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John Pawson

United Kingdom (1949)

Few design­ers have done more with less than John Pawson. A simple expanse of stone, a careful appli­ca­tion of glazing — Pawson has spent almost four decades utiliz­ing the tenets of mini­mal­ism to create thought­ful spaces to think. Born in Halifax in 1949, Pawson studied both at Eton and at his family’s textile mill before a teach­ing trip to Japan intro­duced him to that country’s archi­tec­tural and aesthetic tradi­tions. After return­ing to London to study at the Archi­tec­tural Asso­ci­a­tion, he formed his own prac­tice in 1981. Since then, he’s merged the spir­i­tual and the substan­tive, devis­ing inno­v­a­tive archi­tec­tural solu­tions to the prob­lems of scale and light. 

Pawson’s first master­piece rede­fined retail. Completed in 1995, his Madison Avenue flag­ship for Calvin Klein trans­formed an Art Deco bank into a temple of York stone and glass, with more room for contem­pla­tion than shop­ping. Similar restraint defined his subse­quent Catha Pacific lounge in Hong Kong and 2015 London flag­ship for Christo­pher Kane. While Pawson has applied his clear-eyed gaze to the theatri­cal, craft­ing ballet sets for the L’Opéra Bastille in Paris and London’s Royal Opera House, he’s most at home in resi­den­tial projects, whether for the jet-set clien­tele at Ian Schrager’s projects from Holly­wood to Miami Beach or Cister­cian Monks at the Abbey of Our Lady of Nový Dvůr in Bohemia. Since even the sparest space must be filled with func­tional objects, in 2013 Pawson designed the inau­gural collec­tion of table­ware and home acces­sories for Beat­rice de Lafontaine’s When Objects Work, a collab­o­ra­tion which contin­ues to this day. And after publish­ing seven books with Phaidon, Pawson was appointed a Comman­der of the Order of the British Empire in 2019.

Designs by John Pawson (18)