David Chipperfield_cabecera

David Chipperfield, the Pritzker Laureate of the design thinking

Hoxton Press appartment building_David Chipperfield_Pritzker Prize 2023
Hoxton Press, photo courtesy of Simon Menges

Next May the Brittish architect Sir David Alan Chipperfield will receive at his 70’s the Pritzker Prize. Considered in some way the Nobel Prize for architects this recognition has been awarded this time to a professional not dedicated to imprime its own character in each building making it reconsineable as a Chipperfield architectural artwork at first sight.

Consciusly or not the Pritzker prize this year recognises a master of the responsible design thinking applied to provide the right setting for each place.

“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,” Chipperfield says.

He has devoted all his efforts to a persistent search for a diverse, solid and coherent body of work, always attached to a serious consideration of the ‘genius loci’ (the spirit of the place) and to the consideration of the growing diverse cultural contexts in which he works. We do not find an instantly recognizable David Chipperfield building in different cities, but different David Chipperfield buildings designed specifically for each circumstance and surrounding.

“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,” David Alan Chipperfield underscores.

The Pritzker Price 2023 is not a recognition to modern architecture understood as a recognisable way of shaping buildings but to design thinking, to a way of making architecture actually timeless because of its flexible and choral approach to each project.

America's Cup Building_David Chipperfield_Pritzker Prize 2023
America’s Cup Building ‘Veles e Vents,’ photos courtesy of Christian Richters

David Chipperfield is able to put his own ego aside in order to service the needs of the project itself but each of the diverse buildings designed by his practice have a common and recognisable sense of purpose. A sense of purpose rooted in sustainbility considerations, embracing diversity, favoring a clever evolution with respect to heritage (in his restauration projects) and the respect for the environment in all its declinations. An essential architecture with purpose. Further than minimalist, nudely good.

No one better than Sir David Chipperfield himself to explain the princliples behind the buildings designed by his practice, David Chipperfield Architects . That’s why Eastwind has decided to let him talk in this report transcribing the four monologues of the laureate 2023 provided to the press by the Pritzker Prize Organisation.

Architecture is a societyly engaged product, which is the outcome of a collective process

“My name is David Chipperfield and I spend a lot of my life building in other people’s cultures, and I think that it puts a higher sense of responsibility culturally and societyly on the architect.”

Inagawa Cemetery_David Cipperfield_Pritzker Prize 2023
Inagawa Cemetery Chapel and Visitor Center, photos courtesy of Keiko Sasaoka

“Architects have a sort of extrange relationship to the buildings because, at the end, you live them.”…”they consum you five or six years and they mean a lot to you”…but…”like your children, you have to step away from them.”

“The most underestimated aspect of architecture is process. The reality is that a good buildings come from a good process. The process means that ypu engage in collaborating with different forces. And if you’re fortunate as we are to have lots of clients where the dialogue in the process is a fudamental part of making architecture, then I think you can’t underestimate that Architecture is not a product is a societyly engaged product and that’s what makes architechture more important.

And I think as architects have a general perspective in the sense we can see the connections between different aspects of environment good architecture provides a setting, you know, is there and is not there, like all things that have great meaning, there are both foreground and background.

Amorepacific Headquarters_Seoul_South Korea
Amorepacific Headquarters, photos courtesy of Noshe

Experiences I gravitate toward and enjoy more are when normal things are made more special, as opposed everything is about special.
And I think that we need to step in that territory much more in the sense of being more proactive in insisting in the quality environment, because I think its profounding in our quality of live”.

Architects can’t operate outside of society, so we need society to come with us: profit is not the early thing that shoud be motivating our decissions

“Architecture is something that can intensify and support and help our retoes and our lives. We need buildings, we need spaces, we need streets to be organised. The question is, can we do that with care and consideration by everything?. I think good architecture isn’t something that tells you, is not a performance, but after you feel confortable in some way you start to realize that the reason you feel confortable ’cause is credible foterground is actually quite nice. When I did the Venice Biennale a number of years ago, what I was trying to say is gais, instead of our sole promoting ourselves and meet you, why don’t we promote ourselves collectively?, what do we offer society, what’s our relationship with society, what is our common ground and what we should be tunning with. I think that our concerns about diversity, about environment, about social inequality, these general concerns are profoundly bound to our future and to the future generations. And we have to find ways to generally addressing this sense.

Essentially what we have to hope now is that the environment of crisis makes us reconsider priorities of society, the profit is not the early thing that shoud be motivating our decissions.
Architects can’t operate outside of society, so we need society to come with us”

For reasons of sustainability in ressource, we will have to be much more considered to how we are using buildings and extend their lives instead of replacing them

“Architecture’s voice concerns their effort and your permanence. Cathedrals, churches, and any sort of monuments are inspired of an idea of permanence. And our private practice has become may be more involved in restauration projects than I’ve imagined 30 years ago. I have to say I think that all I’ve found is richness in the process of restoring of buildings or working with previosuly built architechtural monuments or even just normal buildings. Now is a very interesting moment where concepts are permanence and changing.

First of all the tendency to nock things down as soon as we think that they are out of date, redone in any way or unfashionable is going to be checked. We have to think in many different ways now and not to state that a building is a sort of monument and is a monument birth to a society and the architect that has designed it and that it is going to last forever.

Procuratie Vecchie_David Chipperfield_Pritzker Prize 2023
Procuratie Vecchie, noe the headquerters of Generally insurance company in Venice -Italy-. Photos by courtesy of Richard Davies, Alessandra Chemollo and Alberto Parise.

I think we will have to be much more considered to how we are using buildings and extending their lives instead of thorn it away and replace them, for reasons of sustainability in ressource. The interesting thing in our restauration is it requires a sort of files of up position to start with.

The second thing about restauration is that I think we’ve enjoyed and we’ve discovered it’s a much more collaborative process than building a new building. You engage as many people as you can into that process. But in some degree, you are having to convince people of the qualities and what they have to imagine. I’m in a way the guardian of meaning memory and heritage and. There is a meaning from us here and it puts all histories into focus”.

Architecture is a collaborative process with technical partners inside the practice umbrella but also beyond the practice if we want to deal with bigger societyl issues

“The proffesional architecture struggles with a condition, which is one where and architectural practice has behind eight persons or a couple of people. Normally the people has started this venture but automatically this venture is totally dependent on a team of people. My concern is to create an umbrella under which people are protected and give them the opportunity to produce architecture at a high standard. Most architectural planning processes are so complex that one person couldn’t hold questions in their head anyway, so is may responsibility in a way to keep the office in the right way. But there’s no way one can do any of this without the quality of people somewhere are doing. So the question for us and my parters is how we set this up for the future generations and how do we keep this going beyond us and how do we embed this with criteria, qualities and ambitions that don’t depend on us as a maintainers of that but some sort of longevity from the talented younger generations we have in office.

The Hepworth Wakefield _David Chipperfield_Pritzker Prize 2023
The Hepworth Wakefield, photos courtesy of Iwan Baan

Fundamentally architecture is a profound and collaborative process, more than any other. And I think that if we really want to re-engage and we want to deal with bigger societyl issues, social inequality and environmental sustainability, then we have to be part of a bigger conversation as well, and in order to have a conversation you need other partners beyond technical and proffessional ones.

My generation passed the cushion direct to the next generation. Don’t imitate us, but learn from us and do it in a way you find new directions. I don’t think architecture in the future is going to be concerned with this image and identity. Is going to be more important about process, how do we make architecture, is going to be mor econcerned with relevance, why we…and is going to be more concerned with purpose, for what are we doing…”

Cities must change but cleverly in terms of maintaining their own significance and meaning and in terms of drawing on the ressources and qualities they already have in a sustainable way

“More than one architecture wants two allides off with progress and advance, and in some ways that is a contradiction with architechture ’cause in architecture the issues are timeless. Cities are records of our history, a cumulous of sedimentary organic and they are themselves a record historically and aussi now the city is a dinamic changing thing. But in contemporary times we find ourselves another times in terms of scale, remodelized parts of the city and in some ways removing some of those layers clearly we all understood that keeping historically significant buildings is something we must do as quite well established. And here the question is what role ought to other more anonimous buildings of the city play in recording and creating the quimic and character of a city wich creates its particular qualities. You can’t fosilize cities, you know, they have to change and therefore they have to become more clever in doing advance particularly in its promise of maintaining the significance and meaning of the city itself.

James-Simon-Galerie_David Chipperfield_Pritzker prize 2023
James-Simon-Galerie, photos by courtesy of Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects

And the second is in terms of ressources and the use of ressources. That knocking down of old buildings of also their qualities is going to become more and more questionable.
So I think I have to abidegain of this dialogue. Cities should be about looking for continuity, looking for things which, you know, harsh in ideas on from one time to another.”

Image over the headline.- Sir David Alan Chipperfield (Pritzker Prize Laureate 2023). Image by courtesy of Tom Welsh.

Related external links:

Architecture: A Societally-Engaged Product (video)

A Continuation of Common Ground (video)

Meaning, Memory and Heritage (video)

Architecture as a Collaborative Process (video)

Cities: Records of History (video)

David Chipperfield (Biography)

More on David Chipperfield and David Chipperfield Architects

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