Past Exhibitions

Tea & Coffee Towers: Alessi at the Soane

An Exhibition at Sir John Soane's Museum from 16 September - 4 December 2004

Sir John Soane's Museum is proud to announce the arrival of the international touring exhibition Tea and Coffee Towers in London. This is an exhibition of 20 remarkable tea and coffee sets designed for Alessi by some of the most exciting contemporary architects worldwide. The sets will be displayed throughout the unique domestic spaces of the Museum, amongst Soane's collection of paintings, sculpture, architectural drawings, casts and fragments.

The architects involved in this project include J N Baldeweg, Gary Chang, David Chipperfield, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, Future Systems and Will Alsop. All have ventured into new territory by designing objects for industrial manufacture and domestic use, using materials ranging from silver and titanium to wood and plastic. Some of the sets are futuristic and surprising, others are simpler, more easily recognised, but no less beautifully crafted. Each set has been produced in a limited edition of 99.

The project was inspired by a previous experimental collection produced by Alessi in the late 1970s, entitled Tea and Coffee Piazza, in which eleven architects designed tea and coffee sets in silver; this resulted in some iconic product designs such as Michael Graves's kettle.

It is particularly apt that this exhibition should come to the Soane Museum, which combines domesticity with highly complex architecture. The tea and coffee sets will be dispersed throughout the house on Soane's original furniture, as if ready to be used at any moment. This will underline the fact that these are familiar objects for simple human enjoyment, not abstract objets d'art. At the same time, seeing the designs of contemporary architects in the context of Soane's own work, and collection, will allow audiences to draw new contrasts and parallels. These exceptional pieces of 21st-century design will present a series of surprises to the visitor, appearing in a unique light in this fascinating exhibition.

Exhibition guide available on request