All you need to know about John Pawson: Anatomy of Minimum

This powerful new monograph showcases the elements and architectural anatomy at the heart of Pawson's work
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John Pawson has always known less is more. Over the past thirty years he has worked to create rigorously simple architecture and design that speaks of the fundamentals, but is also modest in character.

Pawson’s body of work spans a broad range of scales and scopes, from private houses, ecclesiastical buildings, galleries and museums to hotels, ballet sets and even yacht interiors.

 

St Moritz Church, Germany
St Moritz Church, Germany

And, as with his flawless buildings, the books he has published never add in unnecessary ornamentation or repeat old tropes. John Pawson: Anatomy of Minimum, the latest volume in Phaidon's documentation of the architect's stellar career, hones in on the essential details that mark his distinctive style, by focusing on works made over the past five years.

It groups a selection of his recent works into domestic projects, including his own house in rural England; extended sacred spaces; and repurposed structures, such as London's Design Museum. Throughout its pages, this book explores Pawson's unique approach to proportion and light and his precise language of windows, doors, and walls.

 

Montauk House, USA
Montauk House, USA

Every work is illustrated with detailed photography and commentary, as well as architectural renderings and models. Deyan Sudjic, the director of the Design Museum in London offers his own personal recollections of working with Pawson, while Alison Morris, the writer and curator, details Pawson’s projects, working practices and signature style.

“As Alvar Aalto’s bronze door handle has been characterized as the ‘handshake of a building’, so a defining aspect of Pawson’s work is a sense of engaging with the essence of a philosophy of space through everything that the eye sees or the hand touches in a building,” Morris writes. “His method is to approach buildings and pure design commissions alike in precisely the same manner, on the basis that ‘it’s all architecture’.

 

Holocene oil lamp
Holocene oil lamp

“Whether at the scale of a monastery, a house, a saucepan or a ballet, everything is traceable back to a consistent set of preoccupations with mass, volume, surface, proportion, junction, geometry, repetition, light and ritual. In this way, even something as modest as a fork can become a vehicle for much broader ideas about how we live and what we value.”

John Pawson: Anatomy of Minimum features every type of undertaking Morris lists. There’s the architect’s own house, Home Farm in rural England, as well as private domestic commissions such as Montauk House on Long Island, and Palmgreen House in Sweden.

There are also places of worship, such as the Extended Sacred Architecture; Archabbey of Pannonhalma, in Hungary; St Moritz Church, and the Wooden Chapel, both in Germany; as well as places for pleasure, including The Jaffa Hotel and Residences in Israel, and The Feuerle Collection gallery in Berlin.

 

Life House, Great Britain
Life House, Great Britain

There is also tableware, light fittings, and stage sets; it’s a varied selection of projects, but none of it feels incongruous or out-of-place. John Pawson: Anatomy of Minimum will satisfy scholars and students of architecture and design, as well as amateur admirers of great, contemporary goods and living spaces. The book is also perfect for anyone with ambitions to own and live in a great, contemporary house. However, architectural preservationists and restorers will appreciate the care with which Pawson has updated churches, outbuildings and modernist classics alike with style and sensitivity.

The book also teaches an object lesson in taste and restraint. There are no showy touches or affectations. As Morris writes, “For Pawson, it is consistently the case that the impact of what you are making on how you experience space, form and atmosphere is more significant than the object itself.

 

John Pawson, photograph by Gilbert McCarragher
John Pawson, photograph by Gilbert McCarragher

To see those spaces and understand those experiences, head over to the store to pre-order John Pawson: Anatomy of Minimum and be among the first to receive it when it’s published on 9 October. Meanwhile, check out our video below.


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Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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