David Chipperfield, fresh from a successful and rapid – building plus masterplan in 11 months – in Valencia recently, lays into the "events culture" around British architecture:
"The big difference between working in Britain and Europe,"
Chipperfield tells me, "is that here, you are not really expected to
debate ideas. Money and marketing are what matter most. We live in an
events culture in the UK. Architecture, arts and media are all
increasingly driven by events agendas. Original thinking and debate
have been overwhelmed. So we get a lot of slick and often thoughtless
architecture put up at speed.
"We see buildings in Britain mostly
as freestanding objects," he continues. "They are not meant to have a
dialogue with anything around them, or with history, or with ideas of
any kind beyond the self-referential. What we call regeneration is
largely an excuse for building for maximum profit with a bit of
sculptural design thrown in to catch the eye of the media."
It’s interesting that the rapidity of Chipperfield’s intervention in Valencia is not at odds with building something which lasts, developing through dialogue and integration into the wider urban context, historical, social and spatial. Reading Jonathan Glancey’s article, it sounds like the building is in use while elements of it are still developing – almost as if launching a ‘beta’ working prototype, which unfolds its full purpose over time. The construction apparently feels very solid – no corners cut there, pun not intended – and as the photos below reveal, the sheer pace of the project produced striking results from Chipperfield’s studio, as they pared down the form to enable the simplest possible build.
Glancey concludes, with a warning glare in the direction of the London Olympic ‘masterplanners’, "Chipperfield’s design and masterplan show how a major new sporting
development can add to the lustre, practicality and delight of a city
determined to reinvent itself."
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