John Pawson creates installation in Palladio basilica

Minimalist architect installs Perspectives in Venice's 16th century Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore
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Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher
Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher

When the British architect John Pawson was invited to place a work inside St Pauls Cathedral, he flatly rejected the idea of putting any scale models of his own creations inside Sir Christopher Wren's London masterpiece. Instead, he installed a lens and mirror combination at the bottom of the spiral staircase which leads up to the cathedral library. The work revealed the original building's beauty with a degree of subtlety and tact typical of Pawson, allowing visitors to view the staircase's geometric beauty, apparent to the architect but perhaps lost to the untrained eye.

 

Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher
Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher

This piece, produced and funded by Swarovski crystals, was called Perspectives and formed part of the 2011 London Design Festival. Now, Pawson has reprised the installation in Venice's Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore to coincide with the Biennale. This 16th century Basilica is an equally impressive building, created by the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, and those who've seen the installation tell us that the lens highlights its beauty with, if anything, an even more beautiful, understated simplicity.

 

Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher
Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher

Perspectives has been placed beneath the Basilica's central cupola, or domed crest, "providing visitors with architectural perspectives beyond the range of the naked eye." The idea, the architect tells us is that viewers are invited "to look at and appreciate Palladio's glorious 16th century Benedictine church with fresh eyes."

 

Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher
Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher

Explaining his thought processes on the project Pawson said: "The Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore is an immensely complex spatial environment. The temptation is to try to take in everything. This is about offering viewers a dynamic visual experience of Palladio's architecture, based around a single, sharply honed perspective."

 

John Pawson in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher
John Pawson in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher

See Perspectives for yourself; it's on display at the basilica until 24 November. To find out more go here; to learn more about Palladio, there's a very good book in the store called Palladian Style, and for greater insight into John Pawson's work, browse Phaidon's range of books with the great man.

Nadja Swarovski beside Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher
Nadja Swarovski beside Perspectives by John Pawson installed in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. Photograph by Gilbert McCarragher


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