by STIRworldJul 25, 2023
Celebrated for "radical restraint," Sir David Alan Chipperfield CH has been named the recipient of the 2023 Pritzker Architecture Prize. In addition to being an architect and urban planner, Chipperfield has also been called an activist for his “subtle yet powerful, subdued yet elegant” approach. The 2023 laureate of what is regarded internationally as architecture's highest honour acknowledged the announcement by saying, “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." The Pritzker Laureate's work extends beyond his architectural practice. He famously curated the 12th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012 under the title Common Ground.
With a career spanning over four decades, the British architect has worked across various typologies, geographies and scales. From his initial projects in England such as the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames or fashion designer Issey Miyake's London store to the current restoration of the Procuratie Vecchie in Venice, there remains a consistent thread, his reverence for history and culture. David Chipperfield Architects' works constantly stitch contemporary architecture into the fabric of both pre-existing built and natural environments.
His practice reimagines functionality and accessibility of new buildings, renovations and restorations through timeless modern design. The jury citation acknowledges this as it mentions, “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.”
STIR highlights some of the key aspects of the 2023 Pritzker Laureate’s work.
Preservation, Reconstruction and Addition
Chipperfield’s architecture imbibes an innate transformative language, this is particularly true for this 2009 project, The Neues Museum (Berlin, Germany). A 19th century building that was left devastated and inhabitable after World War II, saw a unique renovation under Chipperfield. Spoken about as a conversation between the old and new, the architecture of the past is brought to the foreground, with moments of modernity such as the new main stairwell flanked by walls revealing traces of original frescoes and repurposed materials. He kept aspects of the building's history that were marred by wartime blemishes as it formed an integral part of the building's history.
The 2023 jury citation continues, “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.”
His restoration and reinvention of the Procuratie Vecchie (2022), redefined the civic ability of this building within the heart of the city to allow general access for the first time. Upholding his belief that architecture and craft are intertwined, he called upon traditional craftspeople to revive original frescoes, flooring and plasterworks, uncovering layers of history, while incorporating local artisan and building techniques to produce modern correlative interventions such as a vertical circulation.
A Local Language
Calculating the environmental and historical impacts of permanence while designing in dialogue with time and place allowed Chipperfield to adopt and refresh the architectural language of each locale. This goes beyond integrating new work into an existing fabric. Rather it is an active intervention to transform and evolve the urban fabric. An interesting example of this would be the James-Simon-Galerie (2018) situated on a narrow island along a canal and accessible by a bridge. The design enables generous views from within and beyond, through adjacent buildings and the surrounding urban landscape.
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.” Aravena continues, “The avoidance of what’s fashionable has allowed him to remain permanent.”
The permeance of Chipperfield is perhaps best illustrated by The America’s Cup Building ‘Veles e Vents’ (2006) in Spain. Intended 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.
Harmonising the individual/the collective
With both public and private buildings, Chipperfield’s architecture creates an opportunity for coexistence and communion, individuality and belonging. The headquarters for Amorepacific (2017) in Seoul is one such harmony. While the vertical aluminium fins and glass façade provide solar shading the office space is fitted with a public atrium, museum, library, auditorium and restaurants. There is a balance between what one might consider a typical commercial building and a public structure. The central courtyard allows views through to nearby buildings, while the hanging gardens further engage the community inside with the elements outside.
The Inagawa Cemetery Chapel and Visitor Center (2017), which is located in the mountains of Japan, 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 centre that are juxtaposed diagonal from one another. Chipperfield's investment in understanding local geography is highlighted in his work. While the language of the building's architecture falls well with Chipperfield's wheelhouse, it still maintains an appropriate conversation with its context.
Tom Pritzker, Chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award added, “He is assured without hubris, consistently avoiding trendiness to confront and sustain the connections between tradition and innovation, serving history and humanity”. 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.