by AIA New York
Over his nearly 30-year career, Bernhard Karpf, FAIA, has advanced a distinguished body of modern architecture, distinctive for its order and composition, natural light, meticulous assembly, and site transformation. As associate partner at Richard Meier & Partners, Karpf’s work on significant public and private buildings worldwide is grounded in an engaged understanding of timeless architectural strategies with regards to context and site, programmatic requirements, space and proportion. Organizing geometries and human proportions are applied to unify complex programmatic requirements such as the Canal+ Television Studios and Headquarters in Paris. Scale and reference achieve a harmonious balance of new and existing at the Burda Museum in Baden-Baden. Natural light is used to reinforce and enhance a clearly defined circulation sequence at the Arp Museum in Rolandseck. Sustainability is integral to each design whether employed in siting strategies or technological advances such as the Coffee Plaza in Hamburg or at the Leblon Offices in Rio de Janeiro. Lightness, transparency, and the expression of unique program elements are what transcends the size and scale of Karpf’s diverse projects.
This year, the Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Karpf to its prestigious College of Fellows in the first category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have “Promoted the aesthetic, scientific, and practical efficiency of the profession,” according to the organizations’s definition. Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with Fellowship and honorary Fellowship, Karpf was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York and at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City.
Q: What is your proudest achievement as an architect?
A: By far the achievement I am proudest of is to have been able to work as designing architect for over thirty years on numerous projects around the globe. To create architecture in collaboration with my colleagues here at Richard Meier & Partners and with clients, consultants, and contractors of different cultural backgrounds has been extremely illuminating and encouraging.
Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?
A: Growing up in Stuttgart, Germany, the Weissenhof Siedlung with buildings by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Hans Scharoun was always a special place in town—loved by some, hated by most because it didn’t fit the general consensus of pitched-roof buildings. Being controversial gave it an attraction that remained.
One of the first buildings we had to analyze as young architecture students was Richard Meier’s Douglas House and I remember being confused and curious as to how anyone could live in such a house. Needless to say, now I wish I could live in a house like this.
Q: What is influencing your work the most right now?
A: We are confronted with new challenges and exciting opportunities in our work, whether issues of sustainability, density, or all things digital. What is most important to me in this context is to retain the timeless qualities of architectural discourse such as shelter, identity, even beauty.
Q: What are you working on right now, or what is your next big project?
A: Our tower project in Mexico City, Torre Cuarzo on Reforma, is in its final stages of completion and as every architect knows this requires endless patience and dedication. The same is true for a private residence in Switzerland where the client is anxious to finally move in. There is a small hotel project on Mallorca on the drawing board, a new condominium building in Jesolo in Italy, a multi-family residential project in my home town in Stuttgart, and a few more projects of different scales in the very early stages which I hope will be built in the near future.
Q: What does being a fellow mean to you?
A: It is an honor to be part of such a distinguished group of professionals and in some way a confirmation of my personal efforts to create architecture of distinction. At the same time it is a humbling experience for me as an individual in a profession that is defined by constant collaboration.
Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the 28 members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter that have been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2018, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here.