We felt a sense of déjà vu when we first set eyes on “Tonale,” a tableware set designed by London architect David Chipperfield. The photographs of the works, simple and gentle in their design, look like still life paintings. After reading up about the set, we learned that Chipperfield was in fact inspired by the work of painter Giorgio Morandi, “the potter’s painter” we profiled a few issues back.
What we have here is an example of syncretism personified in a dinner set. Chipperfield is a modern architect who applies that knowledge to design. Morandi was a painter who was fascinated by pottery. To see the pale plates, bowls, and cups of Morandi’s paintings made flesh is like seeing a snake swallow its own tail.
Chipperfield first created the set for Italian brand Alessi in 2009. Its first run included a carafe, tray, plates, bowls, beakers, and cups. The architect (who called the set “seemingly random”— you couldn’t guess that from how well the objects talk to each other) said he was also inspired by vernacular ceramics from Korea, Japan, and China. The set was conceived as an exercise in refining household objects. “Tonale” is a reference to Morandi’s use of color tonality, imbuing “objects with a sense of individuality.”
The original set was created in enameled steel, glass, ceramics, and wood .
Chipperfield revisited the set this month, adding a vase and serving plate. He also updated the palette, weaving in pastel blue and green. The color is an adjustment of the smallest of degrees, belying the boldness of Chipperfield’s choice. He incrementally expands the palette, but does not lose his grasp on Morandi.
Chipperfield also left his architect’s touch on the works. The serving plates and bowls are volumetric compositions while the flower vase gently tapers at its mouth, resembling a chimney.
The new and improved set is on its way to Alessi’s exhibition space at Maison & Objet this month (Paris, January 22 — 26, 2016).
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor at cfile.daily.
What do you think of this architect’s foray into contemporary ceramics? Let us know in the comments.