by John Pawson
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.