John Pawson Plain Space

by | 29. Aug 2012

Exhibitions and Events

Photo Åke E-son LindmanInterior of the Baron House, Sweden

By reducing and editing, Pawson creates architecture and product designs of visual clarity, simplicity and grace.

When you produce interiors with less in them the light becomes more interesting and there is a sense of freedom in the space.
/John Pawson

Sackler Crossing, Kew Gardens, London. Photo credit Richard Davies


Photo: Hisao SuzukiMonastery of Our Lady of Novy Dvur, Czech Republic.

Plain Space celebrates Pawson’s career from the early 1980s to date and includes a selection of landmark commissions including the Sackler Crossing at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the new Cistercian Monastery of Our Lady of Novy Dvur in the Czech Republic and Calvin Klein’s iconic flagship store in New York, as well as current and future projects.

The Monastery was a project of a lifetime. The church is clearly the most important part of the Monastery, it is the be all and end all, but to form the space you can only use what architects have to do these things like light, material, scale, and proportion.
/John Pawson

Photo: Christoph KichererCalvin Klein Store, New York.


Photo: Hisao SuzukiTetsuka House, Tokyo


Photo: Todd EberlePrivate House, Germany

John Pawson, known for his rigorous process of design, is often labelled a “minimalist.” From the outset his work has focused on ways of approaching fundamental problems of space, proportion, light and materials.

Using a rich range of media the exhibition explores projects from Pawson’s career. Specially commissioned, large-scale photography looks at his architecture in the landscape. Actual architectural elements in stone, bronze, wood and metal taken from a range of buildings, including the Baron House in Sweden and Pawson’s own house in London, explores his sensitive use of materials.


Photo: Orla Connolly (from scale photographs by Jens Weber (


Photo: Åke E-son LindmanBaron House, Sweden.


Photo © Christoph KichererPawson’s own house in London

The process of design and construction is shown through photography, film, sketches, study models, prototypes and interviews relating to a number of projects including a private home in Treviso, Italy currently under construction. Personal items from the Pawson archive are also on display, including letters from Karl Lagerfeld and the writer Bruce Chatwin.

A site-specific, full-sized space designed by Pawson offers a direct and immersive experience of his work. This is the first time the Design Museum has realized a 1:1 scale architectural installation inside the museum.


Photo: Gilbert McCarragher (from

The blog Plain Space, regularly updated with behind the scenes information and comments, offers a unique insight into the exhibition process and journey. The blog will continue through the life of the exhibition concluding on its final day.


Photo: Orla Connolly

John Pawson was born in 1949 in Halifax, Yorkshire. After a period in the family textile business he left for Japan, spending several years teaching English at the business University of Nagoya. Towards the end of his time there he moved to Tokyo, where he visited the studio of Japanese architect and designer Shiro Kuramata. Following his return to England, he enrolled at the Architecture Association in London, leaving to establish his own practice in 1981. From the outset the work has focused on ways of approaching fundamental problems of space, proportion, light and materials.

Recognition includes RIBA awards for the Sackler Crossing at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Frate Sole International Prize for Sacred Architecture for the new Cistercian monastery of Our Lady of Novy Dvur in Bohemia.

In June 2010 John Pawson was announced as the architect who will oversee the design and interior fit out of the former Commonwealth Institute into the new home of the Design Museum. The designs will provide a fully coordinated scheme for the Museum within the existing Grade II* listed Parabola building on Kensington High Street, London to provide temporary and permanent exhibition spaces, education and event facilities, an auditorium and associated services.


CITY London
COUNTRY United Kingdom