The spirit’s foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication.

George Santayana


So two weeks ago it was Zaha. Last week the stage took Chipperfield. (Here’s a remarkable detail: there is no need to use a full name to recognize these architects…)
As it was announced on October the 7th David Chipperfield has received RIBA’s 2011 Gold Medal as a sign of recognition of a lifetime’s contribution to the architecture. Sounds pretty damn serious. Well it is kind of a big deal, at least in terms of the formalities… as far as I know it suppose to be approved by Her Majesty herself.

Anyway…  all of the sudden there is some action in our typically quiet event-less architectural neighbourhood. Interestingly latest UK developments were perfectly balanced in terms of the political correctness. First, Zaha Hadid has eventually received her Stirling Prize. (Ladies – first.) It happened 6 years after her 2004 Pritzker win (the highest American architectural award, some would claim it to be the most prestigious architectural prize in the world) and after her 3(!) failed attempts to receive a Stirling in 2005, ‘06, ’08. Not presenting her with a British prize has become oddly similar to the Hollywood situation with Leonardo diCaprio, when time after time this widely popular and extremely talented actor is denied an Oscar. So Zaha could not be denied this year. On the other hand they had Chipperfield’s Berlin Neues Museum (an uber- solid project) in Stirling 2010 shortlist as a very serious candidate for the top spot. British architectural authorities have found a Solomonic decision and both architects have gotten their prestigious awards within a week or so.

Having said that, I have absolutely no intention to suggest that Zaha and Chipperfield got their medals undeservedly. Both are great architects whose names will go to the history books, regardless of those prizes, titles and bureaucratically adjusted timing. It’s just that political game always spoils any success even the most meritorious one. And that’s why I sincerely hate politics, especially when it affects architecture.

But hey it’s not about those dirty little tricks of political correctness pulled by the architectural bureaucrats; it’s about a remarkable architect, maybe the greatest Master of our times. So let’s talk about him, about his art.

Perhaps his name is not as well-known amongst the masses as names (brands) of other “Starchitects” and you definitely won’t see him on glitzy fashion shows posing with the stylish couturier. But ask any professional about Chipperfield. The answer will be short and deferential: “Oh, Chipperfield… of course!” Unmistakeably you will notice a great respect in the tone of such reply. And that’s exactly the point. Other architects could be adored or hated by their colleagues; they could be tremendously popular with the commercial clientele and very hip as news sensation. Sir David Alan Chipperfield never makes a huge media-buzz. No need. It’s not his style. He is so respected. Deeply respected by everyone who understands a tiny bit in architecture. Respected for his modest professional attitude and for his incredible spiritual intensity.

You will not find showy elements, trendy tricks or extravagant shapes as a part of his designs. His jobs are so effortless and clean that in a way it seems very simple. It looks like you can do the same as well. But make no mistake this is not vulgar minimalism or monotonous simplicity. That’s the most magical part of his unpretentious genius. Out of the million possible interpretations and artificial methods he finds the ideal solution. That perfect way of a truthful harmony.

Chipperfield’s world is philosophical. The main characteristic of his projects (any of his projects) is depth. You have to understand the very nature of the architecture to enjoy his projects. Seeing exterior forms is not enough. You must see the spirit inside.

Plenty of famous architects or artists have a recognizable individual style based on their unique concepts, which at times might be quite rigid. Artist of this sort is called a Whiz or even a Master… Yet there are only few others that put the universal harmony and the idea before the egotistical ideological issues. And those are called Maestro. And that is Chipperfield. His art is not about his private ambitions. Some things are more important. His art is about us and the inner beauty of the world around. And for that we are thankful, Maestro.


I have constructed here a small slide-show of his most interesting projects. You won’t see flashy renderings for the projects that were never intended to be built. Chipperfield is for real. Enjoy the spirit of the Philosopher.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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