Colour therapy: John Pawson’s new book is a sight for sore eyes

John Pawson photography book cover titled Spectrum
John Pawson's new tome Spectrum contains over 200 photographs arranged by colour
(Image credit: TBC)

It turns out master of minimalism John Pawson also has a painterly approach to pigment. We first saw hints of such a trait in his first tome A Visual Inventory (2012) – a journey through the details, textures, spatial qualities that inspire him – but in the newly released Spectrum, the architect’s colour thesis is given the opportunity to explode.

Organised by hue, the visual library kicks off in the whites and light greys moving methodically through the entire colour spectrum, concluding theatrically with midnight blacks. It’s as if the strict privation of colour that typifies much of Pawson’s architecture – think of the London’s starkly greyscale Design Museum, or the concrete caverns of The Feuerle Collection – here gives way to blushing, staining, tinting expression.

photo of 146 Kings Cross London by John Pawson

146 Kings Cross London, by John Pawson, from Spectrum. Collection of John Pawson

(Image credit: John Pawson)

Not just a sensory fiesta, there’s real photographic clout here. ‘Where others might sketch or make notes, my reflex is to reach for a lens,’ Pawson writes of his well-documented passion for image making.

Taken on a digital camera or an iPhone (Pawson has amassed an eager following on Instagram), each photograph represents a fragment from an individual project, or an everyday moment that happened to catch his eye. Readers are given an intimate look over Pawson’s shoulder, travelling with him through his hometown of London to far-flung corners. Dizzyingly, a memory of a mossy bank in Kyoto nestles next to a snap of forest-green bricks in Bloomsbury. Geography, subject matter and scale are eschewed in favour of one reductive, visually therapeutic organisational technique: codes of colour.

To celebrate the book’s release, Pawson will be in conversation with Phaidon publisher Emilia Terragni at the Design Museum on 28 November – a happy way to ring in the Museum’s first birthday in its Kensington home.

Left, Barajs, Madrid. Right, Al Shahaniya, Qatar

Left, Barajs, Madrid. Right, Al Shahaniya, Qatar

(Image credit: TBC)

Left, Bloomsbury London. Right, Matsuo, Kyoto, Japan

Left, Bloomsbury London. Right, Matsuo, Kyoto, Japan

(Image credit: TBC)

Sedona, Arizona, USA, from Spectrum. Collection of John Pawson

Sedona, Arizona, USA, from SpectrumCollection of John Pawson

(Image credit: John Pawson)

196 Bloomsbury London, from Spectrum. Collection of John Pawson

196 Bloomsbury London, from SpectrumCollection of John Pawson

(Image credit: John Pawson)

Bendinat, Mallorca, Spain, from Spectrum. Collection of John Pawson

Bendinat, Mallorca, Spain, from SpectrumCollection of John Pawson

(Image credit: John Pawson)

Spectrum, £45, published by Phaidon

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.