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 fashion photographer Nick Knight and his wife, Charlotte, to expand their London home. They is now in a postwar home that Nick’s father had built. Nick required a studio upstairs and more infinite 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 first building.
I was excited 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 invested 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 frame that widened out from the side of the chamber of representatives, which had the consequences of the partly enclosing a courtyard garden. It also means that the angle of the living room could be opened up, without a supporting article, framing a panorama into the garden, creating an outside space that feels like an indoor one.
We intent 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 stopped their draperies drawn for a couple of years in declaration. 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 figurehead didn’t look like the other mansions 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 building mansions for people is a delicate process, which is why I merely take over one or two at a time. Success depends very much on how you develop a path of being personal and professional: that relationship is critical.
This was the first time I had a central project to my work- the idea of creating an expansive panorama in a suburban street- and it is a strategy I’ve lived by since. The room 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, yet he is dedicated to his family. I like to think the house has played a role.
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