"John Pawson said children love minimalist spaces. And he's right"

" Brutalist or minimalist architecture is better suited to families with children than you might think, says Will Wiles in his latest Opinion column. (...)

But a lot of preconceptions about kids and architecture are actually proved wrong when confronted with real kids. I recently interviewed the noted minimalist John Pawson. Minutes after we met, without any prompting from me, he brought up the scene in the 1990s sitcom Absolutely Fabulous when scatty fashion publicist Edina, played by Jennifer Saunders, is visited by friends who she remembers as ardent minimalists. Ahead of their arrival she desperately tries to tidy her house, fearing their disdain at its disorder. But they now have young children, and they arrive in a typhoon of clutter and disorganisation, their existenzminimum pretensions blown away for good.

Pawson has children, and raised them in a minimalist home of his own design, so I asked him if it was difficult to combine the two. He said no, it wasn't – children love minimalist spaces. And he's right. Children might be very good at creating mess and clutter, but that's not because they can only exist in messy, cluttered conditions. They like to have room to bang about and clear space to play.

"Some modern architectural styles seem to invite toddler-level appreciation"

I was reminded of the first time we took our son, then aged two, to visit the flat we now live in. It was newly built and unfurnished, all white paint and grey carpet. Not very interesting, but its emptiness seemed to fill him with energy, and he charged happily from room to room as if laying claim to to the place. Naturally we have since filled it up with things, and will not be opting for Pawsonian minimalism any time soon, but if you have the rare good fortune of enough storage space and picking-up time, I can see how it would be done.

Toddlers do have a knack for feeling at home in places, even in places where they should not. Their mobility, as well as their gleeful wish to dash about, develop much faster than the more sophisticated sense that different places have different rules and expectations. It's this lack of boundaries that can make them such bad adverts for children in general. But I'm not making any excuses for bad behaviour. The instance, a few years ago, of young children filmed clambering all over a Donald Judd sculpture at the Tate Modern springs to mind.

Though he has not yet endangered any masterpieces of modern art, our boy does have an undesirable fondness for wedging himself into tiny niches and gaps, such as the narrow defile behind bus shelters or between beach huts, or the recesses used to store fire extinguishers. It was necessary to grow new architectural antennae in order to spot these "toddlernooks" early. "

 

/extract from this article by Will Willes published on Dezeen/

© Ethel Adary, all rights reserved

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