John Pawson: On Colour

The celebrated architect John Pawson, known for his monochromatic and minimalist buildings, reflects on his relationship with colour and a new photographic project, Spectrum

Colour is an attribute people don’t necessarily associate with my work. There is a longstanding presumption that it is all about whiteness. The truth is that it is impossible to talk about any architecture – including my own – without talking about colour. Le Corbusier described architecture as masses brought together in light. And as soon as you have light, you have colour. I have come to see that you can only really start to understand an architectural space when you have seen it in a range of light conditions, which means also experiencing the full range of its colour spectrum. As Goethe put it, “Colours and light… stand in the most intimate relation to each other”.

I am interested in the subtle but critical differences between what the lens and the eye can render. Where both are physically capable of absorbing light, each process the field of view in different ways. However sophisticated a lens, it doesn’t have the sensory capabilities of the eye. On the other hand, the camera does not rely on memory, but can commit the totality of what it does capture to plate, film or digital file. There is something pleasing in the fact that, in this one respect, photography is the more permanent art form, architecture’s enduring arrangements of stone, concrete and steel notwithstanding: the light composition is perpetually changing in a building, where the point of a photograph is to fix it. Reviewing a collection of images is a fascinating and revealing exercise. You see both what you saw at the time and what you missed. And you are reminded of what you perceived in the moment that has somehow eluded the permanence of the photographic record.

The brain has an instinct to sort and make associations, but it has consistent priorities for the ways in which it does this, typically according to narrative, subject and theme. Override these priorities and all manner of other connections are revealed. Set photographs next to one another on the grounds of colour only and you throw up intriguing new reflex relationships between apparently entirely disparate images. The brain naturally makes stories and connections – it is intrinsic to how we think creatively – so in the end it will always find threads to weave together.

In this way, what began as a simple project to use colour as a tool to edit and order a selection of photographs has become both a creative act in its own right and an invitation to engage.

This is an excerpt from Spectrum, published by Phaidon.

dunhill: Our London

Celebrate the capital through the eyes and minds of an architect, a chef, an entrepreneur and an adventurer, each with a unique story to tell about their city 

This month, dunhill has partnered with Port to present a series of four films exploring London through the eyes and minds of an architect, a chef, an entrepreneur and an adventurer. Chung Qing Li, Michel Roux Jr., Robert Scott-Lawson and Matthew Robertson are men of style and substance, each with a unique story to tell about their city.

Watch the full films from the Our London series here.

Michel Roux Jr. – Chef

Michel Roux Jr. is a Michelin-star chef and patron, and a man of classic taste and style. His restaurant La Gavroche, in London’s Mayfair, is one of the finest in the country. The name Roux is synonymous with French haute cuisine in Britain.

Matthew Robertson – Adventurer

Adventurer and filmmaker Matthew Robertson is a Londoner that finds peace in the wilderness. As the founder of Momentum Adventure, he scours the earth seeking out unique experiences and environments.

Chun Qing Li – Architect

Architect and entrepreneur Chun Qing Li is the founder of China Design Week and KREOD, an award-winning interior design and architecture practice in London. Standout designs include the China International Trade Pavilion built for the Rio Olympic Games 2016.

Robin Scott-Lawson – Entrepreneur

Robin Scott-Lawson is an established entrepreneur and has called London home since he was 18 years old. His London-based agency My Beautiful City specialises in high-end art direction, experiential marketing and event production. 

Watch the full films from dunhill’s Our London series here

A Port Creative production 

Photography: Christophe Meimoon at Quadriga Management
Styling:  Dan May
Grooming: Grooming by Tyler Johnston @ One Represents using Moroccanoil and Givenchy La Make Up
Production: Emma Viner
Interviewer:  George Upton
Editorial Director: Dan Crowe
Film Production Studio: Black Sheep Studios
Producer:  Michelle Hagen
Director:  Simon Lane 
DOP:  Tom Sweetland 
Exec Producer:  Dan Keefe

How Hannes Peer Lives

The Milan-based architect invites The Spaces into his eclectic apartment overlooking Politecnico di Milano


Architect Hannes Peer set up his own practice from the comfort of his apartment in 2009. From within its walls he has designed homes for fashion designers and art collectors in Milan and beyond, as well as retail spaces from brands like N°21. His apartment overlays 1960s Modernist details – like the window frames – with Neoclassical sculptures and contemporary lighting that picks out details in the fabrics and artworks. ‘A home is where you feel comfortable and in Milan I feel accepted,’ he says. ‘I’ve lived and worked in many cities – in New York, Berlin and Rotterdam for Rem Koolhaas – but Milan always pulls me back.’

Read the full story or see more from the How I Live series via the The Spaces