David Chipperfield (London, 67 years old) is an architect capable of disappearing. His latest interventions in the heritage city – the restoration of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the expansion of the Royal Academy in London or the Berlin Neues Museum – demonstrate a quiet pulse, without desire for prominence, rara reviews in the trade. Respect for the great monuments, based on the principle of minimal intervention, which transfers to the natural and ecological heritage, in whose defense the RIA Foundation (Rede de Innovación Arousa) has been established. From that vantage point, it watches over the sustainable development of the Galician Atlantic estuaries that surround Corrubedo, a Coruña town of 700 inhabitants where it began to spend the summer almost two decades ago. There he settled during confinement and there he received ICON Design a year later, whose June issue he has starred in.
The Briton had a conversation this Thursday, in the charming gardens of the Lázaro Galdiano Museum in Madrid, with Daniel García, director of ICON, during an event organized by the magazine with the sponsorship of Cosentino and Lexus and the collaboration of Celeste Verdejo. Fifty hundred guests attended the event, very relevant representatives from the world of design, architecture and interior design. The director of EL PAÍS, Javier Moreno, was in charge of welcoming a meeting that revolved around urbanism as a form of public service, haunted by the ghosts of short-termism and markets. “Many artists and intellectuals appear in the newspaper, but few of them combine recognition for their work, admiration for their values and esteem for their ethical position. Chipperfield is one of them. Many times we admire the most visible, monumental part of an architect, and it is very difficult to get excited about what is not evident at first glance, ”said Moreno.
The work of the RIA Foundation transcends the limits of architecture, fostering a discussion about the future of port areas or the new job opportunities offered by the knowledge economy. “We do few material things,” says Chipperfield, a humble idealist at the top of global architecture – “I’ll try to say something meaningful in front of Rafael Moneo,” he joked – who trained at the studios of Richard Rogers and Norman Foster. He founded his own in 1985, and today some 300 employees work under his leadership, spread over Berlin, Milan, London and Shanghai.
In the absence of commissions, he ended up taking refuge in the real estate bubble in Japan, where he deployed his first three projects. London has given him few commissions and even fewer recognitions, he is clear about the why. “I’ve always been a visitor, that makes you more respectful. Most of my career has taken place outside my country, it may be partly due to the environment of Great Britain in the eighties. Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister, she dismantled the public system, ”Chipperfield noted. Difficult conditions for your big jobs, meticulous deliveries where the essential elements stand out.
Processes sometimes as meticulous as the rehabilitation of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the work of Mies van der Rohe, which required the disassembly, inventorying and relocation of more than 30,000 pieces of steel and glass. “The worst thing about architecture is the competition, you have to show the rest that you are the best, I don’t think that happens with the doctors,” he stresses. The Atlantic has provided the architect with the possibility of distancing himself from his own work, he says. There he developed the theses that illuminate his latest study, a fiery defense of urban planning, sponsored by the Rolex mentoring program, which he signs with his colleague Simon Kretz. “The market does not like planning,” he defends.
The research compares the case of Swiss urbanism, sustained by civil participation, with the laws of supply and demand that the financial heart of London seems to radiate to the rest of the city. Logics that also mediated its emblematic and controversial Spanish buildings, such as the City of Justice in Barcelona or the Valencian Veles e Vents. Chipperfield noted: “I think the world has become more Anglo-Saxon”