Notes to editors
1. For further information or images contact Beatrice Cooke in the RIBA Press Office firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7307 3813.
2. Images of buildings by David Chipperfield Architects can be downloaded at: http://www.box.net/shared/yur98oqarc
3. The full citation written by Deborah Saunt follows:
Royal Gold Medal 2011 - Sir David Chipperfield CBE
David Chipperfield occupies a unique position managing to represent architecture beyond the boundaries of a region, a nation or even the specifics of the European continent. He is a British architect for the 21st century, working globally, with a number of offices overseas, but always grounded in the UK. His work is internationally celebrated and yet remains timeless, beyond fashion. Magically his work is both contemporary and fresh whilst embodying the persistent power of classicism - but without the insistence on a strict or didactic language.
The places he creates are sensitively formed to respond to context and are essentially urban – always being read as part of a bigger landscape. This is not iconic attention-seeking architecture that focuses on itself, instead the work always mediates between the individual user and the city. The materiality his practice has developed over the last three decades pushes beyond ‘white modernism’ to a manifest palette of subtle textures, materials and sensations – from plaster, stone, concrete and timber, through to glass, meshes and perforated flat metals, and often in dialogue with the existing fabric of a neighbouring or host building, be it a single new building or the sensitive restoration and re-imagining of an old building.
Experientially, the buildings are both light and fleeting, yet permanent and solid, managing to combine contradictory qualities, where delight and seriousness inhabit spaces simultaneously. At every level his work exhibits perseverance and resolve, qualities all too lacking in contemporary design. It is also an architecture with a determination to resolve detail and strategy at the same time, yet it avoids reverting to cliché.
His superb architectural oeuvre has been hard won. Being a ground-breaking architect is not easy. He has built his reputation on international competition, rising to the occasion time and time again to resolve complex briefs and sites with a precise conceptual clarity. This clarity then informs the resulting architecture so that is at once humanistic, abstract and monumental. His work is an art form, as his exhibition at the Design Museum in 2009 showed so clearly, and it leaves the viewer asking questions, wanting more.
David Chipperfield has been a mentor to young architects around the world and inspires great work in others. His relevance goes further than the making of architecture to inform its culture. So why is he a mentor? How does he manage to be so significant in an age of icons, fashions, allegiances and brands? And how does he avoid both the pitfalls of superstardom and those of the smaller world view of parochial practice?
He has achieved his position by bringing architecture to the fore. His work is at all times about pushing for the best quality architecture possible, irrespective of the particular challenges of a project. He champions architecture plain and simple, and is a testament to the persistent and dogged determination and inspirational talent required to make great work. He simply did not give up, sell-out or change tack. He crafted his career. The work matured, got stronger and continued to be commissioned, even if it felt at times as if it was destined to not materialise in Britain apart from in smaller projects like his beautiful shop interiors, his studio for Antony Gormley or the Henley River and Rowing Museum in the 1990s. But finally the time has come. The Hepworth Wakefield and the Turner Contemporary beckon, as local, specific projects to counterpoint his grandes oeuvres in Berlin, Anchorage and Iowa. The list goes on and future projects of great stature can be glimpsed emerging around the world.
And beyond this string of elegant and uncompromisingly modern projects that are garnering accolades at the moment, his is an influence as much to do with the dissemination of ideas - of his projects appearing in books and journals from the earliest shows at the 9H Gallery in London of which he was co-founder, in libraries and in exhibitions. With his major show at the Design Museum he took the display of his architecture to another level, combining giant models, working drawings and small maquettes. And his role is not simply about showing his work. He has always displayed generosity in his persistent commitment to teaching around the world in tandem with running a hugely successful and demanding practice. This is no mean feat. His contribution extends to architectural discourse with lectures, and sitting on architectural juries for major competitions. He has been an assessor in competitions for the New Art Gallery in Walsall, and the Rolex Learning Centre and a new Art Gallery project both in Lausanne. In 2003 he chaired the jury for the Mies van der Rohe Awards. And his curating of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition under the title of “Raw”, again showed a commitment to extending architecture to a new audience without compromise.
He has often been asked why more great architecture does not seem to happen in Britain when we boast some of the world’s best architects. But instead of being critical he simply gets on with it, proving that against the odds good architecture does have a place here in the UK. And especially at times like this, we need people like David Chipperfield to remind us that the struggle can be worthwhile.
4. The Royal Gold Medal was inaugurated by Queen Victoria in 1848 and is conferred annually by the Sovereign on ‘some distinguished architect for work or high merit, or on some distinguished person whose work has promoted either directly or indirectly the advancement of architecture.’
5. Previous winners have included Sir Charles Barry, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Berthold Lubetkin, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Oscar Niemeyer, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas, Toyo Ito, Herzog & de Meuron, Alvaro Siza and I. M. Pei.