And the winning architect is... one of our most strident detractors

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Royal Institute of British Architects gives its top prize to Sir David Chipperfield

British architecture's greatest outsider will become its most talked about insider when the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) confirms today that the Queen is to present him with its 2011 Royal Gold Medal – one of the greatest prizes in building design.

Until now, Sir David Chipperfield has been one of UK architecture's most neglected sons – he had to prove his worth abroad rather than in Britain because he has, until relatively recently, found it impossible to get major commissions here. But his Hepworth Art Gallery in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is likely to finally dye-stamp him on our cultural scene when it opens in the spring.

His elevation to the pantheon of gold medal winners, alongside the likes of Sir Edwin Lutyens, Louis Kahn Frank Lloyd Wright and Lord Foster, carries a glimmer of irony. When Sir David won the 2007 Stirling Prize for his Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach, Germany, he openly criticised the closed-shop atmosphere of British design competitions, in which Riba is often involved.

But the stand-off is now over and erased with a mannerly bow. Sir David accepted his gold medal nomination with a heartfelt, diplomatic statement. "I am overwhelmed by the decision of the Riba to award me the 2011 Royal Gold Medal, and to join a list that includes so many great architects and personal heroes," he said. "I hope my career will justify this great honour and that I can fulfil the expectations that this award bestows on me."

Earlier this year, Sir David, 57, told The Independent: "Architecture is about judgements and values and what one believes in. Architecture is about how you put the individual person in a particular position in the world – a world where people rarely find their place."

His mindset aligns him with his greatest European contemporaries, such as Álvaro Siza, Peter Zumthor and Rafael Moneo, all of whom are influenced by the tensions that lie between modernism and the phenomena of history. Sir David has been a hero to young British architects of the "anti-bling" persuasion for more than a decade; they will regard his newly-gilded status as long overdue.

Deborah Saunt, the Riba insider who nominated him for the medal, certainly deserves Brownie points for enshrining a modernist architect with a love of books, art and rugby, whose designs draw from the actual and intangible qualities of places and their histories. Shock-of-the-new buildings will never be produced by David Chipperfield Architects. Patrick Lynch, one of the most gifted of Britain's rising new designers, summed up Sir David's importance, saying: "Chippo reminds us that good design isn't simply a subjective matter. Truth and beauty are unfashionable terms today, but good architecture cannot just be dramatic, nor is it just problem-solving or technical ingenuity. In his best buildings, the beauty of truth and the truth of beauty are reinforced, and a deeper meaning is revealed. His buildings work in the way poems work."

Yet in the first decade of his career, Sir David got little work in the UK apart from shop makeovers, and his only blips on the radar here came when he designed the Henley Rowing Museum and a studio for the sculptor Antony Gormley. By then, he had based his relatively small practice in Berlin and was beginning to pick up big commissions. In 2005 his design for Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, showed an outstanding control of materials and form that was absolutely anti-iconic: here was a large, thoroughly modernist glass building of decorous elegance.

In 2006, three buildings by Sir David – BBC Scotland's headquarters in Glasgow, the America's Cup building in Valencia, Spain, and the Marbach museum – proved that glinting, high-tech architecture and blobby forms were not the only games in town.

His most recent project, the restoration of Berlin's Neues Museum, is considered a masterpiece by some critics. Even so, Sir David's civil and culturally informed work may yet remain surplus to requirements in Britain, which still seems enthralled by standout buildings that are architectural brand marks for big businesses, or yet more vilely "stunning" des-res housing and retail developments.

Previous winners: Designs for living

2010: Leoh Ming Pei

Born in Canton, China, in 1917, he travelled to the US in 1935 to study architecture and never returned to live in his home country. Perhaps his most famous work is the unmistakable glass pyramids of the Grand Louvre in Paris, completed in 1993.

2009: Álvaro Siza

The Portuguese architect finished his first project – a group of four houses in the coastal town of Matosinhos, where he was born – when he was still a student. His work ranges from swimming pools to mass housing developments, including a residential complex in the poor area of Schilderswijk West, in The Hague.

2008: Edward Cullinan

Beginning his career working for Sir Denys Lasdun, the creator of the National Theatre building, he later set up his own practice. One of his more notable projects was the relocation of RMC Group's headquarters from a tower block in west London to a greenbelt site in Surrey. He obtained planning permission by creating a series of single-storey offices, camouflaged with roof gardens.

2007: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron

One of the Swiss architects' most notable constructions is their spectacular conversion of the Bankside power station in London into the Tate Modern. They are also responsible for the curvaceous Allianz Arena in Germany, home of FC Bayern Munich, which opened in 2005 and was a venue for the 2006 World Cup.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions