For the past two years, the brilliant minds of British starchitect David Chipperfield and his young Swiss confrère Simon Kretz have been joining forces to think about the future of our cities. They came together under Rolex’s Mentor & Protégé programme which, every two years, brings together an established heavyweight and a young talent in artistic fields such as music, art and architecture. Their only obligation: to spend two years together coming up with ideas for a better world. Chipperfield and Kretz have been thinking about how the design of cities – where 54% of the world’s population now lives – might be improved. Numéro caught up with them as they went to press with their conclusions, which will also be the subject of a lecture series in Berlin.
NUMÉRO: One of the principal challenges for cities in the future is the question of the new and the old – how much should our architectural heritage be preserved? Which is better, Paris’s museum approach or London’s building frenzy?
DAVID CHIPPERFIELD: Let me tell you two stories. The city of Munich asked my advice with respect to a development that involved destroying buildings from the 1950s. Were they architecturally interesting? No, rather mediocre. And yet they’re part of Munich’s memory. Destroy them, and it’s a whole chunk of the city’s soul and history that disappears. In Shanghai, I was involved with a development concerning a building on the north of the Bund. The developers wanted to demolish it. Once again, it was mediocre, but the authorities, who are becoming more sensitive to the idea of preservation, wanted it kept. In China, the simplest solution is to demolish and build an exact replica but with better materials. The Chinese are amazing when it comes to copying! I had to fight to convince them that we needed to work with the existing architecture. But after ten years of restoration, I couldn’t help saying to myself, “My god, all that work for this?! You’d think we hadn’t done anything at all.” But something interesting has happened since: people often stop to take photos of our building. Just nearby, another building has been demolished and replaced by a copy. And guess what? Nobody stops to photograph it.
“The problem with towers, as I see it, isn’t so much that they spoil the landscape – the problem with towers is on the ground at their bases!” David Chipperfield