David Chipperfield at the residence of photographer Nick Knight:’ The whole street lobbied against it, writing to Prince Charles to try to have it stopped.’ Photograph: Michael Franke/ The Guardian
In 1990, when I was in my mid-3 0s and still quite inexperienced, I was approached by the pattern photographer Nick Knight and his wife, Charlotte, to expand their London home. They were living in a postwar mansion that Nick’s father had constructed. Nick missed a studio upstairs and more room for his young family. At the time, I had a small office of four or five people and we were working with the designer Issey Miyake on a number of store interiors in Japan. This was my firstly building.
I was elicited about everything I was seeing in Japan at the time: they tend to treat the plot as part of the house. Most of Nick’s neighbours wasted a lot of money on their facades; we did the opposite. We were focused on how the house and garden could connect. We generated a large concrete chassis that spread out from the side of the house, which had the effect of partially enclosing a courtyard garden. It also meant that the corner of the living room could be opened up, without a supporting tower, framing a consider into the garden, creating an outside opening that may seem like an indoor one.
We purposed up with a fight on our hands. The whole street lobbied against it, writing to Prince Charles to try to have it stopped. The parties across the road saved their curtains drawn for a couple of years in protest. It was an introduction to conservative English taste, which was quite shocking. It wasn’t that the house was too big; it was that the front didn’t look like the other rooms in wall street. That was the worst part of the process for me. Once we started to build, it was easy by comparison.
Designing and build lives for people is a delicate process, which is why I simply take on one or two at a time. Success depends very much on how you develop a lane of being personal and professional: that relationship is critical.
This was the first time I had a center idea to my job- the idea of creating an expansive idea in a suburban street- and it is a strategy I’ve lived by since. The home has been part of Nick and Charlotte’s life for 30 times and I think it has helped them formulate a work-life balance. Nick’s work is incredibly intense and demanding, hitherto he is dedicated to his family. I like to think the house has played a role.
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