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John Pawson was born in 1949 in Halifax, Yorkshire. Following school and a period of employment in the family textile business he left for Japan, spending several years teaching English at the business university of Nagoya. Towards the end of his time there he moved to Tokyo, where he frequented the studio of Japanese architect and designer Shiro Kuramata. Never a formal apprentice, the experience nonetheless proved pivotal. Following his return to England, he enrolled at the Architecture Association in London, leaving to establish his own practice in 1981. In 2019 Pawson was awarded a CBE for services to design and architecture. From the outset the work focused on exploring fundamental problems of space, proportion, light and materials, rather than on developing a set of stylistic mannerisms, beginning with renovation of the London apartment he shared with the art dealer Hester van Royen. Domestic commissions followed for the writer Bruce Chatwin, opera director Pierre Audi and art collector Doris Lockhart Saatchi, executed in parallel with a number of early art spaces, including Waddington Galleries in London and the PPOW Gallery in New York. Whilst private houses have remained a consistent strand of the work, projects over the past two decades have spanned an increasingly wide range of scales and building typologies, from a walkway across the lake at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens on the outskirts of London, to the interiors of two yachts, sets for new ballets at London’s Royal Opera House and the Opéra Bastille in Paris, and remodelling of the former Commonwealth Institute in London, which opened as a new permanent home for the Design Museum in 2016. Pawson’s substantial portfolio of sacred commissions includes the design of a new Cistercian monastery in rural Bohemia, interior renovation of the basilica of the Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma in Hungary and the St Moritz church in Bavaria and the design of a small wooden chapel on the edge of a forest in Germany.