"Piazza" Silver Tea and Coffee Set
Designed in 1983, made 1988-1991
Sterling silver, gold, enameled silver, brass, oxidized copper, glass.
26 x 17¼ x 11⅜ in.
66 x 43⅘ x 28⅞ cm.
11 in. (27⅞ cm) high
This Tea and Coffee Piazza set, designed by Italian architect Aldo Rossi, is comprised of a vitrine, teapot, coffee pot, thermos, creamer, and spoon. It was produced by Italian designer and manufacturer of premium housewares Alessi in Italy, under the brand Officina Alessi, from 1988 to 1991 (number 38 from the edition of 99 38/99). Each piece is impressed with standard Alessi maker’s marks, and each vessel and spoon is additionally impressed with the Officina Alessi mark, the initials “AR” corresponding to Aldo Rossi’s initials, and with the corresponding “1988, 1989 or 1991/ITALY” mark.
The Tea and Coffee Piazza set is the result of an experimental project of the Italian architect Alessandro Mendini. The objective of the project was to explore the creation of limited edition tea and coffee services, designed by 11 prominent architects with the objective that they could work out and put forward experimental methods, forms and typologies in the thick of the current debate on neo and post-modernism and on the claims of new Italian and international design.” Although Mendini came up with the idea in 1979, the formal collaboration with Alessi started in 1980, and the project lasted until mid 1983—when the prototypes of the limited series of the 11 different tea and coffee Piazza set designs were completed.
The 11 architects participating in this Tea and Coffee Piazza set project were Michael Graves, Hans Hollein, Charles Jencks, Richard Meier, Alessandro Mendini, Paolo Portoghesi, Aldo Rossi, Stanley Tigerman, Oscar Tusquets Blanca, Robert Venturi, and Kazumasa Yamashita.
From the very beginning, Alberto Alessi Anghini, then CEO of Alessi S.p.A., approached the production and promotion of the Tea and Coffee Piazza sets as a special project within Alessi. He even decided to create its own brand, “Officina-Alessi,” under the design and coordination of prominent architect and designer Ettore Sottsass, with the purpose of developing “an aspect of our activity often left on paper or at the early prototype stage: the wish to carry out even more experimental research, free from the limits usually imposed by industrial mass production.”
The project was first presented in 1993 at the at the IX century deconsecrated Milanese church of San Carpoforo–which belongs to the Accademia di Brera, and at the Max Protetch Gallery in New York. In 1984, the Tea and Coffee Piazza sets were presented in an exhibition at the reputable non-collecting museum The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago under the title “Architecture in Silver.”
Although the 11 original Piazza sets were made in sterling silver and created in limited editions, the Aldo Rossi Tea and Coffee Piazza set is the most coveted not only due to the prominence of Aldo Rossi as an architect but also because of its uniquely architectural approach and composition.
Patrizia Scarzella/Officina Alessi - Tea and Coffee Piazza 1983, Crusinallo, Italy, Shakespeare & Company