Inspiration Series - John Pawson

We’ve written here at length about the inspiration we draw from the world of aircraft and aerospace engineering, and how we put that into our product, but today we want to talk about the people that inspire us. Designers, architects, and artists whose commitment to creating beautiful and functional products and spaces has driven us to make what we make the best it can possibly be.


One of those people is John Pawson. Originally from Yorkshire, Pawson is an architect and designer exceedingly skilled in utilizing a minimalist aesthetic in his work. He left college early to pursue his love of architectural design and has planned and implemented a number of spaces and artistic installments across the globe since starting his own design firm. He and his team have worked on store interiors, London’s Design Museum, minimalist apartments, hotels, and private homes and art galleries.


With Pawson’s design, the key word is ‘minimal.’ Everything he creates is intentional, ruthlessly stripped down to the utmost essentials, creating a beauty in the raw simplicity of their design. In his own home the floorboards are the width of the tree from which they were cut, and run the entire length of the building. There are also no cuts in the boards, giving the floor a smooth, even look from anywhere you stand in the house. Other private homes designed by him are much the same, constructed of white walls, precisely placed art pieces, and furniture that looks barebones but is still quite comfortable.


Take Okinawa House, for example. Built as a vacation home for a Tokyo family and designed by Taishi Kanemura, a member of Pawson’s design firm, it embodies the minimal aesthetic incredibly well. White walls and raw-looking natural elements like wood or stone give the space a pared-back, utilitarian look, and the lack of clutter in the home exudes a sense of calm organization. The back end of the house opens up to huge picture windows presenting an unobstructed ocean view. The entire structure appears seamless and complete, producing a comfortable visual symmetry in the way everything from the walls to the floorboards to those huge panes of glass unite.


This desire to pare back everything to its very simplest form is a dearly-held belief of Pawson’s, as anyone who listens to him describe the appeal of minimalism in design can tell:


"The minimum could be defined as the perfection that an artifact achieves when it is no longer possible to improve it by subtraction. This is the quality that an object has when every component, every detail, and every junction has been reduced or condensed to the essentials. it is the result of the omission of the inessentials.”


Pawson has won multiple awards for his work, including Blueprint Architect of the year (2005), RSA Royal Designer for Industry (2005), and German Design Council Interior Designer of the Year (2014). According to architecture publication Arch Daily, he and Japanese painter Hiroshi Senju both received the Noguchi Museum’s Isamu Noguchi award in 2017 for “innovation, global consciousness, and commitment to East/West cultural exchange.”


Pawson’s creations have a hard-edged attraction to them, a brutal coolness to their aesthetic that inspired us to strip the Modern Fuel pencil down to its simplest, barest, and most pleasing form. If you’re new here, the mechanical pencils we make are designed with no seam and made almost entirely of aircraft-grade metal. Even the internal mechanism, usually made of plastic in other mechanical pencils, is constructed of metal in ours. It makes the perfect tool for an artist or architect like Pawson, which might be why he enjoyed using it so much when we gave it to him to review:


"Apart from enjoying the pencils daily as design tools, there is pleasure in contemplating an object that must clearly contain many intricate parts, but appears as a single piece of milled metal,” Pawson said.


He added that “the pencil’s body has the sleek utility of a bullet or a dart, with this formal simplicity reinforced by attenuated proportions and the absence of any visible joints. They sit on my desk like a series of ingots, reminding me of the metals we use in building. From the heft of each pencil in the hand, one gets a sense of the individual character of each metal: the density of the brass brings to mind the cast solidity of a submarine propeller shaft, while the aluminium is featherlight like the skin of an aeroplane wing.”


He liked it so much, he bought one. With an endorsement like that, we knew we had to be on the right track.


In the next installment of the ‘People Who Inspire Us’ series, we’ll take a look at more minimalist architects whose work has left a lasting impression on us. Check back for the next entry to find out who we’ll discuss.