Page N3.2 . 31 October 2007                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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David Chipperfield Stirling Prize


The striking entrance sequence continues up a series of shallow steps through a large portal formed in the loggia, and then through giant hardwood doors. A staircase descends to the collections, lit dimly as required for preservation of the documents. The progression ends in the permanent collection, its manuscripts encased in glass ó a scene the judges described as a "magical flickering landscape."

In its October 6 announcement, the jury commended the project's "rich but selective palette of materials," which includes fair-faced concrete, sandblasted reconstituted stone, limestone, felt, glass, and wood, with dark timber paneling in the exhibition galleries.

"This is a building that is simultaneously rich and restrained, a trick Chipperfield pulls off as well as any architect working today. The architect's control and discrimination in the choice of materials has by now become a signature but above all it is in the handling of the 'difficult whole' that the building excels."

The jury also cited the project for its cost-efficiency, and found it noteworthy that such a formal, neoclassical work would be approved in Germany ó something less likely in earlier decades after World War II.

This is the first time a building designed by David Chipperfield Architects has won the prize. Chipperfield was educated at Kingston School of Art and at the Architectural Association in London. He worked for Douglas Stephen, Richard Rogers, and Norman Foster before establishing his own London-based firm in 1984. Chipperfield received the Heinrich Tessenow Gold Medal for architectural excellence in 1999, was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to architecture in 2004, was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry in 2006, and was named an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2007.

In the wake of the Stirling Prize award, the Times of London asked, "So why was the 'building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year' not British? For the second year running, too. Four of the six buildings on the Stirling shortlist were foreign, while the two that actually were on British soil were really rather tokenistic in comparison."

And the Times quotes Chipperfield in response. ďSimple,Ē he says. ďBritain gets the architecture it deserves. We donít value architecture, we donít take it seriously, we donít want to pay for it and the architect isnít trusted... We are a country that values money and individualism. Architecture becomes glorified property development, not valued culture. Ten storeys? Try for 20. Squeeze in more bedrooms. Thatís British architecture."

In Germany, the Times points out, architectural competitions are the rule, not the exception as they are in Britain. And from our across-the-pond perspective, it's not just British architecture that is suffering. By way of comparison, in the United States, serious architecture competitions are so rarely used that even when they do occur, collective inexperience tends to further enfeeble them as an effectively meritocratic process for awarding design commissions.

Among other recent projects by David Chipperfield Architects are the America's Cup hospitality building in Valencia, Spain, which was also shortlisted for the 2007 Stirling Prize, and the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. Current projects include the Natural History Museum in Verona, Italy; the restoration of the Neues Museum in Berlin; and expansion of the Anchorage Museum in Alaska.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awards the Stirling Prize annually, with cosponsor The Architects' Journal, to the architects of the building that has made "the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year," drawing from projects throughout the European Union. Now in its 12th year, the prize is named after the architect Sir James Stirling (1926-1992).

Past winners include Barajas Airport by Richard Rogers Partnership (now Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners), The Scottish Parliament by EMBT / RMJM, 30 St. Mary Axe by Foster + Partners, the Laban Centre by Herzog and de Meuron, and Gateshead Millennium Bridge by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

This year, the Museum of Modern Literature won out over the America's Cup building and four other shortlisted buildings: Casa da Musica, Porto, Portugal, by Office for Metropolitan Architecture with Arup-AFA; Dresden Station Redevelopment, Dresden, Germany, by Foster + Partners; The Savill Building, Windsor, United Kingdom, by Glenn Howells Architects; and the Young Vic Theatre, London, by Haworth Tompkins.

The RIBA Stirling Prize jury included Tom Bloxham MBE, chair of Urban Splash; Alain de Botton, author and philosopher; Louisa Hutton, architect; Kieran Long, editor of The Architects' Journal; and Sunand Prasad, architect and RIBA president.   >>>

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The Museum of Modern Literature has been likened to a modern-day Parthenon.
Photo: Alexander Sperl

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A simplified concrete colonnade surrounds the Museum of Modern Literature (Literaturmuseum der Moderne, or LiMo).
Photo: © Christian Richters Extra Large Image

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Site plan drawing.
Image: David Chipperfield Architects Extra Large Image

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Ground-floor plan drawing.
Image: David Chipperfield Architects Extra Large Image

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Lower-floor plan drawing.
Image: David Chipperfield Architects Extra Large Image

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South elevation drawing.
Image: David Chipperfield Architects Extra Large Image

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Works of modern German literature are preserved in sealed glass display cases in the LiMo galleries.
Photo: © Christian Richters Extra Large Image

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Light streams through the colonnade into the interior spaces of LiMo.
Photo: © Christian Richters


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