was hired to meet the client’s wishes. But he said his group plays an important role in helping to educate the next generation on such issues and in nudging clients toward socially responsible practices.
He said, “It’s not always our fault—if nobody builds social housing, we can’t go out there and build it ourselves.” “But we as a profession have not contributed to the level that we collectively should.”
In an effort to make his architecture contribute to the civic good, he designed Chipperfield 2006 America’s Cup Building in Valencia, Spain, not only as a temporary hospitality venue for teams and sponsors but also as a public space, with retail and a rooftop offering views of the canal and city.
Part of what drives Chipperfield is widespread income inequality. He said, “I am from the generation of architects who believe that housing is a right and we have given it up.” It shall be a civil right to housing, to a good physical environment.
“This should not be the privilege of only the wealthy,” he continued. “We cannot leave parts of society behind.”
Born from humble circumstances, London-born Chipperfield grew up on a country farm in Devon, in the southwest of England, surrounded by barns and outbuildings. His father, who started out as an upholsterer, moved with the family to the farm when David was four; Everyone worked on the floor.
“I never felt any sense of entitlement,” said Chipperfield.
After graduating from Kingston College of Art in 1976 and the Architectural Association School of London in 1980, Chipperfield worked under architects Douglas Stephen, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers before founding his own firm in 1985. He later added offices in Berlin, Shanghai, Milan and Santiago de Compostela , Spain.
Rogers—who, with Renzo Piano designed the Center Pompidou in Paris—was a particularly strong influence, Chipperfield said, “not only as an architect, but as someone who extended the technical requirements of architecture to the cultural and human aspects.” “I am so grateful for the inspiration he gave me.”
Chipperfield’s first public building, the River & Rowing Museum at Henley-on-Thames (1989-1997) – featuring hipped roofs and inspired by riverboats – has led to a long career of public and private commissions.
His projects have included the BBC Scotland headquarters on a disused shipbuilding site in Glasgow (2007); six crystal volumes overlooking the sea for Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate (2011); and Museo Jumex, raised on 14 columns and plinths in Mexico City (2013).
“The three-storey building,” he wrote, “is a plain and compact block of light limestone, undecorated apart from a sawtooth crest above.” “It’s a no-nonsense, no-ego structure that seems to look inward rather than outward.”
Chipperfield has also done its share of master plans, such as the one completed in 2018 for Royal Academy of Arts, Londonand the design of a modern concrete bridge to unite Burlington House in Piccadilly (1868) and Burlington Gardens, the former Senate House (1998).
Designer Issey Miyake’s 1985 showroom led Chipperfield to spend years working in Japan, a place he says had a profound influence on his values and aesthetic.
“The Japanese seem to turn small things into big things—the natural aspects of everyday life into important actions,” said the architect. “It struck a chord with me.”
He also developed a strong relationship with Galicia, Spain. In 2017, he founded Fundación RIA, a non-profit organization there that focuses on developing and protecting the local economy. It has always been Chipperfield and his family House in Korobedoa Galician village on the northwest coast of Spain.
“It’s so unmediated, it’s so uninspiring,” Chipperfield said of the district. “I’m not particularly drawn to the spectacular, the novel, and the self-promotional. I’m drawn to things that have innate, intrinsic qualities.”
However, Chipperfield has established itself as a name-brand engineer who often tops the list of major competitions. He was knighted in 2010.
Last month, his company was selected Renovation of the National Archaeological Museum In Athens, a neoclassical stack designed by Ludwig Lange and Ernst Zeller between 1866 and 1874. The controversial Chipperfield plan The existing building extends out to the street and includes an underground addition and a rooftop garden.
The Association of Greek Architects protested its exclusion from the architectural competition, and Greek renovation experts objected to the size of the new entrance, saying it would overwhelm the original 19th-century building. Chipperfield has responded to criticism before Saying that change always comes with a price: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”
Chipperfield paid such a price in losing what promised to be one of his most celebrated commissions: the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new wing of Modern and Contemporary Art, for which Selected in 2015. After delaying the project, the Met has switched gears, announcing last year that the Mexican architect Frida Escobedo You will design the wing instead.
In an interview, Chipperfield said he was distraught, having previously heard neither from the Met’s director, Max Hollein, nor any of the trustees. “It was one of the most clever exercises I’ve ever seen to dispose of an architect without shooting him,” said Chipperfield.
(When asked about this by the museum, he said he reached out to Chipperfield before making his public statement.)
What Chipperfield practices most these days, however, is what he sees as an unfettered free market, undirected investment, an interactive planning process, and how our culture fosters consumerism.
He said, “Finding beauty in natural life seems to me deeply sited and something very modern and very different from what our contemporary society does, which is made us thirsty for modernity.” “The system exists to make us dissatisfied. I think we will look back on this period with some confusion.”
At the same time, Chipperfield said, he does not despair. “I haven’t lost faith in the architecture itself,” he said. “We make a better world physically, we make a better world in general. I’ve always stuck to that.”
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