Sir David Alan Chipperfield CH (b. 1953) was born in London and raised on a countryside farm in Devon, southwest England. A collection of barns and outbuildings, filled with childhood wonderment and recollection, shape his first strong physical impression of architecture.
“I think good architecture provides a setting, it’s there and it’s not there. Like all things that have great meaning, they’re both foreground and background, and I’m not so fascinated by foreground all the time. Architecture is something which can intensify and support and help our rituals and our lives. The experiences in life that I gravitate toward and enjoy most are when normal things have been made special as opposed to where everything is about the special.”
He graduated from the Kingston School of Art in 1976 and the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1980, where he learned to become a critic, reenvisioning the potential of each element to stretch every project beyond the task itself.
“Designing isn’t coming up with colors and shapes. It’s about developing a series of questions and ideas which have a certain rigor and consequence to them. And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter which path you go down, as long as you go down the path well and have been consequential in the process.”
He worked under Douglas Stephen, Norman Foster, 1999 Pritzker Prize Laureate, and the late Richard Rogers, 2007 Pritzker Prize Laureate, before founding David Chipperfield Architects in London in 1985, which later expanded to additional offices in Berlin (1998), Shanghai (2005), Milan (2006) and Santiago de Compostela (2022).
His early career began on Sloane Street, designing a retail interior for the late Issey Miyake, leading to architectural work in Japan. The River and Rowing Museum (Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom, 1989–1997) marked his inaugural building in his native country. He continued his work abroad, to early success for the reconstruction and reinvention of the Neues Museum (Berlin, Germany, 1993–2009) and the newly constructed James-Simon-Galerie (Berlin, Germany, 1999–2018). He credits his heightened sense of responsibility to these formative professional years, building in other countries for other cultures.
Collaboration has always been fundamental to his practice, upholding with certitude that, “the reality is that good buildings come from good process and good process means that you are engaging and collaborating with different forces.” During four decades, he has produced over one hundred works, which are expansive in typology and geography, ranging from civic, cultural and academic buildings to residences and urban masterplanning throughout Asia, Europe and North America.
As his practice grew more prolific, so did his advocacy for social and environmental welfare, censuring the commodification of architecture that serves global power rather than local society, and the interrelated lack of permanence that contributes to the climate crisis. “Architects can’t operate outside of society. We need society to come with us. And yes, maybe we can provoke and complain, and we can find models. But we need a planning framework, we need ambitions, we need priorities. Essentially, what we have to hope now is that the environmental crisis makes us reconsider priorities of society, that profit is not the only thing that should be motivating our decisions.”
Over recent years, he has developed a profound fondness and devotion to the community of Galicia, one of Spain’s poorest regions that paradoxically prospers with a high quality of life. Establishing the Fundación RIA in 2017, Chipperfield sponsors research, promotes ideas and aligns future development fostering locally-focused protection to the natural and built environments related to global challenges along the coast of the Ría de Arousa.
Chipperfield has received awards including the RIBA Royal Gold Medal (United Kingdom, 2011), the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture—the Mies van der Rohe Award (Spain, 2011) and the Heinrich Tessenow Medal (Germany, 1999). He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts (2008), awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2009), and the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale for Architecture (Japan, 2013), and is a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the Bund Deutscher Architekten.
Chipperfield was the curator of the 13th Biennale Architettura in 2012, presenting the theme, Common Ground; selected as the architectural mentor for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative in 2016–2017; and the guest editor for Domus in 2020. He was Professor of Architecture at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stuttgart from 1995 to 2001 and Norman R. Foster Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at Yale University in 2011.
He was appointed as Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2004, knighted in 2010 and appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour in 2021.
Sir David Alan Chipperfield CH Receives the 2023 Pritzker Architecture Prize
Chicago, IL (March 7, 2023) – Civic architect, urban planner and activist, Sir David Alan Chipperfield CH has been selected as the 2023 Laureate of The Pritzker Architecture Prize, the award that is regarded internationally as architecture’s highest honor.
Subtle yet powerful, subdued yet elegant, he is a prolific architect who is radical in his restraint, demonstrating his reverence for history and culture while honoring the preexisting built and natural environments, as he reimagines functionality and accessibility of new buildings, renovations and restorations through timeless modern design that confronts climate urgencies, transforms social relationships and reinvigorates cities.
“I am so overwhelmed to receive this extraordinary honour and to be associated with the previous recipients who have all given so much inspiration to the profession,” remarks Chipperfield. “I take this award as an encouragement to continue to direct my attention not only to the substance of architecture and its meaning but also to the contribution that we can make as architects to address the existential challenges of climate change and societal inequality. We know that, as architects, we can have a more prominent and engaged role in creating not only a more beautiful world but a fairer and more sustainable one too. We must rise to this challenge and help inspire the next generation to embrace this responsibility with vision and courage.”
His built works, spanning over four decades, are expansive in typology and geography, including over one hundred works ranging from civic, cultural and academic buildings to residences and urban masterplanning throughout Asia, Europe and North America.
The 2023 Jury Citation of the Laureate, states, in part, “This commitment to an architecture of understated but transformative civic presence and the definition—even through private commissions—of the public realm, is done always with austerity, avoiding unnecessary moves and steering clear of trends and fashions, all of which is a most relevant message to our contemporary society. Such a capacity to distill and perform meditated design operations is a dimension of sustainability that has not been obvious in recent years: sustainability as pertinence, not only eliminates the superfluous but is also the first step to creating structures able to last, physically and culturally.”
Chipperfield calculates the environmental and historical impacts of permanence, embracing the preexisting, designing and intervening in dialogue with time and place to adopt and refresh the architectural language of each locale. James-Simon-Galerie (Berlin, Germany, 2018) situated on a narrow island along the Kupfergraben canal and accessible by the Schlossbrücke bridge, serves as the gateway to Museum Island. Commanding, though discreet, colonnades with grand scale enclose a terrace, a wide expansive staircase and a manifold of open spaces allow abundant light into the large entryway of the building. The design enables generous views from within and beyond, even through to adjacent buildings and the surrounding urban landscape.
“He is assured without hubris, consistently avoiding trendiness to confront and sustain the connections between tradition and innovation, serving history and humanity,” comments Tom Pritzker, Chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award. “While his works are elegantly masterful, he measures the achievements of his designs by social and environmental welfare to enhance the quality of life for all of civilization.”
In renovative works, his precision is imbued with historical acumen, informing his vision to invariably redeem original design and structure rather than supplant it wholly with modern architecture. The Laureate reflects, “As an architect, I’m in a way the guardian of meaning, memory, and heritage. Cities are historical records, and architecture after a certain moment is a historical record. Cities are dynamic, so they don’t just sit there, they evolve. And in that evolution, we take buildings away and we replace them with others. We choose ourselves, and the concept of only protecting the best is not enough. It’s also a matter of protecting character and qualities that reflect the richness of the evolution of a city.”
The Neues Museum (Berlin, Germany, 2009), originally constructed in the mid-19th century and left devastated and inhabitable during World War II, demonstrates Chipperfield’s discernment between preservation, reconstruction and addition. The novel is in conversation with the old, as architecture of the past is brought to the foreground, yielding moments of modernity such as a striking new main stairwell flanked by walls revealing traces of original frescoes and repurposed materials, even those that were marred by wartime blemishes. Generous outdoor space makes it a connector for all, even for those who never enter the galleries.
Alejandro Aravena, Jury Chair and 2016 Pritzker Prize Laureate, elaborates, “In a world where many architects view a commission as an opportunity to add to their own portfolio, he responds to each project with specific tools that he has selected with preciseness and great care. Sometimes it requires a gesture that is strong and monumental, while other times, it requires him to almost disappear. But his buildings will always stand the test of time because the ultimate goal of his operation is to serve the greater good. The avoidance of what’s fashionable has allowed him to remain permanent.”
His restoration and reinvention of the Procuratie Vecchie (Venice, Italy, 2022), which dates back to the 16th century, redefined the civic ability of this building within the heart of the city to allow general access for the first time. He elevates partnership through his processes, upholding his belief that architecture and craft are intertwined. He called upon traditional craftsmen to revive original frescoes, terrazzo and pastellone flooring and plasterworks, uncovering layers of history, while incorporating local artisan and building techniques to produce modern correlative interventions such as a vertical circulation. The restored building now enables views from above and within, revealing rooftop terraces, exhibition and event spaces, an auditorium and an enfilade of arches that diverge into galleries.
Every work becomes a civic undertaking serving society, such as the America’s Cup Building ‘Veles e Vents’ (Valencia, Spain, 2006), intended primarily as a temporary hospitality venue for offshore teams and sponsors. Exterior space exceeds interior and the cantilevered viewing decks are miradors, generous in size, some spanning 15 meters in width around the perimeter of each overlapping level. Chipperfield infuses a program for the public, through first-floor retail spaces and an accessible deck that offers unrestricted views of the canal and city below. A ramp from this level creates a direct pathway to a park just north of the site. His restoration and addition of Morland Mixité Capitale (Paris, France, 2022) revitalizes the neighborhood with affordable and luxury housing, retail and restaurant venues, a hotel and youth hostel, an installation space and an urban rooftop garden. By raising the new volumes on vaulted load-bearing arcades which continue along at the base of the original building, the architect creates a space to gather, inviting those to pass by or pass through the new visual and physical passageway to the Seine River from the Boulevard Morland.
Whether through public or private buildings, he bestows unto society the opportunity for coexistence and communion, protecting individuality while fostering a societal sense of belonging. The headquarters for Amorepacific (Seoul, Republic of Korea, 2017) harmonize the individual and the collective, the private and the public, work and respite. Vertical aluminum fins across the glass façade provide solar shading to aid thermal conditions and natural ventilation, and create a translucency, encouraging a rapport between the building’s occupants, its neighbors and observers. Office space is equipoised by a public atrium, museum, library, auditorium and restaurants. A central courtyard allows views through to nearby buildings and hanging gardens further engage the community inside with the elements outside. At the Inagawa Cemetery Chapel and Visitor Center (Hyogo, Japan, 2017), situated in the Hokusetsu Mountains, the physical and spiritual coexist, with places of solitude and gathering, for peace and seeking. These interconnected expressions are mirrored in the earth-toned monolithic buildings, stairs and pathways residing amidst the sloped terrain, and the secluded non-denominational chapel and visitor center that are juxtaposed diagonal from one another.
“We do not see an instantly recognizable David Chipperfield building in different cities, but different David Chipperfield buildings designed specifically for each circumstance. Each asserts its presence even as his buildings create new connections with the neighbourhood,” continues the 2023 Citation. “His architectural language balances consistency with the fundamental design principles and flexibility towards the local cultures…The work of David Chipperfield unifies European classicism, the complex nature of Britain, and even the delicateness of Japan. It is the fruition of cultural diversity.”
Significant works also include the River and Rowing Museum (Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom, 1997), BBC Scotland headquarters (Glasgow, United Kingdom, 2007), Turner Contemporary (Margate, United Kingdom, 2011), Campus Saint Louis Art Museum (Missouri, United States of America, 2013), Campus Joachimstraße (Berlin, Germany, 2013), Museo Jumex (Mexico City, Mexico, 2013), One Pancras Square (London, United Kingdom, 2013), Royal Academy of Arts masterplan (London, United Kingdom, 2018), Hoxton Press (London, United Kingdom, 2018) and Kunsthaus Zürich (Zurich, Switzerland, 2020).
Chipperfield is the 52nd Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He resides in London and leads additional offices in Berlin, Milan, Shanghai and Santiago de Compostela. The 2023 Pritzker Prize ceremony will be held in Athens, Greece this May.
The Pritzker Prize is conferred in acknowledgment of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which have persistently produced significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The career of David Chipperfield is marked by a long term, rigour and consistency in a body of work that has seamlessly integrated and balanced both terms of that equation.
The careful, well-crafted, precise and calm responses he has offered to the goals aspired to in his buildings can only originate in a deep and sustained knowledge of the discipline. Yet, those responses are never self-centred, nor do they serve in any way as art for art’s sake: rather, they always remained focused on the higher purpose of the undertaking and on the pursuit of civic and public good.
David Chipperfield ‘does his job’, and he does it by balancing relevancy and stature. To operate anchored to the body of knowledge of the discipline or architecture requires both intelligence and modesty; to put such knowledge at the service of a given project requires talent and maturity. He has in every case skilfully chosen the tools that are instrumental to the project instead of those that might only celebrate the architect as artist. Such an approach explains how it is that a gifted architect can sometimes almost disappear when working on the restoration or renovation of existing buildings and architectural masterpieces like those on Berlin’s Museum Island or even more in the case of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. It also explains why the wide spectrum of David Chipperfield’s skills appears in full when he is called upon to create from scratch.
Always characterized by elegance, restraint, a sense of permanence, as well as clear compositions and refined detailing, his buildings each time exude clarity, surprise, sophisticated contextuality and confident presence. In an era of excessive commercialization, over-designing, and over-exaggeration, he can always achieve balance: between a modern minimalistic architectural language and freedom of expression, between abstract statements and rigorous elegance never devoid of complexity.
While preserving a meticulous yet consistent quality of design, David Chipperfield has continually worked across a wide array of building types from public civic buildings to commercial, residential and retail structures. But from early in his career, museums have been a particular focus. Ranging across small-scale works free standing in the landscape to large-scale monuments in prominent and often complex and delicate urban locations, his museum buildings have always defied the notion that a museum is a place for elite culture. Over and over, he has interpreted the demands of the museum program to create not only a showcase for art but also a place interwoven with its city, breaking down boundaries and inviting the public at large to engage. Over and over, his museum buildings have generated new civic spaces, new patterns of movement in the city and new ways of integrating existing fabric.
At once architectural and museological projects, in Chipperfield’s hands museums as institutions and buildings offer a transformation of the urban life of the cities where they are located. Generous outdoor spaces make them not fortresses but connectors, places for gathering and observing, such that the building itself is a gift to the city, a common ground even for those who never enter the galleries. In short, his buildings embody a commanding balance of the seemingly contradictory notions of being complete in and of themselves as architectural designs where every detail is conceived as a carefully studied part of a whole, and at the same time create interconnections to the city and to the society in such a way as to fundamentally transform a whole district.
In his persistent search for a diverse, solid and coherent body of work, David Chipperfield manages not to deviate from a serious consideration of the genius loci—the spirit of the place—or of the growing diverse cultural contexts in which he works. We do not see an instantly recognizable David Chipperfield building in different cities, but different David Chipperfield buildings designed specifically for each circumstance. Each asserts its presence even as his buildings create new connections with the neighbourhood. His architectural language balances consistency with the fundamental design principles and flexibility towards the local cultures. He includes colonnades in his European projects and courtyards in the Chinese ones, he utilizes local materials in luxurious ways, ordinary techniques in complex structures. He enhances the quality of people’s lives through a poetic sensation that always flows from his buildings. The work of David Chipperfield unifies European classicism, the complex nature of Britain and even the delicateness of Japan. It is the fruition of cultural diversity.
This commitment to an architecture of understated but transformative civic presence and the definition—even through private commissions—of the public realm, is done always with austerity, avoiding unnecessary moves and steering clear of trends and fashions, all of which is a most relevant message to our contemporary society. Such a capacity to distil and perform meditated design operations is a dimension of sustainability that has not been obvious in recent years: sustainability as pertinence, not only eliminates the superfluous but is also the first step to creating structures able to last, physically and culturally.
No wonder one of the attributes that come to mind when experiencing the work of David Chipperfield is that of a classic, something that will be able to stand the test of time. Classic not by style but by being faithful to a responsibility towards the act and to the art of building, faithful to the three essential Vitruvian qualities: firmitas, utilitas, venustas (strength, usefulness, beauty). Far from looking towards creating iconic, isolated statements, Chipperfield alternates restraint and courage in a very personal interpretation of the role of architecture.
David Chipperfield believes that is the role of the architect to foster new ways of improving life and livelihoods on a planet where mankind has made our very home a place of fragility. His vision of such role has continually expanded from ways to integrate an individual building into both its site and its local culture, to understanding the broadest definition of site and culture.
In more recent years, this has taken the form not of building but of bringing spatial and environmental expertise to curate and care for the landscapes of a region which he has come to call a second home, Galicia in North-western Spain. Here the Fundación RIA has sought to advise on preserving the intertwined landscape, agriculture, ecology and land traditions of a region to help preserve and extend an eco-system into the coming decades even in the face of the challenges of climate change.
For the rigour, integrity and pertinence of a body of work that—beyond the realm of the architecture discipline—speaks for his social and environmental commitment, David Chipperfield is named the 2023 Pritzker Prize Laureate.
The following are images of the architecture of Sir David Alan Chipperfield.
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