‘I suppose I'm trying to build an architecture that's as timeless as possible, although we're all creatures of our age.’
British architect Sir David Chipperfield was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, making him the 52nd recipient of this international recognition. Chipperfield's designs, spanning over 40 years of work, have demonstrated an ability to adapt to climatic conditions, reshape social dynamics, and revitalize cities. His architectural style is characterized as understated yet transformative, showcasing a unique approach that stands apart from passing trends. Chipperfield received the award during a ceremony held in Athens in May, and he expressed his gratitude with a brief statement of thanks:
"I am so overwhelmed to receive this extraordinary honor and to be associated with the previous recipients who have all given so much inspiration to the profession […] 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’’
Education and Professional Journey
British architect Sir David Chipperfield was born in London in 1953. He spent his childhood on a farm in the southwest of England, where he developed his early interest in architecture.
After graduating from Kingston School of Art in 1976 and the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1980, Chipperfield began his professional career working under renowned architects such as Norman Foster (recipient of the 1999 Pritzker Prize) and Richard Rogers (recipient of the 2007 Pritzker Prize). In 1985, he founded David Chipperfield Architects in London and later expanded his design network by opening studios in Tokyo, Milan, Berlin, and Shanghai. During the 1980s, he broadened his portfolio by undertaking interior design projects.
Chipperfield is widely acknowledged as one of the exceptional and renowned architects of our era. His distinct design approach is rooted in the belief that a quality and efficient design process, centered around the function of the space and the project's specific requirements, yields the best outcome. Initially, he collaborates closely with clients to assess the project's potential starting points and challenges. He then conducts further research to establish a solid project context and develops a straightforward concept, avoiding unnecessary complexity.
At the age of 31, Chipperfield started his own architectural office in London. He gained professional experience by working on different projects, including residential and public buildings, as well as small-scale and complex structures. Chipperfield believed in the importance of a collaborative team approach to handle the diverse range of building designs. He emphasized the value of staying updated and working with an international and interdisciplinary team.
Throughout his career, Chipperfield maintained this mindset, which allowed him to stay informed and adaptable. He and his team had a habit of continuously learning, discussing, and sharing theoretical subjects like design philosophy, architectural history, and construction technologies. They used various presentation methods, such as models, sketches, diagrams, and drawings, to effectively illustrate the relationships between volume, form, and space.
Chipperfield's architectural style is typically characterized as modern and minimal. He emphasizes the importance of enhancing the contemporary living experience through design. This includes creating windows that evoke emotional responses, ensuring that vanity mirrors in hotel rooms are properly positioned, and breaking away from the conventional monotony of public buildings. According to Chipperfield, buildings have a moral obligation to their surroundings. Therefore, it is crucial to make consistent decisions and ensure that the project harmonizes with its environment. He believes that a timeless and uncomplicated design, rooted in the history and memory of the place, and sensitive to environmental factors, ultimately enhances the user's experience.
David Chipperfield's Exceptional Projects
Toyota Auto - Kyoto, Japan
Completed in Kyoto in the early 1990s, the Toyota Auto Building is one of three projects in Japan. The other two are the Gotoh Museum in Chiba and the Matsumoto Corporation Headquarters in Okayama. Located in Kyoto's Sakyo district, the building takes inspiration from the city's medieval arcades, courtyards, and the surrounding hills. It serves multiple purposes, including a car showroom, restaurant, offices, and an entertainment rooftop.
Due to the presence of neighboring houses and local regulations, the building's height was restricted to 10 meters. The main functional area is enclosed by a concrete wall, which also acts as a long corridor, concealing both the interior spaces and the core. The concrete surfaces and openings bring movement and vitality to the facade, breaking the monotony of the material. The rooftop, featuring circular columns and anthracite paint, creates a contrasting effect against the bold concrete facade, resembling a monumental abstraction.
River & Rowing Museum - Oxfordshire,İngiltere
Completed in 1997, the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames is situated on the south bank of the River Thames. The design of the museum is inspired by the traditional buildings of Oxfordshire, combining elements of both vernacular and modern architecture. Alongside its focus on the history of rowing, the museum also documents the rich history of the River Thames and the town of Henley. To mitigate the risk of occasional flooding, the museum is elevated on concrete pillars. It comprises two main parts: a transparent and open ground floor for general use, and first floor galleries illuminated by skylights. The design of each gallery allows boats to be easily maneuvered inside. The upper floors are clad in green oak timber, harmonizing with the local architecture and aging gracefully while maintaining breathability of the structure.
America's Cup Building 'Veles e Vents' - Valencia, Spain
Another impressive project by Chipperfield is the building in Valencia, Spain, which has become the focal point of the first European offshore competition in over 150 years. In 2006, Chipperfield won the competition to design the structure for the America's Cup. This led to the design of a project that would serve as the central base for the teams, while also allowing the public to witness the race. The public viewing platform of the four-story reinforced concrete building dominates the entire canal. The transparent façade between the stacked white horizontal planes provides an uninterrupted view of the sea throughout the structure. The ground floor of the building features VIP areas and restaurants. The building itself utilizes only a few materials. The white painted steel cladding defines the boundaries of the concrete structure, while the ceiling is covered with white metal panels housing linear flush-mounted lighting systems. The exterior floors are covered with solid wood, while white epoxy is used for the interior. Simple, brightly colored furniture adds a touch of vibrancy to the predominantly white building and helps differentiate the various zones within. Despite its simplicity, the building's strong context gives it the appearance of a living sculpture when viewed from the sea.
Neues Museum - Berlin, Germany
Completed in 2009, the Neues Museum in Berlin is considered one of Chipperfield's most significant works. The building has received numerous awards, including recognition as the best museum. Originally built by Friedrich August Stüler between 1841 and 1859, it suffered damage during the Second World War. After nearly 50 years of waiting for repairs, the decision was made to restore the building. Chipperfield's design approach aimed to strike a balance between faithfully restoring the original structure and incorporating contemporary elements. By meticulously restoring the remaining parts of the building and adding modern touches in a cohesive manner, he successfully brought the lost structure to the present day while honoring its history. The project showcases his ability to preserve the building's legacy while infusing it with a contemporary touch.
Ciutat de la Justicia - Barcelona, Spain
Completed in 2011, the 'Ciutat de la Justicia Barcelona' project was designed for the legal department of the government of L'hospitalet de Llobregat. Instead of being one large building, the project was planned as a group of eight separate but connected buildings spread across the project site. The designs of these eight blocks follow the same design language, with slight variations depending on their location and size. The space between the blocks, which are not aligned parallel to each other, is shaped by a strong focus on the surrounding landscape. While this irregular arrangement may seem contradictory for a legal structure, it is actually based on the principle of integrating each block harmoniously with its surroundings. David Chipperfield always prioritizes the integration of buildings with the environment. Therefore, regardless of the type of building, he approaches it with a fresh perspective to ensure its functionality. This approach is evident in the 'Ciutat de la Justicia Barcelona' project.
Royal Academy of Arts Master Plan - London, England
In 2018, David Chipperfield, an architect known for his work in various sectors, added the Royal Academy of Arts Master Plan Renovation Project to his portfolio. This project was undertaken to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Academy of Arts. The Royal Academy of Arts (RA), founded in 1768, is one of the oldest art institutions in the UK. It is located at Burlington House in London's Piccadilly.
In 1998, the Academy acquired a neighboring 19th-century building, and this project involved integrating the two buildings. A new program was developed for the additional structure, ensuring it harmonizes with the historic elements of the Academy. Modern features were introduced to the existing buildings, such as connecting Burlington Gardens to the restored grand entrance staircase to create a new public route. The historic amphitheater was also modernized, laboratories were transformed into art galleries, and the former library now serves as the 'Collections Gallery'. The project was carried out in close collaboration with 80 Royal Academics.
Since its opening in 2018, the project has enhanced the public experience and interaction, while preserving the identity and integrity of the RA.
Chipperfield as a Multidisciplinary Designer
In addition to his success in architectural design, David Chipperfield has also demonstrated his ability to maintain a consistent line and quality in his product designs, utilizing various materials. He applies his simple design approach to tables, chairs, armchairs, benches, bookcases, lighting, carpets, and various other objects.
David Chipperfield, a renowned and beloved master architect known for his simple and elegant interpretation of modernism, has received numerous awards and has undertaken projects that will serve as inspiration for future generations, thanks to his unique style. We eagerly anticipate the future endeavors of architect Sir David Chipperfield, who recently added the prestigious Pritzker 2023 award to his already remarkable professional history.