John Pawson's interiors are just as mysterious, austere, and elegant as when I first saw them 20 years  ago.  While enrolled in NOVA's Interior Design course of studies, I stumbled across photos of Pawson's work published in one of the shelter magazines; something clicked in place and I realized that the excesses of Architectural Digest and the floral prettiness of House & Garden had been surpassed by this--the quiet authority and sincerity of Pawson's vision.  Minimalism was a term which I had seen in the context of art, when discussing artists such as Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, and the incomparable Agnes Martin.  To see the term minimalism applied to the area of interior design and architecture was almost revolutionary to me, and certainly to many others who were also tired of seeing ill-designed homes with rooms smothered by yards of window-dressing, tables overloaded by objects, and bad lighting.

Rowan Moore in an article for The Observer wrote that Pawson, now 61, is the architect both blessed and cursed by the label "minimalist." He emerged in the 80's, in a time of postmodern gaudiness, classical revivalism, and collapsed faith in the ideas of modernist architecture.  He was a breath of fresh air, removing superfluity from interiors so that you could better appreciate their qualities of light, proportion and material.  Lines were almost always straight, corners right-angled, finishes white, black, grey or natural.  Amid the restraint and austerity there would be the luxury of stuff, such as the veins of marble or the grain of wood.  Projects would often include and adventure in procurement such as a wonderful piece of stone found on an Italian mountain, hewn into a bath and craned into a west London terrace, the sweat and drama of which would be belied by the calm of the finished space.

Moore notes that,  Pawson arrived from outside the usual channels of architectural apprenticeship.  He never completed his studies, and never worked for another architectural practice, but only for the designer Shiro Kuramata, whom Pawson discovered in his 20s when drifting through Japan.  His inspirations included the art of Donald Judd and his early fans included the writer Bruce Chatwin.  "It seemed to me the notes were almost perfect," he {Chatwin} wrote.  "I walked around the walls, watching its planes, shadows and proportions in a state of near elation."

That elation still continues today for a legion of followers and admirers.  Erika Stahlman of aestheteblog posts that,  'Pawson has been  a constant inspiration for artists and designers all around the world.  His spaces are bold and clean.  He loves plaster walls, sleek and monolithic wood forms and shapes, and seems to always engage with natural landscapes through observatory-like windows, which maximize the exposition to sun-light, while at the same time connecting interior and exterior spaces.' 

Pawson, as well as Luis Barragan and Tadao Ando all transcend mere architecture.  Indeed, I regard them as magicians of space and creators of beauty.  They are alchemists who transform base materials into sanctuaries where poetic solitude enriches the soul.

Please enjoy today's visual treat.


PS:  John Pawson's essays can be found on-line, and his numerous books are available through The Strand Bookstore.


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