John Pawson's Barbican Flat

is a collaborator.

there are many types of people who need wipe-down surfaces. fishmongers, are one such type. butchers. surgeons. each of these - i’m sure you can see - are required to remove old blood and animal bits from clean surfaces so they can do it some more, without mingling the bits together. without causing death or infection. while maintaining certain standards of health and safety in a place where food is sold to customers. also morgues, for similar - albeit vastly different - reasons.

jesus fucking christ

as we enter the autumn of our lives (of 2019, let me be clear), the bloated skeleton of minimalism continues to drag its chalky knuckles over the iron railings of my brain. after years of reading cereal, of having cereal magazine directly squirted into the slop we consume on a daily basis, we have become a society of butcher aesthetes. darkness is banished. colour is banished. mess is banished. slowly, the fishmonger aesthetics sort of won, and people convening ‘maximalism is back, baby’ roundtables and sharing pictures of vincenzo de cotiis’ milan flat (guilty, guilty), came to appear increasingly deranged. minimalism won, lads. and the war was over.

but then john pawson stepped inside a flat of the barbican development in london. and set about soul harvesting all joy and texture from its once proud body. he set about somehow extracting yet more joy and colour from a landscape that had already been dried out, mama-noodles style, into a cleanly cremated husk. pawson - not an architect, but an ancient entity, his great gaping mouth-hole which draws all pleasure from surface and material - slowly evaporated the flat until it came to resemble only a butchers’ slab. a fishmongers’ counter-top.

and he sort of put some blank wooden chairs in there to sort of spice it up a bit. and a little statue. a statue of the buddha. because john pawson is really keen to let you know he uses the headspace app. not as much as he’d like to, you know. maybe he’s opened it three times (ah, no, two). and he used it once. for a bit. on the northern line. sort of for a few minutes.

he’s really keen to let you know he’s a headspace user.

[part way through writing this i put on La Dispute’s The Rooms of the House. It is an album that celebrates the carnal, physical ways in which we’re entombed in our own houses simply by the act of messily living in them. blankets are piled on the floor during a storm. coffee boils over on the stove while a couple argue. shit goes down.]

let’s hand it over to pawson’s copywriters (or, collaborators):

The architectural reimagining of the space began with the idea of paring away everything to a state of emptiness and using three axes from the underlying structure to shape the new geometry of the now one-bedroomed accommodation

pairing everything to a state of emptiness. pawson, coming at one of london’s most iconic post-war developments with the sagacity of a pay-to-play meditation app. pawson, creating a ‘new geometry,’ which is a mealy-mouthed way of saying that the space has been transformed from a home suitable for a small family into a theatre for the banal. a landscape of people who own one DVD (Rocky II) and play Forza Horizon and don’t know, really, why they’re doing this anymore. any of it.

and they sleep badly. not because of guilt, per se, but because of the sensing of a missed opportunity within them. a missed opportunity that is slowly, achingly consuming yet more and more of their heart. they are always going to a wedding, at the weekend. for somebody called sarah, and ben.

look, at that image above. caught somewhere between a private hospital ward and the mental asylum. a semi-CGI frankenspace in which - during the opening scenes of a mid-budget sci-fi movie - great, attenuated alien missiles thud into the city around it, and the owners’ mouth begins to open slightly, before the entire scene whites out in a gigantic, catastrophic explosion.

we have strayed far from the light of god.

directly into a mushroom cloud.