Colorful visions of the world through the eyes of John Pawson

Updated 10th November 2017
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Colorful visions of the world through the eyes of John Pawson
Written by Natalia Rachlin, CNN
The London-based architect and designer John Pawson has long championed a minimalist aesthetic that forgoes frivolity in favor of rigorous silhouettes and discrete details. Be it in his buildings, furniture, or objects (and even in his personal wardrobe), Pawson most often opts for neutral shades or variations on white, his signature palette indicating that he's no friend to color -- or so we all thought.
This exclusive first look at Pawson's forthcoming book, "Spectrum," reveals a much more saturated side of the architect's vision through a series of 320 images taken during his extensive travels around the world.
Pawson is best known for his large portfolio of residential work, alongside shop interiors for the likes of Calvin Klein and Christopher Kane. One of his most recent projects involved a complete redesign of the London Commonwealth Institute's interiors, which reopened last November as the new home of the Design Museum.
Earlier this month, it was announced that Pawson will design the trophies for the 2017 Fashion Awards. His design -- a cylindrical Swarovski crystal totem with a shock of color threaded through the center -- offers a hint of his nuanced relationship to color. "Spectrum," meanwhile, fully exposes his rather painterly approach to pigment.
From an eerie, lavender-colored abstraction of St. Paul's Cathedral in London and the dusty pink symmetry of an Art Deco façade in Miami, Florida, to a misty, bright blue hilltop vista near Chianti, Italy, the photographs are precisely sequenced according to hue. With the whites, beiges and light grays up front, dramatic black captures at the back, and all the bright bits in between, the book diligently covers the full spectrum of color.
"The methodology that underlies the chromatic arrangement of these images embodies underlying truths about my preferences and working methods," Pawson explains in the book's introduction. "I am naturally drawn to tasks involving cataloging, editing and setting in order and interested in how these processes can be made enriching experiences in their own right. I am interested in the idea of a definitive act of curation."
With a wide array of content, Pawson's second book of personal photography (the first, "A Visual Inventory," was released in 2012) offers a vivid account of his eye for pattern, texture and composition, not to mention his deft understanding of light -- an element he also explores consistently and astutely in his architectural work.
"The connection between photography and architecture is an intimate one. They are each 'deeds of light'," writes Pawson, quoting the 19th century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who is also referenced in the book's epigraph.
"I am an architect before anything. At the same time the act of taking photographs is of the essence of how I work. I have an emphatically visual memory and a strong instinct for using images to archive my thoughts and experiences. Where others might sketch or make notes, my reflex is to reach for a lens. Each of the photographs here -- selected from a collection measured in hundreds of thousands -- represents one such moment of reaching for the lens."
"Spectrum" by John Pawson will be released by Phaidon on Nov. 13.