David Chipperfield Unveils a Contemporary Office in a Former Convent

Ciro Marco Musella
·2 minuto per la lettura
Photo credit: Foto di Simon Menges
Photo credit: Foto di Simon Menges

From ELLE Decor

The Capuchin, who have followed Saint Francis’ lessons of penitence and solitude since the 16th century, “do not possess anything, their means of subsistence are reduced to the minimum, their lexicon is specific and disciplined,” just as “their architectures are essential,” recalls Giovanni Pozzi, whose book Devota sobrietà. L’identità cappuccina e i suoi simboli delves into the style which, for centuries, characterized the architectures of the order on both sides of the Alps. And who better to bring a former XVII century convent back to life, respecting its austere identity — the result of a strict rule — if not David Chipperfield? An architect famous around the world, not to mention Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Sir David is perhaps among the few architects that have earned the trust of restorers and conservators — some of the most feared figures for every constructor.

Photo credit: Foto di Simon Menges
Photo credit: Foto di Simon Menges

After the transformation of the Royal Academy of Arts and the Neues Museum of Berlin, the architect returns to layer the new with the old for Jacoby Studios in the city where Charlemagne once signed his alliance with the Roman Church. We’re in Germany, in Paderborn, in North Rhine-Westphalia, and more precisely in the St. Vincenz Hospital, which was once a Capuchin convent. In 1841, the space became a shelter after it was abandoned by the friars, operating through World War II without reporting damages until 2013.

Photo credit: Foto di Simon Menges
Photo credit: Foto di Simon Menges

The project from David Chipperfield Architects Berlin moves in two directions: first and foremost, it’s an intervention of conservation which looks to remove the reconstructions and additions built after the war. With this, the perimeter wall in stone and brick returns to display its true identity — reinforced and, where necessary, completed. At the same time, the facade of the chapel was brought back to life, along with the 17th-century cantina and cloister. The second part of the intervention, however, came with the expansion of nine volumes over two to three floors. The request, in fact, was that to intervene on the building and carve out spaces adapted to Jacoby Studios, a family business.

Photo credit: Foto di Simon Menges
Photo credit: Foto di Simon Menges

After the hospital was transferred, the convent was sold to the Jacoby family, who committed themselves to respecting the historic site’s identity. The new volumes, realized in concrete and wood, were made lower than the pre-existent structures and are characterized — unlike the introverted historic walled body — by generous windows that face a garden designed by Wirtz International. “Rooted in an appreciation of its complex historical context, the Jacoby studios create a new urbanistic whole out of fragments. The project combines a wide range of the practice’s experience — reinterpreting historic buildings, combining the old with the new, balancing landscape and building — to provide a comfortable and stimulating workplace,” commented David Chipperfield. The choice then was to pair the existing architecture with an immediately recognizable and contemporary character — a decision that earned him a nomination for the Mies van der Rohe Award 2021.

Photo credit: Courtesy David Chipper eld Architects
Photo credit: Courtesy David Chipper eld Architects

davidchipperfield.com