David Alan Chipperfield wins Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest honour in the field

David Alan Chipperfield wins Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest honour in the field

The year’s highest honour in architecture has been awarded to British architect David Alan Chipperfield, for his commitment to society and the environment in his designs.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize was established in 1979 by the late entrepreneur Jay A Pritzker with his wife, Cindy. Winners receive a $100,000 (approx. €95,000) grant and a bronze medallion.

Chipperfield is the Pritzker Prize’s 52nd laureate, celebrating a storied career that began when he founded David Chipperfield Architects in London in 1985.

Born in London and raised on a farm in Devon, he has said a collection of barns and outbuildings shaped his early impressions of architecture.

One of Chipperfield’s most recent designs is the James Simon Gallery, opened in Berlin in 2019. It’s the cornerstone of Berlin’s Museum Island and seen as a key moment in efforts to renovate the five-museum site that houses treasures such as Babylon’s Ishtar Gate and a famed bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

James Simon Gallery
The James Simon Gallery in Berlin - James Simon Gallery

Pritzker Prize organisers hailed the design, including its “commanding, though discreet, colonnades” and the way it “enables generous views from within and beyond, even through to adjacent buildings and the surrounding urban landscape.”

The same museum complex in Berlin houses another Chipperfield design, the reinvention of the Neues Museum at the complex, a building constructed in the mid-19th century and largely destroyed during World War II.

“It was not only a museum, it was part of the fabric, the heritage of the city in its good and worst ways,” he told AP, speaking from Berlin. “It was a wonderful 19th-century building, but substantially destroyed by the traumatic events of the Second World War and then neglected because of the postwar division of the city.”

“So it carried, this poor building, an enormous amount of history with it. And therefore when we rebuilt it, we were also very engaged in its emotive potential. It wasn’t only an intellectual thing, it was what it meant for Berlin, what it meant for Germany,” he continued.

Neues Museum
Neues Museum, Berlin - Neues Museum

Chipperfield considers heavily the role of a museum architect.

“I think architects are a bit confused as to whether they’re artists or a service industry. In a way, we’re much more the latter,” he said. “Our relationship is much more entangled in society, and so it should be. And that gives us a special role … but it comes at a price. It comes at a price that we have to engage in a meaningful manner.”

In their statement, Pritzker organisers also cited Chipperfield’s restoration last year of the 16th-century Procuratie Vecchie in Venice, Italy, which “redefined the civic ability of this building within the heart of the city to allow general access for the first time.”

Procuratie Vecchie
Procuratie Vecchie Venice - Procuratie Vecchie

Chipperfield’s buildings are also found in Asia, with the headquarters for Amorepacific in Seoul, South Korea, and the Inagawa Cemetery Chapel and Visitor Center in Hyogo, Japan.

Amorepacific Headquarters - Seoul - Noshe

“We do not see an instantly recognizable David Chipperfield building in different cities,” the jury said in its citation, “but different David Chipperfield buildings designed specifically for each circumstance.”