Pritzker Prize for 2023 to David Chipperfield
The world’s most prestigious international prize for architecture is going this year to David Chipperfield of the United Kingdom. All the world’s design prizes are currently reflecting concerns about social and environmental impact, and this year’s Pritzker Prize choice reflects both concerns.
As the prize press release states, Chipperfield has carried out over 100 design commissions over the past four decades. To quote that release, his works are consistently “subdued yet elegant,” showing “a reverence for history and culture while honoring the existing built and natural environments.” They often juxtapose smooth, minimally detailed surfaces with pre-existing rough or richly ornamented ones. Meticulous attention to both interiors and exteriors often extends to surrounding open spaces.
The firm of David Chipperfield Architects, established in 1983 in London now has offices as well in Berlin, Milan, Shanghai, and Santiago de Compostela. Many of his projects, widely dispersed worldwide, have been executed in association with local design firms.
Diversity and Environmental Considerations
Chipperfield’s honor is Prtizker’s first awarded to a single white male since 2016. When the Prtizker was initiated in 1979, males still overwhelmingly dominated the architecture profession, and the first 23 of the 45 previous winners were all individual men. In 2001, when the prize’s rules had been adjusted to allow partners to share the honor, two men took the honor jointly. In 2004 the first individual woman winner was Zaha Hadid (Iraqi background, London office). Since then, the prize has gone four times to partnerships that have included both men and women.
As for ethnic diversity, the fifth winner, back in 1993, was the Chinese-American I.M. Pei. Five Japanese architects have won individually, and more recently the man-woman partnership SANAA from Japan. One individual man each from India and China has taken the prize. Last year saw the first Black winner, Diébédo Francis Kéré, of Burkina Faso, whose firm is headquartered in Germany. (For information on all winners, see pritzkerprize.com/laureates.)
In terms of social and environmental sensitivity, many of Chipperfield’s most notable works are open to the public and many involve the preservation of existing structures. As 2023 Pritzker jury chair Alejandro Aravena of Chile – the 2016 winner – observes, Chipperfield wisely determines in each case whether a given project calls for “a strong, monumental gesture” or requires him “to almost disappear.” Like the majority of Pritzker honorees, Chipperfield has done work in several countries, including the United States.
Some Exemplary Works
One of the architect’s earliest works, the River and Rowing Museum at Henley-on-Thames, UK, (1997), while new from the ground up, consciously embodies some of the geometries of the area’s historic buildings, along with traditional materials such as weathered wood siding and lead-coated metal roofing.
Another building with nautical associations is his Americas Cup Building in Valencia, Spain (2006), designed and built on a tight schedule for a sailing event. Its facilities and spaces – including broad viewing decks – had to accommodate visitors from around the world. Its forms and materials have no apparent references to historical or regional architecture, but rather to the colors and cantilevered configurations of sailing boats.
The BBC Scotland Headquarters in Glasgow (2007), on an abandoned shipbuilding site, is organized to accommodate the varied spatial needs of this communications company within a rectangular volume. Its terraced central atrium provides for circulation while offering a variety of meeting spaces. Studios and other facilities requiring enclosure are stacked beneath the atrium, while offices to either side have welcome views of the River Clyde.
Chipperfield won an international design competition — in collaboration with Julian Harrap — for the rebuilding of the Neues Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island (2009). This extensive mid-19th-century complex, devastated in World War II, had been left in ruins for decades thereafter. A key feature of the restored complex is a new main stairwell, flanked by walls that show remnants of old frescoes and evidence of wartime damage.
Located in Wakefield in West Yorkshire, UK, the Hepworth Wakefield (2011) contains galleries designed to display, among other works, those of Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), an internationally famed artist who grew up there. The building appears to rise from the meandering River Calder, which serves as a source for its environmentally efficient heating and cooling systems. The varied trapezoidal volumes of the galleries, with no two sides parallel, can be daylighted through controllable bands of window at the peaks of their roofs.
The 2013 addition to the Saint Louis Art Museum, designed in collaboration with HOK, is discretely located behind the main building, designed by Cass Gilbert for the 1904 World’s Fair. Dark concrete façades add to the subtlety of its exterior. Inside, coffered ceilings offer maximum flexibility for lighting and moveable walls. Landscaping includes a new sculpture garden, and parking facilities below ground anticipate growing attendance.
Developed along with public spaces for its Mexico City neighborhood, the Museo Jumex (2013) was designed in collaboration with TAAU / Oscar Rodriguez architects. It stands as a distinctly sculpted volume, clad in locally-sourced travertine, holding its own among surrounding towers. Fourteen squat concrete columns raise the museum’s volume, offering easy access to a spacious entrance loggia above. Saw-tooth roofs of the 30-foot-tall top-floor galleries admit ample, controllable daylight.
Another totally Modern, totally new, project is the office building for the Amorepacific cosmetic company in Seoul, South Korea (2017). Its geometrically cubic form stands out boldly from its urban surroundings, and the open spaces carved out of it offer welcome greenery and views for its occupants.
The two apartment towers of Hoxton Press (2018) were built as part of a program to expand affordable housing and diversity in London’s borough of Hackney. Their hexagonal plans give each of the 198 units maximum exterior exposure, and all have angular corner balconies as extensions of their living areas. Exteriors are clad in handmade bricks, all made from the same clay but differing in color, a muted red for the 16-story tower and a warm gray for the 20-story neighbor.
Given the widespread satisfaction with his Neues Museum renovation, Chipperfield was commissioned to design the neighboring James Simon Gallery, completed in 2018. It links the Museum Island’s five eminent institutions and provides shared visitor facilities for them, along with gallery spaces. Its attenuated colonnades boldly identify this valued addition as new while making visible reference to the island’s prevailing Neoclassicism.
Chipperfield’s exceptional design skills are demonstrated in his 2022 restoration and functional updating of the Procuratie Vecchie, a 16th-century structure that forms one wall of the Piazza Vecchia in Venice. While refurbishing its iconic exterior, the architect has adapted the building for 21st-century needs with new vertical circulation, auditorium, exhibition and event spaces, at the same time restoring some prized design features of its interiors.
Notable Works to Come
Among Chipperfield’s work not yet completed (assuming they proceed) are: a prominent adapted, sensitively altered building for the urban campus of the London School of Economics; a major expansion of the National Archeological Museum in Athens; a competition-winning design for an expanded Parliamentary Precinct in Ottawa, Canada; an addition and renovation of the Municipal Council Building in Shanghai; and a sensitive hotel conversion of the former American Embassy in London, designed by Eero Saarinen. (An extensive list of Chipperfield’s projects, with ample photos and texts, can be found at davidchipperfield.com/projects.)
This year’s Pritzker Prize ceremony will be held in Athens in May. The prize is sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation of Chicago. The jury consists of eight eminent architects, architectural teachers, historians, and aficionados, usually including one or more previous winners.