David Chipperfield’s Approach to Architecture
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The architect David Chipperfield has won the Pritzker Architecture Prize. It is one of the most prestigious architectural prizes in the world. Chipperfield is known for his commitment to reusing structures rather than demolishing them and “his reverence for history and culture while honoring the preexisting built and natural environments, as he reimagines functionality and accessibility of new buildings,” as the Pritzker announcement puts it.
While very much a modern architect, he is also something of a localist. He told Richard Waite that “COVID taught us the importance of our community, the place where we live, the street where our houses are, the shop on the corner. Add to that the unreliability of global supply chains. [It brings issues] ‘closer to home’. And from an architectural point of view, that’s not a bad thing at all. Working closer to the subject as opposed to being dependent on global tendencies should play into our hands. It is another very interesting moment to be an architect.”
For Chipperfield, the local environment and the purpose of the building should shape its design. Justin Shubow posted this cheeky comment about his somewhat brutalist judicial complex in Barcelona. Chipperfield said: “These are great big legal factories. Do you take a machine and disguise it or do you celebrate its normative qualities?... Do you somehow make it more friendly...? It seemed daft to do that...” Jocelyn Noveck writes that in an interview Chipperfield underscores the importance of architecture that serves people:
“I think architects are a bit confused as to whether they’re artists or a service industry. In a way, we’re much more the latter,” he said. “Our relationship is much more entangled in society, and so it should be. And that gives us a special role … but it comes at a price. It comes at a price that we have to engage in a meaningful manner.”
He mused that as an architect, he feels an obligation not only to the “visible clients” — the ones who make the commissions and pay the bills — but to the “invisible” clients, “the people who are going to work in that building, live in that building, visit that building, or even pass that building every day on their way to their work. We have to, in a way, in the back of our heads, represent that client as much as the one that pays our bills.”
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