David Chipperfield won the RIBA Sterling Prize 2007 this Saturday for his Museum of Modern Literature building in Marbach am Neckar, Germany. Although the competition against the likes of Foster & Partners and OMA was tough, he well deserved the first prize because the design is truly breathtaking. It is comforting to know that in a world where ‘fizzy’ iconic pop architecture, as Chipperfield calls it, sleek and honest design ultimately ends up being the one rewarded. The materials for the museum were carefully selected and what is more, he managed to design a ”building that is simultaneously rich and restrained”. It stands on a hilltop overlooking the Neckar River valley and offers views of the surrounding park on one side of the glass and the greatest texts of German authors on the other.
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It seems to be so hard to find rational, calm architecture today. In an article at Times Online he expresses his opinion about the state of British architecture today. “Simple,” Chipperfield says. “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.” Not an ambience conducive to architectural excellence, nor one easily changed. It is rooted, Chipperfield thinks, as deep as British political-economic culture. “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” .
Change ‘Britain’ to ‘Slovenia’ and I sign that statement.