Architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize, has named Sir David Alan Chipperfield CH, as laureate of its 2023 edition. “Embracing the preexisting, designing and intervening in dialogue with time and place”, while creating “structures able to last, physically and culturally”, as the official statement of the award explains, David Chipperfield is the 52nd winner of the award founded in 1979, succeeding Francis Kéré in 2022, and Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal in 2021. The 45th Pritzker Prize ceremony, honoring David Chipperfield will be held in Athens, Greece this May.
Leading offices in London, Berlin, Milan, Shanghai, and Santiago de Compostela, the 2023 laureate is a civic architect, urban planner, and activist, with an extensive body of built projects that includes over one hundred works, spanning over four decades, covering 3 continents, and comprising different typologies. Recognized for his “subtle yet powerful, subdued yet elegant” approach, as well as his “commitment to an architecture of understated but transformative civic presence […] done always with austerity, avoiding unnecessary moves and steering clear of trends and fashions”, Chipperfield was knighted for his service to the world of architecture in 2010, received the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2011, the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture—the Mies van der Rohe Award and curated the 13th Biennale Architettura in 2012.
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.
—David Chipperfield, 2023 Pritzker Architecture Prize Winner.
Born in London in 1953 and raised on a countryside farm in Devon, southwest England, David’s first impression of architecture was shaped by his surroundings of barns and outbuildings. In 1976, he graduated from the Kingston School of Art and later on in 1980 from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. He began his career working for Norman Foster, the 1999 Pritzker Prize Laureate, and the late Richard Rogers, the 2007 Pritzker Prize Laureate. In 1985, he founded David Chipperfield Architects in London, which later expanded to additional offices in Berlin (1998), Shanghai (2005), Milan (2006), and Santiago de Compostela (2022). His first big projects include The River and Rowing Museum (Henley-on-Thames, 1989–1997) in his native country, the reconstruction and reinvention of the Neues Museum (1993–2009) and the newly constructed James-Simon-Galerie (1999–2018), both in Berlin, Germany.
Responsible for the renovation and rehabilitation of many structures around the world, Chipperfield’s “timeless modern design […] confronts climate urgencies, transforms social relationships, and reinvigorates cities”. With a vision based on radical restraint, reverence for history and culture, and respect for the preexisting built and natural environments, the architect converses with the old, bringing an architecture of the past to the foreground to yield moments of modernity as seen in the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany or the Procuratie Vecchie in Venice, Italy. Both buildings were reinvented, restored, and received new functional additions. For the renovation of the Neue Nationalgalerie, an icon of twentieth-century, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Chipperfield refurbished and upgraded to current technical standards with a minimum of visual compromise to the building’s original appearance, as explained in the project’s official description. “The refurbishment project does not represent a new interpretation, but rather a respectful repair of this landmark building of the International Style”. You can read more about the gallery in the ArchDaily Guide to Good Architecture.
As an architect, I’m in a way the guardian of meaning, memory, and heritage. Cities are historical records, and architecture after a certain moment is a historical record. Cities are dynamic, so they don’t just sit there, they evolve. And in that evolution, we take buildings away and we replace them with others. We choose ourselves, and the concept of only protecting the best is not enough. It’s also a matter of protecting character and qualities that reflect the richness of the evolution of a city.
—David Chipperfield, 2023 Pritzker Architecture Prize Winner.
Seeking to serve society with every project, even in private commissions, “he bestows unto society the opportunity for coexistence and communion, protecting individuality while fostering a societal sense of belonging”, according to the jury. For America’s Cup Building ‘Veles e Vents’ (Valencia, Spain 2006), the acclaimed architect imagined an exterior space that exceeds the interior areas, a first-floor open retail space, and an accessible deck with a ramp linked to the public park. Moreover, through the Morland Mixité Capitale (Paris, France, 2022), a restoration and addition project, Chipperfield aimed to revitalize the neighborhood. He also took this opportunity to create inviting spaces for everyone to gather and to use as visual and physical passageways to the Seine River from the Boulevard Morland. His design for the headquarters for Amorepacific (Seoul, South Korea, 2017) harmonized between individual and collective, encouraging a rapport between the building’s occupants, its neighbors, and observers. At the Inagawa Cemetery Chapel and Visitor Center (Hyogo, Japan, 2017), it was about generating interconnected expressions between the physical and spiritual, between places of solitude and gathering.
In a world where many architects view a commission as an opportunity to add to their own portfolio, he responds to each project with specific tools that he has selected with preciseness and great care. Sometimes it requires a gesture that is strong and monumental, while other times, it requires him to almost disappear. But his buildings will always stand the test of time because the ultimate goal of his operation is to serve the greater good. The avoidance of what’s fashionable has allowed him to remain permanent.
—Alejandro Aravena, Jury Chair and 2016 Pritzker Prize Laureate.
“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,” explains the 2023 Pritzker Prize Laureate about his architectural understanding. “A fruition of cultural diversity”, the work of David Chipperfield “unifies European classicism, the complex nature of Britain, and even the delicateness of Japan”, according to the 2023 Citation. Other significant works by David Chipperfield include the BBC Scotland headquarters (Glasgow, United Kingdom, 2007), Turner Contemporary (Margate, United Kingdom, 2011), Campus Saint Louis Art Museum (Missouri, United States of America, 2013), Campus Joachimstraße (Berlin, Germany, 2013), Museo Jumex (Mexico City, Mexico, 2013), One Pancras Square (London, United Kingdom, 2013), Royal Academy of Arts masterplan (London, United Kingdom, 2018), Hoxton Press (London, United Kingdom, 2018), and Kunsthaus Zürich (Zurich, Switzerland, 2020). Some of Chipperfield’s ongoing projects include the very recent National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece, the 2026 Winter Olympics Arena in Milan, and restoration plans for the Grand Hotel in Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
Chipperfield has received many awards during his four decades of architectural contributions, including the RIBA Royal Gold Medal (United Kingdom, 2011), the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture—the Mies van der Rohe Award (Spain, 2011), and the Heinrich Tessenow Medal (Germany, 1999). He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts (2008), awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2009), and the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale for Architecture (Japan 2013), and is a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the Bund Deutscher Architekten. He was the curator of the 13th Biennale Architettura in 2012, presenting the theme, Common Ground; selected as the architectural mentor for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative in 2016–2017; and the guest editor for Domus in 2020. He was a Professor of Architecture at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stuttgart from 1995 to 2001 and Norman R. Foster Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at Yale University in 2011. In 2017, he has established the Fundación RIA which sponsors research, promotes ideas, and aligns future development fostering locally-focused protection of the natural and built environments related to global challenges along the coast of the Ría de Arousa.
2023 Pritzker Prize Jury Citation
The Pritzker Prize is conferred in acknowledgment of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which have persistently produced significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The career of David Chipperfield is marked by a long term, rigour and consistency in a body of work that has seamlessly integrated and balanced both terms of that equation.
The careful, well-crafted, precise and calm responses he has offered to the goals aspired to in his buildings can only originate in a deep and sustained knowledge of the discipline. Yet, those responses are never self-centred, nor do they serve in any way as art for art’s sake: rather, they always remained focused on the higher purpose of the undertaking and on the pursuit of civic and public good.
David Chipperfield ‘does his job’, and he does it by balancing relevancy and stature. To operate anchored to the body of knowledge of the discipline or architecture requires both intelligence and modesty; to put such knowledge at the service of a given project requires talent and maturity. He has in every case skilfully chosen the tools that are instrumental to the project instead of those that might only celebrate the architect as artist. Such an approach explains how it is that a gifted architect can sometimes almost disappear when working on the restoration or renovation of existing buildings and architectural masterpieces like those on Berlin’s Museum Island or even more in the case of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. It also explains why the wide spectrum of David Chipperfield’s skills appears in full when he is called upon to create from scratch.
Always characterized by elegance, restraint, a sense of permanence, as well as clear compositions and refined detailing, his buildings each time exude clarity, surprise, sophisticated contextuality and confident presence. In an era of excessive commercialization, over-designing, and over-exaggeration, he can always achieve balance: between a modern minimalistic architectural language and freedom of expression, between abstract statements and rigorous elegance never devoid of complexity.
While preserving a meticulous yet consistent quality of design, David Chipperfield has continually worked across a wide array of building types from public civic buildings to commercial, residential and retail structures. But from early in his career, museums have been a particular focus. Ranging across small-scale works free standing in the landscape to large-scale monuments in prominent and often complex and delicate urban locations, his museum buildings have always defied the notion that a museum is a place for elite culture. Over and over, he has interpreted the demands of the museum program to create not only a showcase for art but also a place interwoven with its city, breaking down boundaries and inviting the public at large to engage. Over and over, his museum buildings have generated new civic spaces, new patterns of movement in the city and new ways of integrating existing fabric.
At once architectural and museological projects, in Chipperfield’s hands museums as institutions and buildings offer a transformation of the urban life of the cities where they are located. Generous outdoor spaces make them not fortresses but connectors, places for gathering and observing, such that the building itself is a gift to the city, a common ground even for those who never enter the galleries. In short, his buildings embody a commanding balance of the seemingly contradictory notions of being complete in and of themselves as architectural designs where every detail is conceived as a carefully studied part of a whole, and at the same time create interconnections to the city and to the society in such a way as to fundamentally transform a whole district.
In his persistent search for a diverse, solid and coherent body of work, David Chipperfield manages not to deviate from a serious consideration of the genius loci—the spirit of the place—or of the growing diverse cultural contexts in which he works. We do not see an instantly recognizable David Chipperfield building in different cities, but different David Chipperfield buildings designed specifically for each circumstance. Each asserts its presence even as his buildings create new connections with the neighbourhood. His architectural language balances consistency with the fundamental design principles and flexibility towards the local cultures. He includes colonnades in his European projects and courtyards in the Chinese ones, he utilizes local materials in luxurious ways, ordinary techniques in complex structures. He enhances the quality of people’s lives through a poetic sensation that always flows from his buildings. The work of David Chipperfield unifies European classicism, the complex nature of Britain and even the delicateness of Japan. It is the fruition of cultural diversity.
This commitment to an architecture of understated but transformative civic presence and the definition—even through private commissions—of the public realm, is done always with austerity, avoiding unnecessary moves and steering clear of trends and fashions, all of which is a most relevant message to our contemporary society. Such a capacity to distil and perform meditated design operations is a dimension of sustainability that has not been obvious in recent years: sustainability as pertinence, not only eliminates the superfluous but is also the first step to creating structures able to last, physically and culturally.
No wonder one of the attributes that come to mind when experiencing the work of David Chipperfield is that of a classic, something that will be able to stand the test of time. Classic not by style but by being faithful to a responsibility towards the act and to the art of building, faithful to the three essential Vitruvian qualities: firmitas, utilitas, venustas (strength, usefulness, beauty).Far from looking towards creating iconic, isolated statements, Chipperfield alternates restraint and courage in a very personal interpretation of the role of architecture.
David Chipperfield believes that is the role of the architect to foster new ways of improving life and livelihoods on a planet where mankind has made our very home a place of fragility. His vision of such role has continually expanded from ways to integrate an individual building into both its site and its local culture, to understanding the broadest definition of site and culture.
In more recent years, this has taken the form not of building but of bringing spatial and environmental expertise to curate and care for the landscapes of a region which he has come to call a second home, Galicia in North-western Spain. Here the Fundación RIA has sought to advise on preserving the intertwined landscape, agriculture, ecology and land traditions of a region to help preserve and extend an eco-system into the coming decades even in the face of the challenges of climate change.
For the rigour, integrity and pertinence of a body of work that—beyond the realm of the architecture discipline—speaks for his social and environmental commitment, David Chipperfield is named the 2023 Pritzker Prize Laureate.
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