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March 03, 2015

David Chipperfield Passes Through Istanbul

English architect Sir David Chipperfield was in Istanbul on February 24th; naturally, like the other 2000 people who filled up Istanbul Congress Center, we did not miss his talk.

Chipperfield, directing his narrative based on cities and their stories towards Berlin, the city he has been working on for the past 14 years, talked about six of his projects of various scales and functions: these included the famed Am Kupfergraben Gallery, an old piano factory turned studio-residence, and an ongoing hospital building renovation, all of which co-exist with their own authentic stories among those of the city destroyed in WWII, split in half by a wall, reunited in 1989 and rebuilt thereafter. Chipperfield views the 10-year project process and continuing arguments around the Neues Museum, the last topic in his talk, to be as invigorating as they are ordinary; this museum project was the one that won him the Mies van der Rohe prize in 2011. As he talked about the museum building where he ‘built a new structure in an old one’, Chipperfield pointed out that the new is just as important as the old, the global as the local, the constructed as that which belongs to humans and that which humans belong to; this is why, he said, in one of Doha’s visuals, the buildings ‘look like the perfume bottles in duty-free’. Touching on the lack of the ‘collective’ in present day cities made up of sculpture-like objects and regulated spaces between them, Chipperfield showed images from ‘collectively’ built London, Milan and Naples saying, ‘cities are  cities because of their variety. Their appeal is their informality.’ This is why Istanbul is for him a unique city with its organic and variegated nature, and we had better be aware of these qualities, for ‘what’s lost in a city cannot be regained.’ 

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