Many architects have teamed up with product companies to create luxe objects for everyday life: Frank Gehry alone has designed boots for French shoemaker J.M. Weston, jewelry for Tiffany's, and plastic chairs for Heller.
But Peter Zumthor, the reclusive Swiss architect who has achieved cult-like status, always seemed above this type of collaboration. His portfolio mainly consists of small-scale civic, religious, and cultural buildings in Europe—all exquisitely crafted using natural materials such as wood and stone. His singular work is intense, awe-inspiring, and at times, a bit creepy (anyone visited his "witch memorial" in Norway?). This man of mystery has earned innumerable honors, including the 2009 Pritzker Prize and, most recently, the 2013 RIBA Gold Medal.
But prestige does not always bring in the big bucks, and Zumthor might actually need cash. First came news that he was tapped to design a house for the movie star Tobey Maguire. Then we heard that he's renting out his vacation home in Switzerland. And now we learn that he's jumped on the products-by-architects bandwagon and designed condiment containers for the Italian brand Alessi. Made of frosted glass and stainless steel, the collection features various-sized salt and pepper shakers and cruets for oils and vinegars.
Photos: via Dezeen
It's actually not the first time Zumthor has teamed up with Alessi. Years ago, he designed a wooden pepper mill and cast-aluminum candleholders for the company. In describing his inspiration for the current collection, Zumthor referred to a forgotten sketch of a salt shaker he had drawn years before while staying at a hotel. When he rediscovered the sketch, Zumthor was flooded with memories of his morning at the hotel and immediately headed to his workshop to create the series of condiment containers. Resembling members of a family, the collection features containers of various sizes: short, tall, slim, chubby. They all exhibit the organic, crafted quality that is so central to Zumthor's work.
Time will tell if this kitchen decor signals a new line of exploration, and revenue generation, for the revered architect. We'd love to see what happens if Zumthor put his mind to designing shoes or accessories—or perhaps even dog houses.
Therme Vals by Zumthor. Photo: Design-Milk