AN Interior in conversation with John Pawson and Hans Peter Dinesen

Spaces of Calm

AN Interior in conversation with John Pawson and Hans Peter Dinesen

(Claus Troelsgaard)

John Pawson’s work pleasantly hums with emptiness. It defines a quiet, elevated version of contemporary architecture often referred to as minimalism. While living in Japan, Pawson learned from architect and designer Shiro Kuramata. He later studied at the Architectural Association before founding his own studio in 1981. About 20 people work in Pawson’s London office on commissions around the world.

Dinesen, founded in 1898, is a family-run Danish manufacturer of wood flooring and products. The company sources trees from forests in northern Germany and specializes in wide planks of Douglas fir, which can be up to about 45 feet long and 18 inches wide. Pawson first spied a Dinesen sample under the arm of his friend Richard Rogers in the early 1990s. Pawson sought out the company when realizing his own home and ultimately convinced it to make straight-edged floorboards instead of the traditionally conic planks, which result from the tapering in trunk diameter. This change, combined with Pawson’s imprimatur, reshaped the audience for Dinesen’s products.

Pawson initially designed a table, benches, and stools for his young family. (The stool, when rotated, becomes an armchair for a child.) Today these dining pieces, reimagined, are joined by new lounge items: a table, chair, sofa, and daybed. “The dimensions of the timber determine the proportions of the forms,” Pawson said. The last three offerings are upholstered in Kvadrat fabric that can be customized when ordering.

While Pawson is funny in conversation, he often lets his sentences drift into reflective silence before his next thought takes shape. On an overcast night in Copenhagen he perched in one of his new chairs to talk with Hans Peter Dinesen, who has led the company since his father, Thomas, stepped down in 2021. The chat took place in Dinesen’s showroom, which will be remodeled by Pawson before 3 Days of Design next week. AN Interior’s executive editor, Jack Murphy, spoke with Pawson and Hans Peter Dinesen about their collaboration.

Jack Murphy (JM): At this point in your career, John, I imagine you’re able to choose what you want to work on. Why was it the right time to revisit these pieces of furniture?

John Pawson (JP): I got to architecture relatively late. I never really went to school for it. I tried quite a few other things, including teaching English to Japanese students who weren’t interested. I’ve gone through long periods of extreme boredom. Since finally finding something I really enjoy doing, I haven’t had a minute’s boredom since. I’m lucky that I’m able to do the bits I like.

Hans Peter Dinesen (HPD): For my family—especially me, my brother, and my sister—we always grew up with this furniture. It has been a part of our life. This latest meeting of Dinesen and John Pawson has been an important reflection for us. Looking back on the furniture, it’s still relevant. Our hope is that people in 30 years will think the same. The idea of starting this new chapter together is to learn from the past and see how we can put it into the future in a new way. So we asked John to continue developing the pieces from the 1990s.

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