David Chipperfield: 'Brexit one of the worst decisions ever made'

by Magali Robathan | 15 May 2017

Britain’s vote to pull out of the European Union has been branded “stupid” and “one of the worst decisions ever made” by renowned architect David Chipperfield.

Talking exclusively to CLADglobal, Chipperfield predicted the move was “going to be very bad for British architecture”, and stressed his concern for the European Union nationals working for his practice.

In a wide-ranging interview that will be published in the next edition of CLADmag, Chipperfield said of Brexit: “I think it is completely stupid.

“When we have got so much to learn and to give to others culturally, building walls is just the daftest thing ever. All of the things that we can learn from our European colleagues are going to be abandoned. And it's based on the worst tendencies of British provincialism. I think it's shocking for the next generation. It will be seen as one of the worst decisions ever made.”

Around 50 per cent of the workforce in the architect’s London studio come from other EU countries, Chipperfield told CLADglobal.

He claimed that it was "obscene" for the uncertainty of residential status "to be used as a trading tool" by the government in Brexit negotiations, adding: "Brexit has contaminated us to the point where even our sense of fair play and dignity have been compromised. I think we're shocking Europe by our behaviour to the EU nationals. Why doesn't [prime minister] Theresa May take this unplayable card off the table immediately? I find these things really dangerous."

However, he said his primary worry about the UK leaving the trading bloc was not the commercial effect it would have on his own practice.

“I don’t care about that,” he said. “That’s not the issue. This is another British problem; we only talk about the EU in terms of trade. Is it good for trade or bad for trade? I don’t care. For us it's not a problem.

“Much more importantly, I think it's bad for the mind. It's bad for culture. It's going to be very bad for British architecture.”

Chipperfield also expressed his dismay at the upcoming General Election, taking place on 8 June, which he said was “going to be another disaster”.

“I mean Labour are going to be trounced. Theresa May is going to be energised and the right wing of her party is going to be energised,” he said. “We’re not going to have an effective opposition, and she's going to feel that she's got a stronger hand going into Europe. But it’s not true. There's nothing to play for.”

However, asked whether he could find any reason for optimism, Chipperfield was quick to point out the longstanding resilience of the architecture industry and said that he expected young creatives to adapt the the uncertainty ahead.

“You could say that, in some ways, the lack of protection has produced a certain sort of energy from a younger generation that had to be tougher. So will that be part of this period? It may be.”

Generally speaking, the architectural profession has been critical of Brexit. Chipperfield was among 20 architects to sign an open letter published in the Guardian on 14 May expressing their “extreme concern” about the “deeply serious consequences” of the vote.

Amanda Levete, Richard Rogers, Ron Arad, Eva Jiricna, Peter Cook and Will Alsop were among the other figures who put their name to the letter. They said they are “appalled” by how EU staff in their offices have been treated and warned that Brexit will limit “the transfer of information, ideas and influence.”

However, Zaha Hadid Architects' principal Patrik Schumacher has said in an interview with CLADglobal that the UK could use Brexit as an opportunity to create an immigration policy to stimulate the creative industries.

“Brexit is a bit unnerving, but we have the opportunity to find some positives,” he said.

In addition, according to architecture website BDonline, Norman Foster has said: “Once a political decision like [Brexit] is made in a democratic society one may agree or disagree or welcome it or regret it – I’m in the camp that regrets it – but on the other hand if that’s the democratic decision then you get on with it and you optimise on that.”

Chipperfield also spoke to CLADglobal about the practice's forthcoming projects, including the Nobel Center in Stockholm, the renovation and overhaul of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Zhejiang Museum of Natural History in China and the James Simon Galerie in Berlin. You can read the full interview in the next issue of CLADmag.

David Chipperfield  Brexit  EU  architecture  design  CLAD 
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Architects express shock as UK votes to leave the European Union

Britain’s vote to pull out of the European Union has been branded “stupid” and “one of the worst decisions ever made” by renowned architect David Chipperfield. Talking exclusively to CLADglobal, Chipperfield predicted the move was “going to be very bad for British architecture”, and stressed his concern for the European Union nationals working for his practice. In a wide-ranging interview that will be published in the next edition of CLADmag,
CLD,ARC,DES,DEV,PHR
Chipperfield said of Brexit, 'I think it's bad for the mind, it's bad for culture and it's going to be very bad for British architecture' / Martin Godwin
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