The Omphalos coffee table: an interview with John Pawson
We are delighted to present Omphalos, the brand-new coffee table designed by John Pawson
It is not just the tables themselves that are out of the ordinary, but also their name, Omphalos. Evocative, attention-capturing and laden with meaning and history, it is a perfect fit for John Pawson’s latest design masterpieces.
To explain the origins of the name, we need to turn to the past where legend has it that Zeus, in his quest to identify the centre of the world, released a pair of eagles at either end and commanded them to fly towards one another. The mighty birds met one another in the skies above Delphi, which from that moment was considered by the Greeks to be the omphalos or “naval” of the world, commemorated by a sacred stone of the same name.
Returning to the twenty-first century, the Omphalos table is an expression of that sense of centrality, effortlessly drawing our gaze towards it, almost involuntarily and spontaneously. This is in large part due to its clean lines, unconventional dimensions and the soothing tones of Bianco Carrara marble and Crema d’Orcia limestone.
The result is an understated yet commanding piece that contrasts the stone’s materiality and substance to create a sense of unexpected lightness, with the top appearing to hover above the floor.
We spoke to John Pawson to find out more about how Omphalos came to be.
I was initially drawn to the idea of the circle. Coffee tables are more commonly rectangular or square, but I wanted to use a form with ideas of gathering embedded within it. The shape immediately makes the table the natural gravitational centre of a space.
The name Omphalos is very evocative. Where did it come from?
Omphalos derives from the Greek word for navel and means a focus of activity. I like the connotations of a piece that functions as a hub or nexus – a place around which life happens.
The challenge was to make the stone – which has great visual as well as physical heft – appear to be levitating. Rounding the edges of the table top helps lighten the stone’s visual weight.
What are the main technical and expressive advantages to working with natural stones?
I always prefer to work with natural materials. The stone we have chosen combines durability with subtle variations of texture and tone that add richness without distracting from the simplicity of the piece.
In the end all my work is an expression of the values of simplicity. The Omphalos table pares function and aesthetics right back to their essence and it is the rigour of this meticulous stripping away of the unnecessary that will give the piece a quiet, ordering resonance wherever it is set