Norman Foster & Nori Matsamoto

  • sketch
  • Nori
  • Pencil Sharpeners
  • mock-ups
  • Designer Shot
  • Nori 4
  • Nori 3
  • Nori 2
  • Nori 1
  • Nori 5
  • Triangle sharperner
  • group shot
  • Circular sharpener

Norman Foster, architect behind the Millennium bridge, requested a pencil sharpener from Japanese designer, Norie Matsumoto.   According to Norie, the brief from Mr Foster was to design, ‘A pencil sharpener for three sizes capable of sitting on a desk and with a compartment to receive the shavings.’  The pencil sharpener will ultimately allow Lord Foster to sharpen all different sizes of pencil – a necessity in the life of an architect.

This apparently simple request belies the complexity of producing  hollow vessels with removable bases and there was much use made of  Norie’s expertise in computer modelling.

Foster is renowned for his using inexpensive and utilitarian materials and making them beautiful chose  tulipwood, the cheapest of all the hardwoods and a timber that is normally painted.  He was drawn to the different tones in the word from olive green to buttermilk that gives it a look of marble.

Norie designed four different shapes.  The tetrahedon was made from four equilateral triangles mitred together.  The sphere and cylinder were made in one piece and turned in a treen-like way with the internal hollowed out through the aperture in the base.  The cube was hollowed out of a single block of timber using mortise and paring chisels.   The base of each shape is attached with rare earth magnets.  A tray was made for each vessel to sit on with edges that echoed the shape that sits on them.  The pencil sharpeners themselves required exacting engineer drawings and were cast and machined in solid brass that was then soaked in silver nitrate to blend with the colours of the tulipwood.

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