David Chipperfield at the home 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 style photographer Nick Knight and his wife, Charlotte, to expand their London home. They were living in a postwar home that Nick’s father had built. Nick missed a studio upstairs and more cavity 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 elicited about everything I was seeing in Japan at the time: they tend to treat the garden-variety as part of the house. Most of Nick’s neighbours wasted a great deal of money on their facades; we did the opposite. We concentrated on how the house and garden could connect. We created a large concrete chassis that extended out from the side of the house, which had the effect of partly enclosing a courtyard garden. It also meant that the area of the living room could be opened up, without a supporting line, framing a look into the garden, creating an outside infinite 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 parties across the road kept their curtains depicted for a couple of years in affirm. 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 figurehead didn’t look like the other rooms 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 rooms for people is a delicate process, which is why I only take over one or two at a time. Success depends very much on how you develop a space of being personal and professional: that relationship is critical.
This was the first time I had a central meaning to my job- the idea of creating an expansive view 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 years 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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