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 quite 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 improved. Nick wanted 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 first building.
I was excited 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 invested a lot of money on their facades; we did the opposite. We concentrated on how the house and garden could connect. We composed a large concrete chassis that extended out from the side of the house, which had the effect of partially enclosing a courtyard garden. It also meant that the area of the living room could be opened up, without a supporting column, framing a look into the garden, creating an outside cavity that may seem like an indoor one.
We resolved 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 hindered their screens described for a couple of years in protest. 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 houses 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 house lives for beings is a delicate process, which is why I merely take on one or two at a time. Success depends very much on how you develop a behavior of being personal and professional: that relationship is critical.
This was the first time I had a central feeling to my work- the idea of creating an expansive judgment in a suburban street- and it is a strategy I’ve lived by since. The house 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, hitherto he is dedicated to his family. I like to think the house has played a role.
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