John Pawson (born 1949) is often associated with minimalist aesthetics. But minimalism in itself has never been a goal for this English architect. The core of his architecture is about exploring the fundamental challenges of space, proportions, light and materials. To Pawson, the encounter between wall and floor is just as architecturally essential as the distribution of space. He eliminates superfluous features and reduces design and form in order to get at the essence, convinced that there is a wealth of expression to be found in five shades of white or the feel of a material.
A crucial relationship
Pawson’s cooperation with Dinesen dates back to the early 1990s when he was renovating his own home in Notting Hill. Here, he used ten-metre-long Douglas planks as the basis of a simple interior expression, free of visual distractions. Thus, he was the first to teach Dinesen about the real significance of a floor. That planks can be used for more than walking on, and that they are an important design element. John Pawson also takes a functional approach to materials. Among other things, he has used Dinesen planks to create tables and benches with unique expressions, where the wood plays a key role, and the user can sense the material up close.
Over the years, Pawson has involved Dinesen in a wide range of projects, where the wooden planks have helped achieve a unique expression – from cladding on a cricket pavilion in Oxford to Skysuite Offices in London, which features oak flooring. Prior to this project, Dinesen had only produced Douglas planks, but Pawson changed that. The English architect has thus had a significant impact on Dinesen. Similarly, according to Pawson, his work would not have been the same without Dinesen.
“You want to work with people who are as obsessive as you are yourself. Architects rely on their choice of partner to succeed in their careers and endeavours. My work would not be the same without Dinesen”.
When the new Design Museum opens at its new location in autumn 2016, it will be with more than 2000 m2 of oak flooring as well as bespoke furniture made of Dinesen Oak. Pawson is behind the transformation to a modern museum where the unique spatial quality of the former Commonwealth building is retained.
A secret passion
John Pawson’s secret passion is photography, and he has taken thousands of photos with the camera he always carries with him. He uses the camera in his work, taking photos on site to develop a sense of the sort of building that would be right for the specific location and landscape. And in general, whenever something catches his eye. The motifs range from local architecture on his travels around the world to colourful snapshots of nature, where a tree trunk, special light effects or a landscape is captured through the camera lens. A small selection of the photos is featured in Pawson’s photo book “A Visual Inventory” (2012) and not least on Instagram.
Over the years, Pawson has designed anything from private homes (including a compact flat for the author Bruce Chatwin) and several Calvin Klein stores to a monastery in the Czech Republic. A common feature in the very diverse projects, apart from his sensitivity to the clients’ needs, is that he always designs rooms and spaces that he would enjoy being in himself. Therefore, all John Pawson’s projects are characterised by a profoundly personal touch, and there are great expectations for the new Design Museum that John Pawson and his design team have been working on since 2009. Perhaps this has to do with the insight he had when he was only 14 years old: that architecture should evoke emotions in order to be true architecture. Otherwise, it is just a building.