John Pawson - Design Museum

13 Jan 2011

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Today, I visited John Pawson - Plain Spaces at the Design Museum. Pawson was one of the first architects that my tutor introduced me to when I started studying Interior & Spatial Design, and I would regularly look through his books and projects throughout my course. His style is simple, calm and timeless.

At the centre of the exhibition is 1:1 scale architectural installation. The photo above is the view when you reach the top of the stairs and enter the gallery space. There is a thin layer of fabric mesh between us and the room which creates a misty, dream-like feeling. People were walking up to the mesh to see what it was. There is a way into the room later on in the exhibition, and this is the view from the other side:

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Pawson is well-known for his 'floating' elements and it was a joy to sit on one of his benches. The timber is soft and warm to the touch, and the 'weightlessness' is stunning, and quite remarkable.

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The photo below is the same view as in the first image, but this time standing in front of the mesh screen.

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From listening to an interview, I learnt about his design ethos, which is centred around creating an experience for the visitor. He said that when he was about 12 years old, he walked into a building which made him feel a certain way, and he knew that he wanted to one day design buildings that trigger an emotional response or affect the visitor's mood.

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He starts a project by sketching and then moves onto making physical models. He said that the models are left out on the desk the whole time, and by looking at them each day they trigger new ideas. The models are photographed to create life-like views which can be developed further. Below are photos I took inside models of two different Chapels.

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They were quite small, but so detailed and realistic!!

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For Pawson, each project needs to have one big idea behind it, so it has some meaning. The materials usually have meaning and a relationship with the surrounding context. The following part of the exhibition was my favourite, as projects were displayed with real samples of materials. You can read about the building and simultaneously feel the materials. When looking at projects in books, I often find it hard to imagine what the materials are really like. In the book you just see colours, but in real life you can feel the texture, warmth/coolness, see reflections...

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Sackler Crossing, Kew Botanical Gardens

Black Granite - deck
Bronze - balustrade

There was a video of this walkway and the way the bronze reflects in the water is stunning. I'm planning to visit when the weather warms up!

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Baron House

Falun Black Timber - external shutters, entrance cladding
Corrugated Zinc - roof

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Cricket Pavillion, Oxford

Oak - cladding
Marble - roof

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I enjoyed this exhibition immensely and found it to be really inspiring for me, on a personal level. I can relate to John Pawson's way of working with a physical model, and intend to continue to work in this way in the future (despite often feeling pressure to design in CAD). I learnt that materials are so important and need to complement the enviroment as well as each other. For a simple design to be successful, the material pallett needs to work perfectly. A simple design can't be cluttered with lots of materials; fewer materials create a calmer, more cohesive environment.

Resources:
- John Pawson
- Plain Spaces Blog

*all photos taken by me.

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