The alessi 9091 kettle designed by Richard Sapper is beyond beautiful… it sings, it shines, it boils water and it gets better with age…
Launched by Italian brand Alessi in 1982, the kettle features two whistles, each tuned to a different note, so that a harmony is produced when water in the kettle boils. Richard Sapper was a German designer and the story goes that Black forest craftsmen used a small pipe (pitch pipe) to tune musical instruments as the pipes produced the perfect note. Sapper took this lead and designed the small pitch pipes into the kettle whistle that is made from gold plated brass.
I purchased my 9091 kettle shortly after they were released in 1982. I love a cup of hot steamy tea – even in the summer. There is something transcending about immersing my senses into a just filled hot cup. Being an architect, I also love beautiful things.
In the thirty plus years of use, the first thing to vanish – about a decade in – was the little rubber grip on the spout pull. I was told by the house sitter that “it just popped off”, never to be seen again. OK. So I got used to using a potholder to pull the spout. Then the plastic handle cover slowly started to melt away at the bottom, like a Dali painting. I tried to clean it up but eventually a majority of the plastic was just gone and one day it was down to bare metal. Definitely had to use the pot holder now. On a recent birthday, my husband announced that he was going to refurbish the kettle and replace the parts that had been lost in time. I was having nothing to do with that. The kettle had come into its own. Like a great old building, it was losing unessential parts and becoming more of its essence. I loved the patina and clean lines. I believe the kettle has purposefully discarded everything that did not serve and is aging with elegance. Good design is like that.
There is something truly inspiring about well-made buildings that belong in their place on the planet; whose little details build up to something far, far grander than merely sensible solutions to enclosure. Glenn Murcutt is a master whose work can make you want to just sit down and cry it is so sublimely beautiful. Good design is like that.
The triple layer wall, a neat logic to deal with the specific climatic conditions of eastern Australia:
-operable glass through which to sail the breezes
-insect screens to stop the little buggers
-aluminum venetian blinds that direct solar gain, views, and privacy
The walls are exemplary of place-based detailing but then, there is the soaring roof overhang feathering into the vastness of the site and there is the ground dropping away below to keep you from harm’s way. The design connects powerfully to its landscape: to its specific site, to the climate, to the memory of the indigenous shelters and it all tingles through you, anchoring you squarely in the Australian landscape.
Its beauty is undeniable for it is sourced in what Julene Bair astutely observed in Ogallala Road: “Our sense of beauty is a survival instinct telling us that a place can sustain us.” The work puts an entirely new spin on sustainable design, oh wait – good design is not about a spin. It is the result of deep observation, intentional experience, and profound connection. You need to have skin in the game, only then do you get to make something that sends shivers up your spine.
You won’t find a Glenn Murcutt web site, facebook or any such online presence. You won’t find him using CAD of any sort. What you do find is an incredible human being pressing his innate sensibilities, talent, and wisdom into making deceptively simple buildings that humbly do their job: they sustain their place in the world and the people who inhabit them. That is Architecture at its base core root. Thank you Glenn.
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