The architect David Chipperfield is at the centre of an extraordinary row over Milan’s new €60m (£44m) Museum of Culture, a building he has designed and now disowned after accusing officials of skimping on flooring materials.
The resulting “floor war” – as locals have dubbed the stand off – has led the British architect, famous for the Neues Museum in Berlin and China’s Liangzhu Culture Museum, to demand that his name be removed from the project.
Mr Chipperfield, whose firm has offices in Milan, Berlin and Shanghai as well as London, told a press conference that “the laying of stone of poor quality” had transformed the building into “a museum of horrors,” and that it amounted to “a pathetic end to 15 years of work”.
The opening of the new Milan institution, on 26 April, has been designed to coincide with the city’s imminent 2015 Expo World Fair. The Fair is facing troubles of its own, amid corruption scandals and claims that the show site may not be completed before its official May opening.
Mr Chipperfield said that the 5,000 square metres of stone flooring in his museum complex, made from a converted steel factory, contained pieces that were scratched, stained and badly-aligned.
In a statement, Milan’s council noted that despite Mr Chipperfield’s outrage, he had been well paid for this work. “It cost €60m, of which €3.6m went to Chipperfield for his design and project management,” it said.
“These are sums of money appropriate for a public institution and right for the importance of the project, but it was necessary to make choices based on common sense and in the interests of the taxpayers.” It added: “The samples and the visits to the quarry supplying the material were overseen by staff of the office of David Chipperfield Architects, who validated the choice of the material used.”
L’Espresso magazine quoted Milan’s councillor for culture, Filippo Del Corno, as saying the British architect had been unreasonable and impossible to please – something Mr Chipperfield denies.
Mr Chipperfield was not available for comment yesterday. But earlier he told the Corriere Della Sera newspaper: “My career in Italy was not motivated by the desire to get rich but by the desire to work in a society with a great history and a deep understanding of the importance of architecture.”
Aside from the controversial stone floor, the complex, which lies in Milan’s hip Tortona district, consists of two, three and four-storey buildings, with courtyards and passages.
It’s not the first time that Italy has felt the wrath of an internationally reknowned designer. When a major retrospective show on the work of Frank Gehry opened in Milan in 2009, the celebrated but tetchy American creator of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum hit out at how baroque Italy had snubbed his designs.
“If I pay attention to what’s happened in Italy and project what’s going to happen in the future based on my experience so far, I would say that nothing’s going to happen here,” he said, when asked if he hoped to win commissions for his modernists creations in the country.