Image in modal.

After the announcement in early March of his selection as the 2023 Pritzker laureate, last week Sir David Alan Chipperfield was awarded the prize in a ceremony in Athens, Greece. Several hundred people were in attendance Wednesday evening on the ancient Agora, an archaeological site located beneath the northwest slope of the Acropolis. Among those present were Chipperfield’s partners in offices from London, Berlin, Milan, Shanghai, and Santiago de Compostela, joined by former Pritzker laureates Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Dublin-based Grafton Architects, Francis Kéré, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, and Alejandro Aravena. Aravena chairs the Pritzker jury, whose members—Barry Bergdoll, Deborah Berke, Benedetta Tagliabue, André Corrêa do Lago, and retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, and former laureates Wang Shu and Kazuyo Sejima—were all also on hand for the event.

a group photo of pritzker prize officials and laureates.

David Chipperfield joined by Pritzker Prize officials and past winners; pictured from left to right: Manuela Lucá-Dazio, executive director of the Pritzker Prize; Jean-Philippe Vassal, Anne Lacaton, Chipperfield, Alejandro Aravena, and Francis Kéré. Photo by Nikolas Kominis for The Hyatt Foundation/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

Over the years the Pritzker ceremony has taken place at spectacular sites across the globe. In 1993, Fumihiko Maki received the award at the Prague Castle; in 2000, Rem Koolhaas accepted it at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park; and in 2006, Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s ceremony took place at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul. The 2019 ceremony for Arata Isozaki at the Château de Versailles was the last of these grand events before the Covid-19 pandemic halted the celebrations.

architect david chipperfield being presented with an award.

Thomas Pritzker presents the Pritzker medal to Chipperfield. Photo by Nikolas Kominis for The Hyatt Foundation/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

Athens was an appropriate setting for Chipperfield, who, only weeks before the Pritzker announcement, was selected to design an expansion of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. But it was also an opportunity to bring into focus the hotly-debated stewardship of some of Greece’s archaeological treasures—namely the Parthenon Sculptures housed at the British Museum in London. In an entertaining speech that prompted the crowd to cheer, Greece’s first lady, Mareva Grabowski Mitsotakis, wife of newly re-elected prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, cleverly reminded those seated before her—among them members of the British government and former Pritzker laureate Sir Norman Foster, designer of the Great Court at the British Museum—that the so-called Elgin Marbles belong in Greece.

Chipperfield is the first British architect to win the Pritzker since the late Richard Rogers in 2007. Introduced by Thomas Pritzker, president of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the architecture prize, Chipperfield recognized his colleagues and became emotional when thanking his family. But his acceptance speech was also a call to architects to focus on professional responsibility. “Practice is a body of knowledge,” he said, “not an opportunistic economic venture.”

The evening culminated with a dinner inside the 377-foot-long Stoa of Attalos on the Agora—at a single table nearly as long.