John Pawson Works By Deyan Sudjic Phaidon, 2005.240pp. £24.95
The lifestyle emphasis (that culminated in a cookbook) can put people off Pawson's work, which is unfortunate, as Pawson does what he does rather well.
This book, a revised version of the one published in 2000, represents 12 projects through photographs, plans and a discursive commentary by Deyan Sudjic. It is both informative and easy to read and is refreshingly modest.
Sudjic writes in an engaging way, combining wider cultural issues with elements of detail; it is a book where the global economy is discussed alongside shadow gaps and I like it for that. He is not sycophantic, querying (softly) the ambiguities of wealthy urbanites moving to 'the country' and wryly asking the 'Emperor's New Clothes' question about highly crafted tables being just school benches.
We also discover that the brief for the Novy Dvur Monastery in the Czech Republic (pictured) included a stipulation that the library floor shouldn't creak and there is a special sleeping area for snoring monks.
It is a fine book but, overall, two questions niggle. What are these pure serene spaces really like? And how are they expressed externally? All the spaces are shown empty, in abstract detail and spanking new. Pawson is clearly a master of what he can control but, ultimately, he will be respected for how confidently his work engages with the messiness of context and everyday life.
On the evidence of this book it seems that this confidence hasn't yet emerged.
Sarah Jackson is a CABE design review advisor