The Architecture of John Pawson

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Known for his minimalist aesthetic and thoughtful approach, there has long been a mutual respect between Oyuna and renowned architect John Pawson. Both design for the act of living: just as an OYUNA throw exists beyond the flatness of a rectangle, so too does a stripped back grey wall become part of a much richer, more evocative whole in the hands of Pawson.

Unlike many of his peers, Pawson sees architectural design as a holistic practice; in addition to designing external framework, he often designs and furnishes his projects’ interiors (his wife is a well-regarded interior designer in her own right, often drawing on the OYUNA home collection for that final soft touch). “For me, it's all architecture,” said John in an interview for Carl Hansen e-magazine. “Every component of a space contributes to or detracts from the quality of wholeness—through its form, proportions, surfaces and junctions, in the space it creates around itself and the patterns of use it implies.”

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Since establishing his London-based architectural practise in 1981, Pawson has designed the famous New York Calvin Klein store, private homes in St. Tropez, Montauk and Majorca, a gallery and cafe in Okinawa, ballet sets for London’s Royal Opera house—the list goes on. Pawson is often called a minimalist, but it is perhaps more accurate to describe his approach as one that manages to say a lot with little. His projects are characterised by a distinct personal touch, and, while neutral and clean, they offer richness and complexity. 

Pawson’s trademark simplicity is on display in his recent Life House project, which is part of Alain De Botton’s living architecture program - a program aimed at promoting, educating and influencing discussion about modern architecture in the UK. Set in the Welsh countryside, it’s a beautiful retreat that is both simple and luxurious and is at one with the vistas surrounding it. “In this house, I wanted to create a modern, secular retreat, where guests can experience the benefits of introspection, solitude and immersion in nature,” Pawson said of the house. 

At 67, Pawson shows no signs of slowing down, recently finishing what is arguably his most exciting commission yet— London’s new Design Museum. Opened this November, it’s Pawson’s first public UK building commission. Like all of Pawson’s work, it leaves quite the impact on visitors: stripped-back yet suggestive; quiet yet powerful.

john pawson
Catherine Earnshaw