Chipperfield

Autor: Johannes Kiefer, Christine Rampl und Eva Hocke

Mr. Chipperflied, many contradictive terms, for example „minimal“ and „poetic“ have been used to describe your architecture.
I think minimalism is not necessarily a good description. I like to think, that we try to make a minimum number of gestures. I‘m interested in doing something simple - if it could be done simple - in that sense I suppose it‘s a minimalism in an aesthetic sense of reducing. I‘m interested in essential qualities. So it is more an essentialism than an minimalism. The essentialism has a poetic view and it is important for me that there is a vision about how you organize decisions. I‘m not very good in making decisions. Unless I have a clear Idea, I don‘t know how to do it.
Did the practice in the office of Rogers and Foster influence your own work?
I think that they are people thinking very seriously about the pieces of a project and work very hard to understand a logic. Sometimes to a fetishistic degree and this elevates performance problems beyond necessity. So I‘m not interested in that way. But I was influenced in the way that they are concerned. You take a problem and shake it hard enough to see whether something can come out of it, if there is a beginning place to start.
It seems a very luxurious way of working down the essential.
Yes, maybe, but I think it‘s impossible not to. I don‘t think architecture is a technical problem. In the end it must be some relation of constructional idea, a spacial idea, material idea. I believe that the idea of architecture is inside architecture itself. Not another manifesto which you borrow somewhere else and then you make architecture work to this idea. I‘m suspicious of generalized ideologies and I think that the idea must be within architecture and be resolved within architecture.
In your lecture yesterday evening you said you were in a midlife crisis working in Japan for some years and now working only in Germany?
First the midlife-crisis partly because we didn‘t build any building for nearly five years. And now we are building three buildings. It seems to happen in groups and so I suppose up until now, I have had a very comfortable position, having few buildings built in japan, not too much but enough maybe to define an approach, a lot of interior work not very important but again enough to sort of show what I‘m interested in and it is a base and now it‘s a big office and a lot of people finally we have to grow up, being more responsible and a certain crisis is coming out of that. And certainly right in the moment, I‘m between these two conditions, because the buildings are not finished yet. The next phase of the office has nothing to show. I‘m still showing models and projects from this last period, and the moment, in front of me seems to be a very different period.
Regarding this isn‘t there a strong task of getting your work known?
I suppose certainly at the beginning. In England there is no competition system. So first of all we took quite seriously the possibility of small projects not because we thought they would bring us big projects but because that’s all we could have, we tried to make them good, not just a sort of well do it, that‘s not very important. I really made my career in the beginning with one shop for Issey Miyake, it was well published and I suppose, party, because you don‘t have the opportunity to show architecture projects, you show smaller projects and you maximise. Also I think this convinced with a tendency which occurred in the last ten years amongst the architecture community to take more notice of smaller things than of bigger things. I think there was a slight cynism on disappointment of what was happening in architecture in a lager scale and on the converse or a little interior and look what someone is doing with little projects.
You told, you think about the house as a frame?
Yes, I think that architecture shouldn‘t present itself as being the middle of your view, it should be on the edges, it should be the frame within which life is made. And of course it should be a nice frame. In the way, that if you go for a walk in the fields you can‘t spend your time looking at the field and saying: „Ha fantastic! Look at the grass, look at this tree and look at that tree!“, but you enjoy it. For me architecture is not so important. If the land is beautiful, if you are sitting on the land maybe your lunch is better, when the view is better, maybe you don‘t know why. It is only my ambition, I can‘t guarantee it. It‘s an ambition for a runner to run fast, but it doesn‘t mean he can, it doesn‘t mean I can make an architecture that way. That‘s what I think architecture should be and I‘m most happy when that quality seems to be the quality the people like about it. For me a good house is when you come in and you want to live in it. And the first thing you want to do is: Come on, let‘s cook a meal here, let‘s open a bottle of wine here like if you go to a nice field. You sa, let‘s stop here, it‘s wonderful.
Do you present your work?
No, we don‘t do so much. I know we should do more in fact. In the last 2 years we didn‘t photograph any projects. All of our interior projects we didn‘t photograph. I‘m too busy and we don‘t have time to even prepare the drawings for the redaction. I don’t have time to write an article.
Have you any special method of working?
No, we begin with models very quickly, as soon as there is a basic idea then already will be a model. We try to make a physical thing as quick as possible and I think this is also coming from doing interiors, because in interiors you only have a space so the drawing isn‘t so important. You can go into the room and see it‘s a window there. It‘s like doing an intervention more than doing a drawing. The drawing are a sort of a record of decisions more than invention of everything, because you don‘t invent- the thing is already invented. You are reinventing so, but the reinvention by the space itself so that means that we are rather used to not seeing the drawing as a anything very interesting. I don‘t like drawings very much, you know, in my presentation I rarely show drawings.
Would you say you have any sort of approach to the term „contextualism“?
For me contextualism isn‘t only the imitation of what‘s around you, It‘s about the dient, it‘s about the place, it‘s about history, it‘s about a lot of things, it can‘t be one thing. It‘s clear in the project that we did in Riebmond, it was physically non-contextual, but if you like there is another context, the context is the dient. He doesn’t want to live in something looking like a 1950‘s - well the next door houses are 1950‘s houses using to look like 1860‘s houses. So he is not interested in living in a 1980‘s house trying to Look like a 1950‘s house, which is trying to look like a 1850‘s house and instead he said: I want a room, I want a space, I want a light, I want garden...
Had there been some trouble by the neighbours?
Yes, he had a big problem. In fact he has now bought the next house. He couldn‘t buy it in his own name because he felt that the man next door wouldn‘t sell the house to him. So he had to get someone to buy it for him. He never saw inside the house himself, he just saw some photos. Anyway he doesn‘t want to go inside - we are going to knock the house down. For me he was the context, a more impor tant context than the neighbours.
You have taught in many cities and many schools, are you a teacher out of conviction?
I‘m not very comfortable teaching. I don‘t think it is very natural to me, I‘m rather impalient. Quite honestly at the moment I would prefer to be in my office always. On the other hand I think it‘s very important always to keep this relation. It‘s stopping you becoming too lazy about having to explain yourself and it makes you think about how you explain yourself and how do you think.
Do you have a method of teaching?
The only thing I would say where I intend to differ about the way I want to teach is that I think that the most important thing for the student to leave a design school is with their own method to define values for themselves. It‘s no good imitating a professor, it‘s no good being told by a professor that this is what architecture should look like. All your are doing is borrowing the decision making qualities of the professor. We discussed this today that what a student has to learn is how to make decisions himself and how to make value, how to give value to things because that is what designing is. It‘s not of making thousands, millions of decisions. Those decisions can only to be made within a value system and therefore you have to learn that.
Do you feel that the students are copying your style, are they very near to your own work?
I dont‚ know, I think they are quite open. I had a problem when I taught in Switzerland in Lausanne maybe the students were desperate that I should say, what I want. So they could do it. They wanted to know: „What is what you want us to du. Why do you make it so difficult.“ I wouldn‘t - and they really didn‘t like it. I nearly had a revolution, because I wouldn‘t tell them what to do. I said: „I want you to do what you want to do“. I would tell you why I think it‘s good or bad, but you must learn your method- an intellectual method that‘s what you are here for. You are not here to learn a style. This week it‘s Chipperfield, next week it‘s Diener and next week it‘s ... Kollhoff. Who ever is in the room I‘ll be like him. I had a big argument about marks. They were very disappointed about their marks, their grade and they were arguing. Of course it‘s upsetting if you got low marks because it effects how you go. In the end I said: „Okay, you are unhappy with your marks. I can understand and now I realize that the only thing you are interested in is your marks. So anybody who wants a higher mark, put up your hands, I‘ll give you a higher mark. No one? So everyone is happy with their mark, good! Finished!“
Do you see yourself teaching at one school for a longer period of time?
I think, it attracts me to teach in a foreign school so I don‘t have to be involved in the bureaucracy of teaching. There is some big disadvantage of coming on a plane, arriving, but when I‘m here I‘m teaching, and when l‘m not here, l am not teaching. Well, as in London, if I were teaching there, it would be easier, but on the other hand I suspect also more difficult, because they would say: „Tuesday morning there is a meeting. Could you sit on this committee to discuss the coffeemaker for the school or the cleaning system...“

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