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David Chipperfield Gets Acquainted with Sydney

On Tuesday night, in front of a packed audience at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst, David Chipperfield cordially introduced himself, and his practice, to the community.

  • David Chipperfield

  • Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico

  • One Pancras Square, London, UK

  • David Chipperfield at Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst in Sydney


December 9th, 2016

David Chipperfield’s bid for Lendlease’s Circular Quay Tower took place in the city on Wednesday but his pitch to the people of Sydney came hours earlier.

In an eloquent, and often poetic, presentation Chipperfield shared both his practice and a bit of himself – his pursuit of perfection made apparent in his immense frustration with a blurry projector. With over 100 international awards, Chipperfield ranks with the elite of modern architects – his success a testament to his understated approach. His buildings, while striking, don’t share the outspoken swagger of his peers.

Context is important to Chipperfield. At the beginning of the lecture he shares a photograph of a grey London skyline. The view shows the ‘steady march’ of development that Chipperfield and his colleagues witness daily. ‘It is difficult not to think that we are rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic,’ he solemnly states.

From London, Chipperfield brings the audience on a whirlwind tour of his firm’s global contributions. From his very first projects in Japan, where he appreciated the country’s relaxed attitude towards the appearance of buildings and keenly felt a the contrast with the UK (‘Britain: a country obsessed with what architecture should look like and how it should fit in’), to Venice, where his role as curator of the 2012 Venice Biennale ‘Common Ground’ lead him to showcase the collaborative and shared role of architecture (‘Unless we can convince people of our worth, our role is relegated.’).

The Neues Museum in Berlin demonstrated Chipperfield’s sensitivity to rebuilding and restoring, he cities it an ‘opportunity to give sense to the loss’ – the museum was severely damaged during WWII. The project signifies Chipperfield’s intense awareness of his audience. The ‘continuous explaining’ that he and his colleagues were forced to do by an ‘animated and engaged’ German public and media, resulted in a building that Chipperfield appears immensely proud of.

As an architect, Chipperfield is hugely aware of public perception. This awareness – developed as a young graduate (‘coming out of architecture school, I was not prepared for the intense distrust of modern architecture’) – has informed his practice as he constantly keeps the public in mind: ‘It’s not good architecture if it ignores opinion’. He acknowledges: ‘Most of our audience didn’t decide to be an audience’

Yes, Chipperfield’s visit to Sydney may have been to pitch to Lendlease’s distinguished jury, but his pitch to the city of Sydney came hours before.

David Chipperfield Architects, Foster + Partners, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), HOK and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates bid alongside local practices BVN and Hassell in front of a jury of Lendlease executives and City of Sydney representatives on Wednesday. David Chipperfield Arhitects have paired up with local firm SJB for the bid.

A decision is expected by mid-late December.

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