David Chipperfield is the 2023 laureate

Pritzker Prize to 'Guardian of Meaning, Memory, and Heritage'

Ulf Meyer
7. mars 2023
Sir David Alan Chipperfield (Photo: Tom Welsh; all images courtesy of The Hyatt Foundation/Pritzker Architecture Prize)

In recent years, the Pritzker Prize, arguably the most prestigious architectural award in the world, has been given to architects who don’t fit the “older white male” category, because it was long criticized for giving the annual awards to just them. That did not prevent the jury from picking an architect who fits into this — rather stereotypical and outdated — mold. The jury, chaired by 2016 laureate Alejandro Aravena from Chile, did not do this in order to reverse the diversification of the award’s recipients, but simply because Chipperfield is a great architect.

The statement from the jury describes Chipperfield’s works as “subtle yet powerful, subdued yet elegant” — a fair assessment. They see him as an “architect who is radical in his restraint, demonstrating reverence for history and culture while honoring the preexisting built and natural environments.” In this sense, their choice fits the Zeitgeist perfectly.

The Neuers Museum, Berlin, 2009 (Photo: Courtesy of SPK / David Chipperfield Architects, photo Joerg von Bruchhausen)

The decision sheds light on four decades of Chipperfield’s work spanning cultural, commercial, and residential buildings in Europe, East Asia, and North America. The jury thinks his architecture creates an “understated but transformative civic presence” and that he approaches the public realm “with austerity, avoiding unnecessary moves and steering clear of trends and fashions.” His timeless modern design is, to them, a “dimension of sustainability that has not been obvious in recent years: as pertinence, structures able to last, physically and culturally.” 

Tom Pritzker, Chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the annual $100,000 award, thinks Chipperfield “is assured without hubris, avoiding trendiness to confront the connections between tradition and innovation.” Chipperfield states that he feels as if “architects can have a prominent role in creating not only a more beautiful world but a fairer and more sustainable one, too.”

James-Simon-Galerie, Berlin, 2018 (Photo courtesy of Simon Menges)

Two of Chipperfield’s most notable recent works are in downtown Berlin: The James-Simon-Galerie (2018), the gateway to Museum Island; and of course the Neues Museum (2009), the 2011 EUmies-winning project that demonstrated Chipperfield’s discernment between preservation, reconstruction, and addition. The same is true for his restoration of the Procuratie Vecchie on Venice’s St. Marcus Square that opened last year.

Procuratie Vecchie, Venice, 2022 (Photo courtesy of Alessandra Chemollo)
“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

Amorepacific Headquarters, Seoul, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Noshe)

His headquarters for the Amore Pacific cosmetics group in South Korea (Seoul, 2017) and the Inagawa Cemetery Chapel in Hyogo, Japan (2017) have been received well, while the Kunsthaus Zürich (2020) also earned some positive critical reviews.

Chipperfield is the 52nd Laureate of the Pritzker Prize. He resides in London and leads offices in Berlin, Milan, Shanghai, and Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The last is where Chipperfield established the Fundación RIA in 2017; it is focused on aligning future developments along the coast of the Ría de Arousa in Galicia with locally focused protection of the area’s natural and built environments.

Inagawa Cemetery Chapel and Visitor Center, Hyogo, Japan, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Keiko Sasaoka)

The Pritzker Architecture Prize was established in 1979 to “honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.” 

The ceremonies for the annual awards take place at architecturally significant sites, and this year it will be held in Athens, where W-A recently spoke with Chipperfield, after he won a competition to expand the National Archaeological Museum there.

“I am so overwhelmed to receive this honor” remarked Chipperfield, when he heard he is laureate of the 2023 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

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