Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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BOOK REVIEW: A Visual Inventory John Pawson

John Pawson, the British maestro of minimalism, famed for his refined white interiors and perfectly calibrated details, has created an album of personal snapshots. In the introduction he explains that photography is one of his compulsions: “if you don’t record everything, moments slip away and are lost forever.” Culling his collection of a quarter of a million images—an average of 85 a day since he bought his first digital camera in 2003— he has selected a modest 272, arranged in pairs on facing pages.  He likens them to “an archive of a way of looking”, and it’s fascinating to see what caught his eye. There are a few recurring favorites—his own house in London, Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm, and Le Thoronet Abbey in Provence—but they are far outnumbered by chance encounters—the ordinary made extraordinary through meticulous framing. What links the landscapes and cloudscapes, the close-ups and aerial views, the textures of wood and stone, form and light, is geometric or organic pattern. He composes images as carefully as he creates interiors. This obsession is, he insists, “not so much a reflection of an ordered mind, as the need to control, as tightly as possible, those limited areas of life that can be controlled.” Even designers who shy away from that intensity will find inspiration and delight as they browse this elegant anthology.

A Visual Inventory John Pawson  (Phaidon, $49.95)

Pawson House, London, England, November 2009

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