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 pattern photographer Nick Knight and his wife, Charlotte, to expand their London home. They were living in a postwar residence that Nick’s father had built. Nick required 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 firstly building.
I was agitated 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 expended a lot of fund on their facades; we did the opposite. We concentrated on how the house and garden could connect. We generated a large concrete frame that provided out from the side of the house, which had the effect of partially enclosing a courtyard garden. It likewise means that the angle of the living room could be opened up, without a supporting pillar, framing a judgment into the garden, creating an outside opening that may seem like an indoor one.
We pointed 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 shrouds described for a couple of years in demonstration. 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 residences 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 houses for people is a delicate process, which is why I exclusively take on one or two at a time. Success depends very much on how you develop a acces of being personal and professional: that relationship is critical.
This was the first time I had a central thought to my job- the idea of creating an expansive belief in a suburban street- and it is a strategy I’ve lived by since. The residence 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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