David Chipperfield at the dwelling 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 fairly inexperienced, I was approached by the fad photographer Nick Knight and his wife, Charlotte, to expand their London home. They were living in a postwar room that Nick’s father had constructed. Nick craved a studio upstairs and more opening 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 evoked about everything I was seeing in Japan at the time: they tend to treat the garden as part of the house. Most of Nick’s neighbours wasted a great deal of money on their facades; we did the opposite. We were focused on how the house and garden could connect. We developed a large concrete chassis that spread out from the side of the house, which had the consequences of the partly enclosing a courtyard garden. It too means that the reces of the living room could be opened up, without a supporting column, framing a look into the garden, creating an outside opening that feels like an indoor one.
We culminated up with a fight on our hands. The whole street lobbied against it, writing to Prince Charles to try to have it stopped. The beings across the road kept their screens reaped for a couple of years in objection. It was an introduction to republican 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 mansions in the street. That was the worst part of the process for me. Once we started to build, it was easy by comparison.
Designing and build homes for parties is a delicate process, which is why I simply take over one or two at a time. Success depends very much on how you develop a style of being personal and professional: that relationship is critical.
This was the first time I had a center project to my work- the idea of creating an expansive look in a suburban street- and it is a strategy I’ve lived by since. The mansion has been part of Nick and Charlotte’s life for 30 years and I think it has helped them formulate a work-life balance. Nick’s work is incredibly intense and demanding, yet he is dedicated to his family. I like to think the house has played a role.
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