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 fairly inexperienced, I was approached by the fashion 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 craved 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 invested a great deal of money on their facades; we did the opposite. We concentrated on how the house and garden could connect. We formed a large concrete chassis that increased out from the side of the house, which had the consequences of the partially enclosing a courtyard garden. It likewise meant that the area of the living room could be opened up, without a supporting column, framing a idea into the garden, creating an outside room that may seem like an indoor one.
We dissolved up with a fight on our hands. The whole street lobbied against it, writing to Prince Charles to try to have it stopped. The people across the road preserved their curtains drawn for a couple of years in objection. 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 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 construct mansions for parties 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 method of being personal and professional: that relationship is critical.
This was the first time I had a central theory to my work- the idea of creating an expansive vistum 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, hitherto he is dedicated to his family. I like to think the house has played a role.
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