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Sir David Chipperfield CBE to receive the Royal Gold Medal for architecture


07 October 2010

Press office contact:

Melanie Mayfield
T: +44 (0)207 307 3662
E: melanie.mayfield@riba.org

The internationally-acclaimed British architect Sir David Chipperfield CBE has been named today (Thursday 7 October 2010) as the recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious architecture prizes, the Royal Gold Medal.  

David Chipperfield’s practice has won over 50 national and international competitions and many international awards and citations for design excellence, including the RIBA Stirling Prize 2007 for the Museum of Modern Literature, Marbach am Neckar in Germany.  His practice’s Neues Museum project in Berlin, in partnership with Julian Harrap, was shortlisted for the 2010 RIBA Stirling Prize.

Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty the Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence 'either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture'.  

Speaking today David Chipperfield said of the honour:

'I am overwhelmed by the decision of the RIBA to award me the 2011 Royal Gold Medal and to join a list that includes so many great architects and personal heroes. I hope that my career will justify this great honour and that I can fulfil the expectations that this award bestows on me. I share this award with my colleagues and family without whom such a personal achievement would have been well out of reach.'

RIBA President Ruth Reed, who chaired the Honours Committee which selected the Royal Gold medal winner said:

'The Royal Gold Medal is a highly prestigious award and in David Chipperfield we have an exceptional recipient. David is one of the world’s greatest architects with a portfolio of work that is international in influence. His architecture is one of calm rational elegance, he is a craftsman of delightful spaces and beautiful detailed buildings, and has carved out a career which is an inspiration to anyone seeking to work outside the boundaries of their home country. I will be delighted to present him with the Royal Gold Medal.'

David Chipperfield will be presented with the Royal Gold Medal on 10 February 2011 at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, during which the 2011 RIBA International and Honorary Fellowships will also be presented.  

This year’s RIBA Honours Committee was chaired by RIBA President, Ruth Reed with architects Edward Cullinan, Eva Jiricna and Chris Wilkinson, engineer Max Fordham and client Laura Lee. Sir David Chipperfield was nominated by Deborah Saunt, David Adjaye and Ruth Reed.

Sir David Chipperfield CBE, RA, RDI, RIBA

David Chipperfield was born in 1953 in London. He studied at Kingston School of Art and the Architectural Association in London. After graduating he worked at the practices of Douglas Stephen, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster.

David Chipperfield established David Chipperfield Architects in 1984 and the practice currently has over 180 staff at its offices in London, Berlin, Milan and Shanghai. The practice has won over 50 national and international competitions and many international awards and citations for design excellence, including RIBA, RFAC and AIA awards and the RIBA Stirling Prize 2007.

In 1993 David Chipperfield was awarded the Andrea Palladio Prize and in 1999, the Heinrich Tessenow Gold Medal. In 2004 he was made an Honorary Member of the Florence Academy of Art and Design, and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to architecture. He was appointed Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) in 2006, and in 2007 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and an Honorary Member of the Bund Deutscher Architekten (BDA). He was elected a Royal Academician (RA) in 2008and awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Kingston University. In 2009 he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany – the highest tribute that can be paid to individuals for service to the nation – and in the UK New Year Honours 2010 was named Knight Bachelor for services to architecture in the UK and Germany.

David Chipperfield has taught and lectured worldwide.

Notes to editors

1.  For further information or images contact Melanie Mayfield in the RIBA Press Office melanie.mayfield@inst.riba.org or 020 7307 3662.

2.  Images of buildings by David Chipperfield Architects can be downloaded and used only in relation to the Royal Gold Medal and with full photographers credit: http://www.box.net/shared/yur98oqarc

3.  The full citation written by Deborah Saunt, who along with Ruth Reed and David Adjaye nominated David Chipperfield, 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 shown 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 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 has 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.   


6.  The RIBA Royal Gold Medal, International and Honorary Fellows are managed by the RIBA Trust.  The RIBA Trust manages the cultural assets of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), including the internationally recognised collections of the British Architectural Library.  It is the UK’s national architecture centre, delivering the RIBA Awards and RIBA Stirling Prize (live on BBC TWO); the Royal Gold Medal; International and Honorary Fellowships; the London Festival of Architecture; a full programme of lectures, exhibitions, tours and other events; and an education programme.


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