Floating Earth, the tray designed by Ma Yan Song, combines stainless steel and wood.
A Lotus Leaf, by Chang Yung Ho, was sculpted out of steel.
Architects gathered to discuss their work.

Melting Pot

Alessi taps eight Chinese architects to collaborate on a new collection

Back in 2003, 22 contemporary architects designed teapots for Alessi. The experiment in international design relations was a big success, yielding a range of fanciful, innovative teapots that were sold by the Italian design dynasty. This time around, the company has chosen a different product—the serving tray—and has asked eight well-known Chinese architects to design their own interpretations of this iconic household object for an industrial design project titled (Un)Forbidden City. One of the eight architects, Hong Kong-based Gary Chang, took part in the 2003 endeavor and is also the 2012 project’s curator. “(Un)Forbidden City aims at exploring the potential of Chinese design in terms of domestic products,” Chang says. “I think these eight designs are collectively a good start to a dialogue exploring cultural differences and similarities, as well as geographic boundaries.”

The architects were given free rein creatively to achieve what Alessi hopes is “a sort of bridge between cultures, aiming to make a common landscape of household goods,” according to a company release. They drew inspiration from a variety of cultural influences including a dried lotus leaf from the Old Summer Palace; a roll of bamboo sticks (used for writing in China before paper was invented); a floating “urbanscape;” and Ming furniture. Stainless steel, aluminum, wood and melamine were among the materials used to create the trays, which are truly unique.

The eight trays premiered at Beijing Design Week 2011 
and have been launched this summer as part of Alessi’s catalog. 
They are available through Alessi, located in Cady’s Alley in DC.