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AJ exclusive: Chipperfield counters Prix's Venice Biennale criticism

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Venice Architecture Biennale director David Chipperfield has responded to Wolf Prix’s criticism of the 2012 festival

In a letter titled ‘Kicking against the Prix’, the RIBA gold medallist claimed the Coop Himmelb(l)au founder had failed to attend the biennale despite issuing a critical press release last week describing it as ‘banal’.

Defending the international architecture event, he said: ‘This year’s biennale, with all its weaknesses and mistakes, was above all conceived and realised in a spirit of generosity.’

Chipperfield went on to criticise Prix for being ‘incapable of defining his own position except in opposition to others’.

He said: ‘Wolf Prix demonstrates no interest in the position of others and only imagines that architecture can conform to his own priorities and preconceptions.’

David Chipperfield’s full letter

I am disappointed that our British architectural press should give so much coverage to the destructive opinions of a Viennese architect about the Biennale, even though he hadn’t even visited Venice.

My concerns are not about the criticism, which I didn’t understand, but that this statement and the ensuing ‘controversy’ stimulated by its publication reinforce the negative attitudes of our architectural culture. Wolf Prix demonstrates no interest in the position of others and only imagines that architecture can conform to his own priorities and preconceptions.

This year’s Biennale, with all its weaknesses and mistakes, was above all conceived and realised in a spirit of generosity, optimistically proposing that there is an architectural culture bound together by shared intentions, influences and disappointments and that even the most celebrated protagonists of our profession are capable of engaging in such a dialogue.

When I began to formulate the theme of this Biennale, paradoxically I had Wolf Prix in mind, as only a few months before he had publicly pronounced (again through a press release) that my building in Vienna for Peek & Cloppenburg was a ‘piece of shit’.

Beyond the fact of the criticism itself was the fact that an architect should be so drawn to criticise a ‘colleague’ through the medium of the press. How can our profession be regarded as anything more than a soap opera if the personalities of architects dominate all reporting and serious critique is abandoned not only by the media but also by architects themselves?

It is a shame that Mr Prix seems incapable of defining his own position except in opposition to others, and that our press doesn’t deem us capable of being interested in any discussion about architecture unless it is laced with controversy.

David Chipperfield, 03.09.12

 

Cartoon by Louis Hellman

Cartoon by Louis Hellman

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It’s become personal. Beneath the surface there is a conflict between the neo traditionalist doctrine that David Chippefield represents and others who disagree. Take for example the utterly trivial theme ‘common ground’. Architecture I thought was supposed to take position not sit back in denial.

    The rather myopic power of one man’s vision appears to have limited architectural choice to the point where the Biennale has become a motley collection of back slapping self-indulgence and irrelevant for the modern age.

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