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 focused on ways of approaching fundamental
problems of space, proportion, light and materials, rather than on
developing a set of stylistic mannerisms - themes he also explored in
his book Minimum, first published in 1996, which examines the notion of
simplicity in art, architecture and design across a variety of
historical and cultural contexts.
Early commissions included homes for the writer Bruce Chatwin, opera
director Pierre Audi, contemporary art dealer Hester van Royen and collector Doris Lockhart Saatchi, together
with art galleries in London, Dublin and New York. Subsequent projects
have spanned a wide range of scales and building typologies, from
Calvin Klein's flagship store in Manhattan and airport lounges for
Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong to the new Cistercian monastery of Our Lady
of Novy Dvur in Bohemia.
In May 2006, two decades of visits to the twelfth century Cistercian monastery
of Le Thoronet culminated in an exhibition, 'John Pawson:
Leçons du Thoronet', the first such intervention ever to be held within
the precincts of the abbey. Two
weeks after the exhibition opening in Provence, celebrations in
London marked the completion of the Sackler Crossing - a walkway over
at Kew's Royal Botanic Gardens. The same year
also marked the practice's first stage design, with a set for a new
ballet choreographed by Wayne McGregor for the Royal Ballet which
premiered at London's Royal Opera House in November 2006.