‘Architecture remains site-specific, not only in ideological terms, but above all in its locations,’ said Rik Nys, director of communications at David Chipperfield Architects, at the launch of the studio’s new monograph. Nys is the editor of the hefty tome designed by John Morgan Studio that summarises the work of DCA to date and beyond – Chipperfield won’t be retiring anytime soon.

‘You can gather a bunch of Rembrandts in a single gallery, but you cannot gather a bunch of buildings in a single place and look at them. For better or worse, the book remains a powerful collection of disparate ideas and geographically disconnected photographs. Collectively, I believe that they communicate a solid body of work, in our case, over the last 30 years,’ he continued.

The monograph opens with Chipperfield establishing architecture practically as a response to conditions and aspirations, and admirably as a product of collective efforts, across the office and with collaborators. From the Architecural Association, to the offices of Foster and Rogers, to when he opened his own office in London in 1985, Chipperfield’s architectural past and understanding is laid out like foundations in a following text by architectural historian Fulvio Irace. Irace credits Chipperfield’s empathy for historic settings and landscapes to his early career working on redevelopment projects in Europe, referencing a poignant Chipperfield quote that belies the vision alongside the practicality: ‘I think we are in a continuum, and that our responsibility is to find clues in memory and context.’
 

David Chipperfield monograph

The David Chipperfield Architects monograph designed by John Morgan Studio

The ‘German perspective’ is presented by Bernhard Schulz who acknowledges Chipperfield’s successes in Schulz’s home-country: ‘In this difficult country, where debates are always more ideological than pragmatic in nature, David Chipperfield has enjoyed undisputed appreciation,’ he writes, heralding the success of the Neues Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island as the ultimate creation of ‘refurbishment, reconstruction and redesign in equal measures’. Two ideas from his chapter echo over the ensuing pages of architectural photography: the Miesian ‘less is more’ evident in Chipperfield’s work, yet also his interest in ‘life’ above purely ‘architecture’.

Like many monographs, projects chronologically ordered and grounded by opening texts, yet this monograph reaches superior status through its incredibly restrained and evenly-paced formatting that glides across the whole volume. It is a monograph that flows like a scroll. In such a fluid way in fact that it also celebrates a decade of DCA working with John Morgan Studio, the designers behind the firm’s trademark typeface – ‘so small we managed to cram over 60 projects in one volume, telephone book or not’, jested Nys.
 

David Chipperfield monograph designed by John Morgan Studio

A spread showing Fayland House in Buckinghamshire, UK, designed by DCA from 2008-13

Private houses from London’s leafy neighbourhoods of Kensington and Richmond to Zurich and Seoul, swell into a red-brick residential building in Madrid and a smart grey block at Antwerp’s port. Civic and educational responsibilities soon set in – the Palace of Justice rises in Salerno; a laboratory in Basel forms; a creative campus in Berlin tucks into a terrace. Soon, the museums and galleries, where space exists in its most experiential and experimental form gather – the Neues Museum in Berlin; Museo Jumex in Mexico City; the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

While Luis Fernandez-Galiano’s essay titled ‘A Disciplined Heart’ sets a humorous tone comparing Chipperfield to Copperfield: ‘Like Charles Dickens’s almost homonymous character, he tenaciously strives to temper his sensibility with rigour; however unlike David Copperfield, the architect has disciplined his heart from the beginning of his professional Bildungsroman.’

By the end of the monograph, you will agree with Fernandez-Galiano, that Chipperfield’s adaptability through a ‘temperature fusion of traditional and innovation’ will continue to carry him through architecture – and life. §