While our monuments may justify the response of awe, generally architecture is something to be occupied and adopted, not to be held at a distance and puzzled over. The modern buildings to be admired are those where the physical, material and spatial potential of architecture has been coherently organised, leaving us with a quiet conviction that the way the building looks, and the experience of being within it, not only reassures us through its physical authenticity, but inspires us to consider what our built world could be.
The process of architectural composition must consider what society expects architecture to look like and be like. While it is not our role simply to fulfill these expectations, they must influence our approach. Architecture must engage innovation both at a formal and technical level. While we must search for new possibilities and ideas we must be suspicious of innovation for its own sake. This does not preclude the radical exceptions that we need as provocation.
We must consider innovation within the self-imposed limits of understanding and meaning. The generation of form that has no explanation beyond its own desire to be innovative must be measured against the imagined limits of precedents.
The pursuit of spectacular form erodes the idea of normality. We desire of our environment, buildings and spaces that aspire to their own sense of nature; spaces and buildings that both respond and describe the individual’s position within a civic society.
The rejection of such ambitions based on the fact that social patterns, political authority and commercial structures have changed and that our new situation need new forms and new types of spaces, succeeds in giving license to the erosion of urban structure and uncontrolled urban sprawl.
~ David Chipperfield, Form Matters
A Chippefield project has a kind of calming effect on the senses. For the government of the Austrian city of Innsbruck -along with this project’s developers – I imagine DC’s proposal for the Kaufhaus Tyrol Department StoreÂ was like taking a deep breath of fresh air and saying ‘everything is going to be alright’.
Long story short – this retail project in the heart of a ‘traditional’ [re: Baroque] Austrian city was a mess, and chewed up two different architecture firms before Chipperfield was called in to clean up the mess. A few months later his office was redesigning the entire project with the blessings of the client and the government – a task that had apparently seemed impossible to the previous designers.
Possibly the nicest part – at first glance the project really isn’t a big deal. Calm, simple, clean, quiet, respectful of its context without fading into the background – are we sure this is a retail project? Was the developer confused?
While not DC’s greatest project, the firm was able to stay true to its typically dope style, creating something elegant and modern [out of a shopping mall – my ninjas, please]. While obviously going for a modern approach, the project sought to address its context in an appropriate way – and does so by angling slightly along its long facade. This subtly breaks the mass into three sections, meant to be reminiscent of the massing of the surrounding historic buildings. The fifth floor of the project is also pulled back, mimicking the way floors were added to the surrounding structures throughout the years.
[image: BBC Scotland interior, David Chipperfield Architects]
“Simple. Britain gets the architecture it deserves. We don’t value architecture, we don’t take it seriously, we don’t want to pay for it and the architect isn’t 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. That’s British architecture.”
~ David Chipperfield, in response to the Times of London asking “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.”