Architect David Chipperfield is a British architect who was born in 1953. He believes that an architect should consider social values rather than reflecting individual ideas, and by the beginning of his career, he aspires to spread his manifesto with others and wants to hear voices from other architects towards this issue. Chipperfield, who also left many achievements, awards, and many buildings with his signature under its design as an architect in three continents, is a very modest person and thinks that he came to this point not because of his talent because of his hard work. I think Chipperfield will set an excellent example for many young architects and candidate architects with this down-to-earth attitude because we all cannot be talented or lucky, but we can create our luck. Therefore, below are ten things you didn’t know about Chipperfield.

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Architect David Chipperfield ©

1. David Chipperfield Grew Up at A Farm and Originally Dreamed of Being a Vet 

David Chipperfield describes himself as a hopeless student and too lazy to do history and English.  However, he was good at art and sports. He was a runner in the boarding school; nonetheless, he does not think that he was gifted in the running, but he became better by practice because Chipperfield was in a boarding school; thus, he was under pressure to succeed least in something. Then, because his art teachers were into architecture, they fostered him to go to architecture school after certain that he would not get into med school. He got into the Kingston School of Art. One of his teachers, David Donster, thought that he should continue in the Architectural Association School of Architecture and helped him apply there, so David Chipperfield transferred there in 3rd year.

2. Zaha Hadid Saved His Diploma in AA

David Chipperfield was surprised to be accepted to the Architectural Association School of Architecture after realizing how conceptual AA is and became conservative after that. During his time in AA, he worked with many fantastic lecturers. Zaha Hadid was the student representative when he was in AA, and during his challenging diploma review, she stood up for Chipperfield.  Zaha Hadid reminded him that she would not get the diploma if she were not there for him; he would certainly be failed.

3. He Worked for Richard Rogers and Norman Foster After Graduation 

After some work experience during his last years in AA, David Chipperfield started to work with Richard Rogers and worked on some competitions like Lloyd’s competition. After it finished, Rogers wanted him to find a new office because they need to move on; therefore, he found a new office to work in the position of project architect with John Young, but he left there after a while, and then Chipperfield started to work for Norman Foster, he worked on the BBC competition which was one of the biggest competitions at that time, and he was at the winning team. After the competition, he decided to leave and thanked Foster for the excellent experience at the competition party; however, Foster denied it since he knew a lot about the project, and Chipperfield continued working there for two years.

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Lloyd’s of London Building ©
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Architect David Chipperfield-Norman Foster and His Team Working on BBC Competition ©

4. His Early Architectural Portfolio Focused on Shop Designs for Fashion

After leaving Foster’s office, Chipperfield started by designing an Issey Miyake shop in London. It was the time when shop designs had not begun yet. His design was well-received, so Issey Miyake invited him to Japan. He continued designing many shops for the brand. After the 1980’s he got his reputation for designing stores in Paris and Tokyo. Even though he wanted to work in big buildings, he continued designing for shops to pay the bills and fund the competitions that he participated in. Today he is a well-known architect, and he continues designing stores such as the Persol concept store in Milan, Valentino flagship store in New York City.

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Persol Concept Store ©
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Valentino Flagship Store ©

5. His Office Started in Tokyo | Architect David Chipperfield

After working with Issey Miyake in Japan, he got work to do there. He designed three small buildings, and it was enough to accept that he had an office. David Chipperfield did not live there; however, he went to Japan for five years and stayed there for weeks every month. He defines that era as inspiring, and he met precious architects like Tadao Ando, whom he helped through his second project there after seeing the first one. Chipperfield describes the challenging part of being in Japan as working in a different culture. He was struggling about which culture he should follow. He was questioning whether to be a British architect or a British architect who pretends to be Japanese. However, this feeling never abandoned him since he kept designing abroad and worked less in the UK.

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Architect David Chipperfield-Toyota Auto Kyoto, 1989-1990 ©

6. He Won the RIBA Stirling Prize

David Chipperfield won the Stirling Prize with The Museum of Modern Literature in Germany in 2007. The building overlooks the Neckar River valley and provides a panoramic view from the inside. It displays original manuscripts of well-known authors such as The Trial of Franz Kafka and Berlin Alexanderplatz of Alfred Döblin. The building’s bottom floor does not appear from upper elevation due to the sloped terrain; therefore, it looks like a pavilion for the existing museum.  Thin concrete columns define the entrance, and the manuscripts are showcased in naturally lit, glazed loggias. Preference for materials with high endurance gives the impression that the collection will be preserved for generations.

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Museum of Modern Literature ©Ute Zscharnt
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Interior of Museum of Modern Literature ©Christian Richters

7. He Curated Venice Biennale in 2012

The first British architect to curate the biennale was David Chipperfield. The biennale’s theme was “Common Ground,” which refers to when different ideas come together to be shared. Public spaces epitomize this term, and David Chipperfield found it something valuable to think about. Moreover, the biennale aimed to highlight architecture, not the architect. There have always been star architects; nonetheless, Chipperfield believes that all architects could not do monumental buildings with self-references; otherwise, architecture could become no more than urban decorators.

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Common Ground ©Alice Clancy
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A Conversation between Ricky Burdett, Kieran Long and David Chipperfield ©

8. He Believes in The Power of Architecture 

David Chipperfield supports that architects are involved in solving problems because they built or not built communities that directly affect social quality and quality of life. Thereby, they ignore their potential to change things, thinking that they cannot change anything on their own, so they become not different from everyone else, and they are incapable of solving crises. Moreover, he believes that today’s world is interested in populism rather than complexity; therefore, nobody offers a solution for the issues that seem complicated but not, such as the housing crisis. Chipperfield says that to solve the housing crisis; we must build more houses; it is that simple; however, everybody tends to blame somebody; therefore, no progress has been made so far. Consequently, he claims that the power of architecture is enough to change the direction of some crisis.

9. He Is an Architectural Journalist

He is an editor of Domus for one year. He uses journalism to reflect the profession. He thinks that Domus is an opportunity to write about his concerns, such as climate change, social inequity, and poverty. He also has a critical stand toward traditional architecture magazines concept, showing nice buildings one after another; therefore, he chooses to contribute to Domus by articles that propose ideas to change the world and deal with the crisis. If you are interested and concerned about these topics as an architect, you can check Domus or David Chipperfield Architects website,, to read the essays.

Architect David Chipperfield-Domus Cover Page ©

10. He Suffers from Imposter Syndrome | Architect David Chipperfield

David Chipperfield spoke to a podcast series, and defined himself as a provoker, catalyst, and strategist and has a sense of purpose; however, he does not see himself as talented in creating as Renzo Piano and Frank Gehry or not intellectually gifted as Rem Koolhaas, and he added that he feels “a bit of a fake.” After the things he told, Marcus Fairs, the host, asked whether he feels like the same person in boarding school who has to work harder than others to win the race. Chipperfield agreed with this statement and said that hard work gained him more than talent, and that’s why it keeps him motivated.

If you would like to get further information about David Chipperfield, and his life around architecture, here is the Spotify link for the podcast:

David Chipperfield ©
David Chipperfield ©

MügeElmas is currently an architecture student studying at Ozyegin University, Istanbul, in the senior year. After graduation, she aspires to continue her masters. She is interested in all forms of art, but is specifically passionate about movies and set designs, and always seeks new experiences to widen her knowledge about art and architecture.