Singapore Tatler Jewels & Time - - Contents -

Renowned ar­chi­tects minia­turise their can­vases to jew­ellery pieces

Some of the world’s top ar­chi­tects

have switched fo­cus from the macro to the minia­ture in the past decade, ex­press­ing them­selves in a more in­ti­mate medium than land­marks punc­tu­at­ing the sky­line—jew­ellery. It should come as no sur­prise; af­ter all, both ar­chi­tec­ture and jew­ellery are three-di­men­sional dis­ci­plines that ref­er­ence clas­si­cal shapes and mo­tifs. The world’s most cel­e­brated fe­male ar­chi­tect, the late Zaha Ha­did, was one of the trail­blaz­ers. Her bold­est projects were more ab­stract art than ar­chi­tec­ture and in­clude an Aus­trian mu­seum buried in a Ty­rol peak as well as Rome’s Mu­seum of Arts of the XXI Cen­tury, the Maxxi, which feels like a walk-in sculp­ture. She has also left an in­deli­ble mark here in Asia with such cre­ations as the fu­tur­is­tic Galaxy Soho Com­plex in Bei­jing, the Jockey Club In­no­va­tion Tower at Hong Kong Polytech­nic Univer­sity, and res­i­den­tial tow­ers d’lee­don Sin­ga­pore at Far­rer Road.

It’s safe to say the Iraqi­born Bri­ton’s jew­ellery de­signs were never go­ing to in­clude gos­samer sil­ver neck­laces or sub­tle di­a­mond studs. De­spite the ethe­real-sound­ing name, her Si­lene Col­lec­tion for the House of Aziz & Walid Mouzan­nar, a lux­ury brand from Lebanon, is not for wall­flow­ers. The orig­i­nal piece, the Si­lene cuff, is an ar­men­velop­ing bracelet in white gold

set with a spi­der’s web of 1,048 di­a­monds that wouldn’t look out of place on the wrist of a war­rior princess. The line, launched early this year, fea­tures strik­ing gold bracelets and rings that evoke the un­du­lat­ing, fluid shapes for which Ha­did’s ar­chi­tec­ture is known.

Ha­did had dis­cov­ered the Mouzan­nar broth­ers and a shared love of an­tique jew­ellery on a visit to Beirut nearly 10 years ago. To­day the house is run by their chil­dren, cousins Dori and Alia. It was Alia who thought of the col­lab­o­ra­tion, and her sug­ges­tion was im­me­di­ately ap­proved.

“We chose to col­lab­o­rate with Zaha be­cause she was a great artist, a friend and our vi­sions were aligned,” says Alia.

Says Dori, “Our col­lab­o­ra­tion with a great artist cre­ated a col­lec­tion im­bued with the vi­sion of an ar­chi­tect, as well as our her­itage, crafts­man­ship and know-how. Jew­ellery should be wear­able sculp­tures, and this is pos­si­ble when tech­nique and vi­sion are put to­gether.

“I feel priv­i­leged to have known her and have worked with her. Our ‘Queen of the Curve’ was a true in­spi­ra­tion, she al­ways pushed the bound­aries to cre­ate unimag­in­able beauty.”

Adds Alia, “Stones and noble met­als have the ad­van­tage of eter­nity, alive with mem­ory. Be­yond time, be­yond hu­mans. This is what will re­main.”

The Si­lene Col­lec­tion was not Ha­did’s only jew­ellery ven­ture. In March, the de­signer launched the Zaha Ha­did col­lec­tion for Ge­org Jensen. The eight-piece se­ries of rings and cuffs takes ref­er­ences from the Wangjing Soho in Bei­jing, her last project.

Made from sil­ver and black di­a­monds, the pieces re­flect the flu­id­ity of na­ture and the dra­matic lines of Ha­did’s ar­chi­tec­ture. “Work­ing with Ge­org Jensen pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity to ex­press our ideas in dif­fer­ent scales and through dif­fer­ent me­dia,” the de­signer had said at that time. “Our start­ing point was the Dan­ish house’s de­sign links to na­ture. There is an in­her­ent in­tegrity within the or­ganic struc­tural logic found in na­ture and we of­ten look at the co­her­ence of nat­u­ral sys­tems when we work to cre­ate en­vi­ron­ments. Our chal­lenge was to trans­late that into some­thing that can be worn; to rein­ter­pret the rich his­tory and tra­di­tion of Ge­org Jensen’s de­sign ap­proach into some­thing new.”

As well as the change of scale, Ha­did en­joyed the change of pace that de­sign­ing jew­ellery af­forded

“With jew­ellery, the process be­tween idea and re­sult is quicker than with ar­chi­tec­ture. This faster time frame leads to greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion” - Zaha Ha­did

her. “The ideas be­hind a piece of ar­chi­tec­ture or a piece of jew­ellery come up equally fast, but there is a big dif­fer­ence in how each project is de­vel­oped,” she said. “With jew­ellery, the process be­tween idea and re­sult is so much quicker than with ar­chi­tec­ture, and this faster time frame leads to greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.”

Pritzker Prize-win­ning Frank Gehry has of­ten voiced his pro­fes­sional ad­mi­ra­tion for Ha­did and is one of the few liv­ing ar­chi­tects dis­cussed in equally rev­er­en­tial terms. His rev­o­lu­tion­ary ap­proach has trans­formed ar­chi­tec­ture and ur­ban plan­ning. The ti­ta­nium-clad Guggen­heim Mu­seum in Bil­bao is his most fa­mous cre­ation. Other land­marks in­clude the ca­nary-yel­low Loy­ola Law School and the binoc­u­lars-shaped Chiat/ Day com­plex in Los An­ge­les; Peix, the glit­ter­ing fish sculp­ture on the Barcelona wa­ter­front; the Danc­ing House in Prague; the Stata Cen­tre in Mas­sachusetts; and the Opus apart­ment build­ing in Hong Kong.

Gehry, too, has turned his mind to jew­ellery, de­sign­ing a line with Tif­fany & Co that was launched in 2006 to crit­i­cal ac­claim. It uses un­usual ma­te­ri­als such as per­nam­buco wood, black gold and ca­cho­long stone to form pieces with bold lines, crisp edges and be­guil­ing shapes. The neck­laces and bracelets play with light in a way that is un­mis­tak­ably Gehry. Many of his later de­signs are whim­si­cally self-ref­er­en­tial, in­cor­po­rat­ing the sculp­tural planes, mir­rored el­e­ments and even the fish mo­tifs of his ar­chi­tec­tural work. One of his best­sellers is the 2008 Bil­bao brooch—a shrunken

“Once I started cre­at­ing jew­ellery and ob­serv­ing women wear­ing the de­signs, the pieces came to life in the same way a build­ing lit­er­ally be­comes part of life” - Frank Gehry

floor plan of the Guggen­heim made from di­a­mond-en­crusted plat­inum and bear­ing Gehry’s sig­na­ture on the back.

“Once I started cre­at­ing jew­ellery and ob­serv­ing women wear­ing the de­signs, the pieces came to life in the same way a build­ing lit­er­ally be­comes part of life,” Gehry told The Tele­graph in an in­ter­view in 2008. “When I fin­ish a build­ing and it’s filled with peo­ple, it’s an ex­traor­di­nary feel­ing. And I have the same ex­pe­ri­ence with jew­ellery.”

Os­car Niemeyer, one of the most pro­lific ar­chi­tects of the 20th cen­tury, trans­formed his na­tive Brazil’s ur­ban land­scape and cre­ated more than 500 build­ings be­fore his death in 2012. His work can be seen across the coun­try, but it is most con­cen­trated in Brazil’s cap­i­tal, Brasilia, where no­table de­signs in­clude the spec­tac­u­lar Catholic cathe­dral and the pres­i­den­tial of­fices, the Pala­cio do Planalto.

Niemeyer’s legacy also lives on in a col­lec­tion of jew­ellery he de­signed for lux­ury Brazil­ian brand H Stern. “When we first met, I asked him if he could give me a con­cept for the jew­ellery line,” says the firm’s pres­i­dent and cre­ative di­rec­tor, Roberto Stern. “He said, ‘You know, I’m not an ar­chi­tect; I just dream and draw sketches. Don’t look at my build­ings for in­spi­ra­tion. Look at my sketches. Every­thing is about beauty. That is all I am search­ing for.’”

Those sketches come to life in the col­lec­tion, vi­brant neck­laces and ear­rings of flow­ing lines and or­ganic shapes that seem to light up when you move. “His work is about sim­plic­ity, about curves,” says Stern. “And he had a real pas­sion for women. Through­out the en­tire process, Niemeyer would con­stantly bring up the sub­ject of women and how he saw them. The curves that he praised so much, and that he even wrote a poem about, are re­lated to women, their sen­su­al­ity, their im­por­tance in our so­ci­ety.”

The waves of gold in the col­lec­tion’s Mon­u­ment ear­rings pay homage not only to women, but to Niemeyer’s sculp­ture in São Paulo’s Ibi­ra­puera Park. The Copan ring, in­spired by his build­ing of the same name in São Paulo, is formed from swirls of white gold in­laid with di­a­monds. The en­tire Flower Col­lec­tion is a trib­ute to Niemeyer’s love for Brazil.

Jew­ellery de­sign­ers have long been in­spired by iconic ar­chi­tec­ture. Bul­gari looks to an­cient Greek and Ro­man de­signs, while Van Cleef & Arpels’ hugely suc­cess­ful Al­ham­bra line uses the qua­tre­foil mo­tif, vis­i­ble through­out its name­sake Moor­ish fortress in Spain, in neck­laces, ear­rings and bracelets. Now, with ar­chi­tects moon­light­ing as jew­ellery de­sign­ers, women around the world are ben­e­fit­ing from their fresh, mod­ern per­spec­tive. Who wouldn’t want to wear a lit­tle piece of their favourite mu­seum, cathe­dral or sky­scraper ev­ery day?

“You know, I’m not an ar­chi­tect; I just dream and draw sketches. Don’t look at my build­ings for in­spi­ra­tion, look at my sketches. Every­thing is about beauty. That is all I am search­ing for” - Os­car Niemeyer


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