John Pawson enjoys talking about himself, and this makes book number 23. Phaidon has just published John Pawson: Making Life Simpler, which is not a monograph on the British architect and designer’s work but a biography. Rather unexpectedly, the book reads like a novel, crafted engagingly and eloquently by Deyan Sudjic (they are long-standing friends), and is full of snippets and anecdotes describing architecture through the man himself.
Pawson has always preferred writing about his projects to communicating them visually; those who photograph them see them in their own way, from too personal an angle, he says, discussing the lexicon of essential forms, open, serene spaces and limited number of materials that are the hallmarks of a style that falls under the heading of Minimalism. A style that he interprets sublimely, quintessentially elegant. Whether it’s a boutique for Calvin Klein or the sacred Abbey of Our Lady of Nový Dvůr complex in the Czech Republic (2004), the 74-year-old architect and designer, appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to design and architecture, always treats the space with the same purity, and equal drama. Pawson’s portfolio includes projects as varied as The Jaffa Hotel & Residences in Israel (2018), exclusive private homes, yachts and London’s Design Museum (2016). His buildings are governed by light and lightness, and perhaps it is no accident that the same word (light) is used to define both concepts. Pawson, who granted us an intimate interview, has said that when he thinks about the form and atmosphere of a place, the words of the American poet Walt Whitman unfailingly come to mind: “Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.”