Vor einigen Tagen erhielt der britische Architekt David Chipperfield den ULI Germany Leadership Award für sein Lebenswerk. Die Laudatio hielt der Architekt Caspar Schmitz-Morkramer. Hier exklusiv Ausschnitte daraus.
After working for Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, David Chipperfield started his own studio in 1985, operating out of London and Japan. I was very impressed by a lecture that he gave in 1987 at the Royal Institute of British Architects. It was a remarkably diversified piece; in it, he managed to explain not only how difficult it was to get bigger commissions, but also how working on different kitchen designs taught him about detailing and material.
There is a part I remember vividly: On one particular commission, where he was adding a kitchen to a freshly renovated house in a style which he described as quite chincy, he did not want his kitchen design ending up being something like a “shock” to the rest of the house. It shows the respect that he had for what was already there.
Indeed, looking at his oeuvre, it seems plausible that working on the small scale has probably prepared him for his bigger-scale work in a way that is truly unique for its outstanding quality, thoughtfulness and love for detail. Another very interesting thing about him is that the tasks he chose have always been a mix between works for residential, commercial and other types of buildings all over the world: fashion shops, interiors or, most importantly, cultural buildings.
With his design for the Neues Museum here in Berlin, he set standards in how to treat a historical building with respect, creating a new composition at the same time. It is a very calm and unagitated approach. I remember visiting the building once during construction and then again after completion. I was equally struck by the concept and the perfect execution. In 1998, he founded his Berlin-based studio, where 130 architects work with him and his partners. The studio has shown its immense potential ever since, with buildings like the Literaturmuseum der Moderne in Marbach, the Folkwang Museum in Essen, the James Simon Gallery and, most recently, with the very respectful refurbishment of Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie.
While it may be true that he, as the German newspaper DIE ZEIT once wrote, “builds the new temples of our nation”, we must not forget the multitude of other works that have left their indelible mark on German architecture, such as the Empire Riverside Hotel in Hamburg or the recently finished Jacoby Studios in Paderborn, to name but two. Most of you will also be familiar with his designs for the Elbtower in Hamburg or the Carsch House in Düsseldorf.
Once asked about the international style, our awardee answered that he has no understanding for such a style. He firmly believes that architecture is always supposed to be a reaction to the cultural surrounding in which you are planning. Two beautiful examples of this stance are the Americas Cup Building “Veles e Vents” in Valencia, Spain, and the Inagawa Cemetery Chapel and Visitor Centre in Hyogo, Japan. While the first is an astonishing and expressive gesture for the greatest sailing event in the world, encapsulating the pride Europe had to be able to host the event, the latter is a deeply empathic answer to feelings of sorrow. Both belong right where they are, because their design is based on a strong conceptual dialogue about their respective cultural background.
As the political person that he is, he publicly spoke out against the Brexit. He was one of seventeen Stirling Prize Winners to start a movement that would soon become widely known as “Architects Declare”. In 2017, he founded the Fundación RIA. It is a private, non-profit, cultural entity, and its main objective is to support the development and protection of the local economy, as well as the architectural, urban, natural and cultural values of the Atlantic estuaries of Galicia in north-west Spain.
That is precisely in keeping with the goals of the ULI, the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world. ULI strives towards promoting or enabling progressive development of the built environment, sharing and spreading knowledge worldwide, while the ULI Foundation financially supports and sustains ULI’s education and research programs. Common Ground, indeed. The Lifetime Award…exists to celebrate a person that exemplifies the spirit and the mission of the ULI like few other. In that sense, this year’s recipient could not have been better chosen.