John Pawson’s career began quietly in the early 80s, with a series of small domestic projects and gallery spaces, including a tiny London apartment for the writer Bruce Chatwin. The contrast of these pared down designs with mainstream aesthetic trends at the time was marked: here was work whose roots lay in the successive expressions of simplicity which have formed a consistent component of both Eastern and Western traditions.
In the mid 90s the profile of the work was changed for ever by two key commercial commissions: for the Cathay Pacific Wing of Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport and for Calvin Klein’s first flagship store in Manhattan. In 2004, an approach to design long described as monastic culminated in the consecration of a new monastery in Bohemia for a community of Cistercian Trappist monks. Two years later a bridge across the lake opened to the public at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Houses and the objects which go in them remain the core of the work, in sites as diverse as rural Sweden, suburban Tokyo and downtown Los Angeles. Pawson’s own family house in London perfectly illustrates his belief that domestic space can be uncompromisingly shaped to reflect and support the rituals of everyday life.