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  3. Have you Seen This Forgotten PoMo Jewelry by 1980s Architects?

Have you Seen This Forgotten PoMo Jewelry by 1980s Architects?

  • 01:00 - 9 November, 2014
  • by Monica Khemsurov
Have you Seen This Forgotten PoMo Jewelry by 1980s Architects?
Have you Seen This Forgotten PoMo Jewelry by 1980s Architects?, Jewelry designed by Peter Eisenman. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Peter Eisenman. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

It's not often that a major design project by a bevy of superstar architects is forgotten to history. But this seems to be what happened in the 1980s, when Italian designer Cleto Munari commissioned a stable of world-famous architects to design a new jewelry collection. The (unashamedly PoMo) results were documented in a now almost forgotten book by Barbara Radice called simply "Jewelry By Architects," which included interviews with each designer. Originally published by Monica Khemsurov of Sight Unseen, this article shows off just some of the contents of this fascinating work.

Until about six months ago, there was only one Munari we idolized: Bruno, one of our favorite 20th-century designers and design theorists. (If you haven’t read Design As Art, we suggest you hop to it!) But then, one fateful day this past spring, we were wandering aimlessly around the internet when we stumbled upon the biggest editorial coup we've scored in years, and thus began our love affair with Cleto Munari. The Italian designer—who, as far as we can tell, is unrelated to Bruno—commissioned a dream-team of architects like Ettore Sottsass and Peter Eisenman in the early ’80s to create a jewelry collection for his eponymous company, and the project had almost no coverage anywhere on the web. After immediately snapping up a copy of the incredible out-of-print book that documented it, which we’re excerpting a small portion of here, we set about doing more research on Munari himself. Turns out he’s a bit of a Sight Unseen patron saint, who dreamed up all kinds of cross-disciplinary projects for the precious metals–focused design brand he founded in the ’70s with Carlo Scarpa. “It is most interesting to me to have a poet design a table, a painter design a credenza, and an architect design a spoon,” Munari told the Huffington Post in an interview two years ago.

Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen Jewelry designed by Robert Venturi. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen +17

The Cover of "Jewelry By Architects," where the designs of this collection were documented. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
The Cover of "Jewelry By Architects," where the designs of this collection were documented. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

Obviously his jewelry series in particular strikes a chord with us, considering the Sight Unseen online shop began as an experiment in asking non–jewelry designers to create wearables. Munari’s chosen stable included not just the titans of architecture featured below but also Mario Bellini, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, Paolo Portoghesi, Stanley Tigerman, Oscar Tusquets, and Lella Vignelli, whose contributions we didn’t have room for in this story. The full collection comprises more than 150 pieces designed between 1982 and 1986, and the book documents them with accompanying sketches by and interviews with their creators. After you’ve checked out the highlights we’ve compiled below, get a copy of the book for your own library by clicking here (if there are any left once this story goes live, that is). It will no doubt hold a cherished place in ours for a very long time.

ROBERT VENTURI

Jewelry designed by Robert Venturi. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Robert Venturi. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

What ancient jewelry do you like most?

I admire Egyptian jewelry because it is extremely delicate and coloful and it is from the time of very big monumental architecture. Recently, I’ve liked also some Indian pieces made of pearls, precious stones, and enamel. But I don’t know much about the history of jewelry.

Jewelry designed by Robert Venturi. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Robert Venturi. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

Could you explain the language of your jewelry?

My jewelry tries to combine different scales, it is bold in one way and delicate in another. I used architectural elements and I liked the idea of representing something. My jewelry is the miniature of something else. It is against the abstract approach, and it has not been done now for some time.

Do you like buying jewelry for a woman?

Not really. Furniture is my first love. So if I have to buy something I buy furniture.

PETER EISENMAN

Jewelry designed by Peter Eisenman. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Peter Eisenman. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

Have you designed jewelry before?

Never.

What kind of woman did you have in mind when you designed your jewelry? What woman do you fantasize wearing them?

I was not thinking of any woman. These pieces propose a different relationship to the human wearer. They are not mimetic of human form or proportions. Their scale is not taken from the scale of a person. As such they deny any connection to or embellishment of human form. They are not in the least decorative. Neither are they representational. They are part of a scale continuum of objects from the ring to a building.

Could you explain the language of your jewelry?

Since Freud, since the unconscious became known, man has been psychologically different. He is no longer “in the center” as in the Renaissance, because he’s studying himself. I would like all my jewels to be the archetypal symbol of this decentered man and his unconscious.

ARATA ISOZAKI

Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

What kind of woman did you have in mind when you designed your jewelry? What woman do you fantasize wearing them?

My wife always wears black and likes very primitive jewelry, just silver or brass. I think my pieces are for a woman who likes them, possibly a crazy one. I think of a woman who is not overtly sexy but who has some mystery about her. I hope my jewelry is a little magic… if she’d wear them they could improve the magic…

Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

Do your think your jewelry is consistent with your architecture and design?

Everything I like to do has some affinity to my architecture. I do many things but all of them are an extension of my architecture. I don’t want to be a specialist in jewelry.

Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

Could you explain the language of your jewelry?

I used vaults, cubes, pyramids, sometimes cylinders. They are really architectural volumes. My jewels are architectural models.

Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Arata Isozaki. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

HANS HOLLEIN

Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

On what occasions do you think your jewelry could be worn?

For shopping.

Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

What ancient jewelry do you like the most?

Egyptian and American Indian.

Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

Could you explain the language of your jewelry?

Erotic ritual.

Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen
Jewelry designed by Hans Hollein. Image © Rizzoli New York Courtesy of Sight Unseen

For more jewelry and interviews from Ettore Sottsass, Michele de Lucchi, Allesandro Mendini, Peter Shire, and Marco Zanini, head on over to Sight Unseen.

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Cite: Monica Khemsurov. "Have you Seen This Forgotten PoMo Jewelry by 1980s Architects?" 09 Nov 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/565377/have-you-seen-this-forgotten-pomo-jewelry-by-1980s-architects/>
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