Conran: London Design Festival: Pawson’s Plain Space

As London Design Festival hits the capital our team are out and about having a look at what’s going on…and enjoying a glass of wine or two along the way. Here’s Terence’s PR Manager, Mat Riches, on last night’s private view at The Design Museum.

With the London Design Festival in full swing, every mover, shaker and hipster in town has their pick of parties and launches to attend, but there was a packed crowd from the great and the good of design at The Design Museum last night for the opening of John Pawson’s Plain Space exhibition.

And it’s easy to see why we were drawn to this simple, beautiful and graceful exhibition.


I have often found architectural exhibitions to be quite dry and uninspiring – perhaps my colleagues at Conran & Partners will consider me heathen but for all the technical excellence of model making and artfully shot photography, the beauty of buildings for me is in seeing and feeling a building, whether that be close enough to touch, a vista of a skyline or from deep inside.

But Plain Space uses a wide range of media to intelligent effect to bring Pawson’s work to life with stunning effect. There is some pretty large scale photography of his architecture and I found myself lingering longest at the image of his Sackler Bridge in Kew Gardens – one of the most peaceful spots in London and my favourite place to think and contemplate life’s difficulties.


But there are also architectural elements on display such as stone, metal, wood and bronze. Pawson’s design process is examined and demonstrated through film, sketches, study models and even personal items from Pawson’s eclectic personal collection.

The highlight of Plain Space lies at the very the heart of the exhibition – a site-specific, full-sized space designed by Pawson to offer a deeply immersive experience of his work. Pawson described it as “his little temple”. This is the first time the Design Museum has produced a 1:1 scale architectural installation inside the museum and it is this sort of vision that sets Plain Space aside from other architectural exhibitions this particular heathen has visited.

Introducing the show, the Design Museum Director Dejan Sudjic called Plain Space “one of the most ambitious ambitious things that has ever been built in the galleries in Shad Thames” but I suppose it is part of Pawson’s minimalist ethos that it doesn’t immediately strike you as such. You simply get a deep appreciation of Pawson’s work, the inspirations behind it and of his personality and character and I came away far richer for the experience.

I must return at a later date…when the wine quaffing crowds have moved on to the next party and I can appreciate Pawson’s sedate simplicity in peace and quiet.

Find out more about the exhibition here

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Filed under Conran and London, London Design Festival 2010

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