Pritzker Prize 2023: David Chipperfield wins the ‘Nobel of structure’

Pritzker Prize 2023: David Chipperfield wins the ‘Nobel of structure’

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

All through its 44-year historical past, the Pritzker Prize — considered the “Nobel of structure” — has typically been awarded to people with distinct design signatures: Frank Gehry’s irregular kinds, Zaha Hadid’s sweeping curves, Tadao Ando’s textural concrete.

It might be an indication of the occasions that 2023’s laureate, Sir David Chipperfield, has been praised by the prize’s judges for exactly the alternative.

“A gifted architect can typically nearly disappear,” reads the jury’s quotation, printed Tuesday because the 69-year-old was unveiled as the newest recipient of his occupation’s highest honor. “We don’t see an immediately recognizable David Chipperfield constructing in numerous cities,” it provides, “however completely different David Chipperfield buildings designed particularly for every circumstance.”

Though best-known for cultural establishments, like Des Moines Public Library in Iowa, the UK’s Turner Up to date gallery and his reimagined Neues Museum in Berlin, the English architect’s agency has accomplished over 100 buildings all over the world. Spanning residential, business and public makes use of, the understated works aren’t outlined by trademark motifs however by Chipperfield’s insistence on answering what he calls the distinctive “questions” posed by every mission.

“I am not that enthusiastic about structure as an autobiographical train,” he mentioned on a video name from London. “(We) are type of a midwife on this course of. After we end a constructing, we go residence — we depart it, and it belongs to someone else (and) we’re not there to justify it and promote it anymore. It has to promote itself.”

Vertical aluminum fins pass across the glass facade of the David Chipperfield-designed headquarters for beauty firm Amorepacific, in Seoul, South Korea.

Vertical aluminum fins cross throughout the glass facade of the David Chipperfield-designed headquarters for magnificence agency Amorepacific, in Seoul, South Korea. Credit score: Noshe

Chatting with CNN forward of Tuesday’s announcement, Chipperfield partly — and modestly — attributed his strategy to a “lack of expertise,” describing himself as “not an authentic genius in the best way some, like Frank Gehry, are.” He additionally acknowledged that architects typically have little alternative however to stamp their identification on their work.

“Architects have grow to be merchandise. And merchandise need to be distinguishable from one another,” he mentioned, including: “So, they profile themselves, form themselves and current themselves in slight opposition to one another. In a approach, their signature and their autograph grow to be a part of their branding, and subsequently their company and business success. I’ve someway been shy of that, or a minimum of I discovered that counterproductive.”

Because the prize’s jury attests, Chipperfield’s obvious lack of ego (in an trade that usually glorifies nice people) has confirmed an asset. He’s the newest in a string of Pritzker laureates with few, and even no, conventionally iconic buildings to their identify. Final yr’s prize was awarded to Burkina Faso-born Francis Kéré, whose profession has been largely dedicated to varsities, well being facilities and group amenities in Africa. The yr earlier than, design duo Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, finest recognized for renovating France’s postwar social housing buildings, claimed the glory.
Located on the north coast of Kent, UK, the Turner Contemporary museum sees a concrete frame with acid-etched glass skin raised on a plinth.

Situated on the north coast of Kent, UK, the Turner Up to date museum sees a concrete body with acid-etched glass pores and skin raised on a plinth. Credit score: Courtesy Simon Menges

First awarded to American architect Philip Johnson in 1979, the Pritzker Prize continues to acknowledge what it describes as architects’ “constant and vital contributions to humanity and the constructed atmosphere.” However inside that broad remit, the deserves on which winners are judged look like evolving. So, would possibly Chipperfield’s victory herald a wider shift, not solely in structure however society at massive?

“I hope you are a bit bit proper,” Chipperfield mentioned. “The interval … distinguished by the type of ‘icon’ structure of the final 30 years — I am hoping that is a bit prior to now now. It does, inside the perspective of sustainability and social inequality, begin to look a bit bit irrelevant.”

Grasp of the museum

None of that is to say that Chipperfield’s buildings lack gravitas. Look no additional than the stepped atrium of BBC Scotland’s headquarters or the daring cantilevered slabs of his America’s Cup Constructing in Valencia, Spain. He has additionally flirted with unconventional shapes, such because the jagged sawtooth roof of the Museo Jumex in Mexico Metropolis.

The BBC Scotland Headquarters was built at an abandoned shipbuilding site along the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

The BBC Scotland Headquarters was constructed at an deserted shipbuilding web site alongside the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Credit score: Courtesy Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects

What unites these seemingly disparate kinds is a respect for every web site’s context and an emphasis on course of. How a constructing was made, why it was made, what it was constructed from and who it was made for ought to, Chipperfield mentioned, matter greater than the “magnificence parade estimation of structure as picture.”

“In our tradition, the visible has dominated as a result of it is a lot simpler to see a constructing on the entrance of an in-flight journal than it’s (to) expertise it… I believe we’re shifting now. And I believe the visible and the formal will grow to be very subordinate to course of. How we construct, what we construct, the place the supplies come from — the entire provide chain, each by way of sustainability and even by way of ethics — will grow to be the vital issues. And we’ll see magnificence another way.”

“Structure is about expertise and substance, greater than fleeting imagery,” he added.

Museo Jumex in Mexico City was among six buildings shortlisted for the coveted RIBA International Prize in 2016.

Museo Jumex in Mexico Metropolis was amongst six buildings shortlisted for the coveted RIBA Worldwide Prize in 2016. Credit score: Courtesy Simon Menges

In successful the Pritzker Prize, Chipperfield joins an inventory of contemporary architectural greats that features two of his former bosses: Norman Foster and the late Richard Rogers, winners in 1999 and 2007, respectively. Having graduated within the late Nineteen Seventies, he joined their respective workplaces as they started to wield “a really massive affect,” he recalled.

Chipperfield’s work might, on its floor, share little in frequent with a pair recognized for “high-tech” designs that celebrated their underlying engineering by way of daring shows of uncovered metal, glass and aluminum. However, he mentioned, he inherited from them a collaborative strategy — one which views structure because the work of groups, not lone geniuses.

“As a way to (produce) a constructing, you want a structural engineer, a mechanical engineer, somebody who’s actually serving to you handle the prices,” he added. “And infrequently these individuals are at arm’s size… Norman Foster and Richard Rogers each introduced these professionals to the desk as a part of the design course of. And that was an actual shift.”

The Hepworth Wakefield, an art museum in the UK, is composed of 10 interlinked trapezoidal volumes.

The Hepworth Wakefield, an artwork museum within the UK, consists of 10 interlinked trapezoidal volumes. Credit score: Courtesy Iwan Baan

After organising his personal agency in 1984, Chipperfield accomplished a sequence of commissions in Japan, the place his modest strategy chimed with the nation’s personal minimalist aesthetic. He has gone on to construct extra outdoors the UK than inside it, working extensively in continental Europe, North America and Asia, whereas opening workplaces in Berlin, Milan and Shanghai.

One in all his early successes was, nevertheless, accomplished in his residence nation: The River and Rowing Museum, within the British city of Henley, which nodded to the Thames’ conventional wood boat sheds. His agency has since grow to be one thing of a museum specialist, with its portfolio of establishments starting from the Zheijiang Museum of Pure Historical past in China to the Anchorage Museum in Alaska.

These buildings typically provide beneficiant public gestures, like the large waterfront promenade of Shanghai’s West Bund Museum, which serves because the Centre Pompidou’s first Chinese language outpost. Chipperfield additionally incessantly employs native supplies — like aggregates made from stone and sand sourced from the Missouri River, that give texture to the polished concrete of Saint Louis Artwork Museum’s prolonged East Wing.
In collaboration with architecture firm HOK, David Chipperfield designed an understated extension to the Saint Louis Art Museum.

In collaboration with structure agency HOK, David Chipperfield designed an understated extension to the Saint Louis Artwork Museum. Credit score: Courtesy Simon Menges

Regardless of the fee, Chipperfield’s museums intention to dispel the notion that cultural establishments are stuffy or elitist.

“The museum has, for the reason that Nineteenth century, advanced from being a temple for the educated to a… place that ought to have a way more democratic and wider outreach,” he mentioned, including: “The problem of cultural establishments is to not get individuals who usually go to cultural establishments to go to them, however to encourage different individuals to go there.”

With this, comes one other precept that underpins his works: {That a} museum’s constructing shouldn’t outshine what’s discovered inside.

“Museums… give architects numerous freedom,” he mentioned. “And typically they’ve used that freedom to make the museum extra concerning the structure than it’s about their contents.”

Navigating historical past

Lots of Chipperfield’s most celebrated initiatives are — unusually for a serious architect — works of restoration and renovation, somewhat than constructions constructed from scratch.

He has been tasked with evenly treading on among the world’s most delicate architectural websites, whether or not refurbishing Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin or designing China’s new London embassy on the positioning of Britain’s former Royal Mint. (The latter was successfully halted in December, after native officers blocked plans on safety grounds).
The America's Cup Building in Valencia, Spain, was completed in just 11 months to host the first America's Cup in Europe in over 150 years.

The America’s Cup Constructing in Valencia, Spain, was accomplished in simply 11 months to host the primary America’s Cup in Europe in over 150 years. Credit score: Courtesy Christian Richters

His transformation of Berlin’s mid-Nineteenth-century Neues Museum, which was badly broken throughout bombing in World Battle II, is in the meantime thought of amongst his agency’s biggest triumphs. Upon its reopening in 2009, Germany’s then-chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly described Chipperfield’s work as “spectacular and extraordinary,” whereas calling Neues “one of the vital museum buildings in European cultural historical past.”

His restrained ethos appears well-suited to such duties. Bringing outdated buildings again to life isn’t just about restoring operate however making a dialogue between previous and current — balancing respect for historical past with the necessity for change. By reinterpreting outdated kinds and giving them new relevance, Chipperfield has deftly charted a course between the 2.

“We’re now speaking about conservation as progress,” he mentioned, arguing that rising calls to guard heritage shouldn’t simply apply to acknowledged monuments.

“We have to reuse — and query the pulling down of — much less vital buildings (too), not solely from a place of useful resource, but in addition by way of what a metropolis means. If we knock issues down each 20 years and begin once more, town loses numerous its attraction and which means as a result of cities are cumulative, bodily and socially.”

Even earlier than the Pritzker Prize announcement, Chipperfield was among the many world’s most adorned dwelling architects. He was knighted in 2010 and gained each the Mies van der Rohe Award and RIBA Royal Gold Medal the following yr earlier than changing into the primary British architect to curate the Venice Structure Biennale.

The David Chipperfield-designed James-Simon Galerie serves as the gateway to Berlin's historic Museum Island.

The David Chipperfield-designed James-Simon Galerie serves because the gateway to Berlin’s historic Museum Island. Credit score: Courtesy Célia Uhalde

Having judged varied awards, Chipperfield is aware of that main prizes are sometimes used both to thank architects for a lifetime’s work or to supply encouragement earlier of their careers (both a “pat on the pinnacle” or “a pat on the underside,” as he put it). However whereas he sees himself as “extra within the former than the latter,” he’s arguably now producing one of the best work of his profession.

His agency’s James-Simon-Galerie constructing, whose colonnaded courtyard welcomes guests to Berlin’s historic Museum Island, was shortlisted for the celebrated 2021 RIBA Worldwide Prize. And Chipperfield’s restoration of the Procuratie Vecchie, in Venice’s St. Mark’s Sq., in the meantime opened the grand construction to the general public in 2022 for the primary time in its 500-year historical past. Conventional artisans restored its centuries-old flooring and different historic fittings, whereas rooftop terraces and new exhibition areas invite guests into locations beforehand hidden from view.
His agency has greater than two dozen different initiatives underway. Essentially the most lately introduced of them will see the plinth at Athens’ neoclassical Nationwide Archaeological Museum prolonged to release house for underground galleries. Fittingly, the Greek capital has been chosen to host the ceremony at which Chipperfield will likely be formally awarded the Pritzker Prize. Like earlier winners, he’ll obtain a $100,000 grant and a bronze medal.

“We do not work for prizes, clearly, and you set them to the again of your thoughts,” he mentioned. “However they’re extraordinarily good after they come alongside.”