BUILT TO LUST
THEIR SCULPTURAL LANDMARKS GRACE CITIES THE WORLD OVER. BUT SOME ARCHITECTS ENJOY A CHANGE OF SCALE TURNING THEIR CREATIVITY TO DESIGNING EXQUISITE PERSONAL ADORNMENTS, WRITES MELISSA TWIGG
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