19 October 2008
John Pawson’s Sackler Crossing at Kew Gardens has won the 2008 Stephen Lawrence Prize for projects under £1 million. Prize judge Marco Goldschmeid praised the design, calling it “a masterly conjuring trick playfully deceiving the eye with light and water as its props. It is one of those rare designs where less truly is more”.
The bridge takes an intentionally low profile, giving its users the impression of walking on water. Its deck is made from bands of dark granite laid in parallel like railway sleepers. The balustrade is formed from close-set disconnected bronze cantilevers worked smooth at the top. These flat fins combined with the sinuous path of the bridge create differing optical effects depending on the position of the viewer, appearing in some parts as a solid wall, in others almost transparent. The materials are designed to age gracefully through the years as they take on a patina of use.
The Crossing dignifies its setting rather than dominates it, conveying a sense of harmony, calm and beautifully measured restraint that is sadly lacking from most of our contemporary culture, not just architecture. It is in sensitive settings like these that real design skill shines: Knowing when to stop, knowing how to add without taking away.
View the video on Pawson’s site