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. The 45th Pritzker Prize ceremony, honoring David Chipperfield will be held in Athens, Greece this May.
Neues Museum, Berlin / Photo: courtesy of Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects
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.
The River and Rowing Museum, Great Britain / Photo: courtesy of Richard Bryant / Arcaid
“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”, said Chipperfield.
Veles e Vent / Photo: courtesy of Christian Richters
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.
Ameropacific, South Korea / Photo: courtesy of Noshe
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”.
Morland Mixité Capitale, Paris / Photo: courtesy of Simon Menges
“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”, said the architect.
BBC Headquarters, Scotland / Photo: courtesy of Christian Richters
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.
Hoxton Press, London / Photo: courtesy of Simon Menges
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.
Museo Jumex, Mexico / Photo: courtesy of Simon Menges
Chipperfield 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.
By: Nikolina Vukićević