Where to put the electrical outlet and the light switch? I have looked in John Pawson's book of works, an oeuvre of minimalist spaces and detailing, wondering how he answered the problem. I could not find the switch plate or receptacles, even in his houses. Whether we know or realize it, placing no electrical outlets in a room is a statement about one's attitude toward furniture. Placement of furniture is often dictated by the location of the visible duplex receptacle. On our furniture, we place books, loose change, knick-knacks, lamps, clock radios. To maintain the minimalist image, much of the visible clutter must be accomodated, out of sight. Lamps become lumineres hidden in coves and soffits with dedicated outlets and, most likely, dedicated light switches. Computers sit on specially designed tables so that the required spaghetti of wires can be accomodated, disappearing out of sight. Books can be placed in cases that can disappear seamlessly into the walls. With all the items that sit on furniture accomodated in the architecture, furniture, save for a few accoutrements, has been rendered useless. In such a case, when there are no electrical outlets, there is no need for furniture. With no furniture, there is nowhere to put the tchotchke. In this way, we are one step closer to being minimalist.
But there is something wrong in localizing the light switches, close to the lumineres, hidden in coves and soffits, because one now has contact with the »naughty« bits of the building, that part for which contact is unintended. The difference between an architect like Pawson and an architect like Louis Kahn is that Kahn says, »Here is the served space and here is the servant space.« One's contact with the servant space may be unintended, but there is a democracy not present in Pawson's work because the »naughty« bits in Kahn's architecture are given an architectural expression. For Pawson, much of the naughty bits are separated only by the veil of drywall. This is not where the problem lies. The problem lies in reaching one's hand into the cove to turn the light on. A Clapper would be a much more appealing solution to the dilemna of contact with the naughty bits of Pawson's architecture. So how is the light switch expressed in a minimalist space? It could be hidden away from sight, or placed in a servant space. Or it could be given a visible expression, but also given a beautiful switchplate in a served space, austere and comfortable in the nature of the pristine space that surrounds it.