Book of the Week: John Pawson – Spectrum (Phaidon)
Words Mark Hooper
For pure ‘does what it says on the tin’ minimalism, this book – essentially a perfect-bound moodboard in hardback – arranges 320 images taken by the architect John Pawson in chromatic order. It starts in white and it ends in black; running through the full colour spectrum in between.
In keeping with his reputation for ‘rigorously simple’ design, the images are captioned with only the most basic information – detailing where and when they were photographed. Different textures, perspectives, scales and materials are conveyed, but the individual variations make for an oddly satisfying whole, the basic logic of their curation creating a natural consistency and flow.
Admitting that his own architectural work ‘is rooted in a consistent set of preoccupations with mass, volume, surface, proportion, junction, geometry, repetition, light and ritual’, this collection seems to be his personal set of examples of each, arranged in a particularly pleasing order.
Pawson notes in his introduction how the sequencing of the colour spectrum is something that has been studied and analysed by some of the greatest minds in history, from Pythagoras to Goethe. ‘The brain naturally makes stories and connections – it is intrinsic in how we think creatively,’ he explains, ‘so in the end it will always find threads to weave together.’
These threads just happen to be more aesthetically pleasing than others. ‘In this way,’ he continues, ‘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.’