David Chipperfield


We have just visited the Neues Museum in Berlin. It was destroyed by allied bombing between 1943 and 1945 and remained a ruin until the 1980s when some form of weather protection covered what was left. The majority of its contents were destroyed or taken as loot to Russia where much remains.

David Chipperfied has done the restoration and it is a wonderful building. He has absorbed the shell and some of the form where possible and added his own sweep and vision within it. The central staircase is magnificent. The walls and the pillars outside bear the scars of bullets and shrapnel. Inside are Schliemann's treasures excavated from Troy and the bust of Nefertiti - timeless and unique.

Chesterfield is scathing about the public building process in his home country.

"In Britain, we've tended to replace the kind of architectural culture valued in much of Europe with an in-flight magazine lifestyle – all branding, marketing and 'accessibility', a word that usually means dumbing-down. We treat people, even those willing to trek to museums and art galleries in the snow, as if they don't know anything about ­anything, when it's just not true.

We pride ourselves on a system of planning in Britain known as 'development control' – as if we're talking about pest control, rather than ways of ­making our towns and cities more interesting places. Most architects work in ­studios largely divorced from academia, as if ideas, criticism and ­historical ­research were irrelevant. And we have little or no way of encouraging young architects, who should be winning design competitions for public buildings. We don't have city ­architects, or local-authority architects' departments, up and down Britain as you do in Europe, so there's no reliable way of encouraging competitions and making them work. It's as if any decent new architecture in Britain happens more by accident than design."


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