Lessons in the Art of Calmness

Written by Andrew Trotter

Editor’s letter by Andrew Trotter

If you would have told me twenty-five years ago when I was studying interior design in Australia that I would meet John Pawson, I would have probably laughed. Works such at The Neuendorf house and the Van Royan apartment were my go-to inspiration, long before Instagram and Pinterest even existed. Yet with feet a little wet, on a typically rainy day in Milan, we crossed the Piazza del Duomo heading to an appointment with Mr. Pawson in the Valextra store that had recently opened. Normally I am not one to be nervous, but it isn’t every day you get to meet someone whose work has played an important role in your life for more than two decades. It was the end of the day; we were told that John was quite tired and this would be short, so we sat down in a line until he appeared in his ubiquitous grey jumper, a warm smile on his face. What should have been a five-minute interview turned into a half an hour chat between two northern lads, joking and laughing with a few important questions thrown in, ‘just in case’. With that, and an exchange of emails afterwards, we had been invited to his new home in Gloucestershire. 

 

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A few months later, I found myself driving out through the suburbs of Madrid to meet a new hero of mine whom I had only recently discovered. Daydreaming, I was also hoping my broken Spanish would be adequate to talk to the philosopher-come-gardener Fernando Caruncho. Waiting, once again nervous…a click of the door, in a wall completely covered in jasmine, leaving everything on the other side to the imagination. From the street it was like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia, a haven of peace and a zen-like courtyard suddenly laid before us. Meticulous circles were raked into the gravel, hedges were perfectly trimmed; the man himself together with his son Pedro, walked towards us with open arms.

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After spending time with two of the most gentle men I have ever met, both known for their calm (one through his architecture, one through his landscapes), I came to realize that it was more than just design abilities that have kept these two at the top of their game. Calmness is part of these men; they live it and breath it, and their warmth, intelligence, humility and great senses of humor made me feel part of the family at once. Now, in our sixth year of Openhouse, I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to meet amazing people. People who have affected my life in many ways; our encounters will stay with me forever.

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In these stories and others, we are grateful to those whose practices clear for us spaces of reflection, unhurry us with deeper sensory attention, and expand our awareness, not towards the vast, but in discovery of subtle possibilities. 

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