Because I work with so many museum shops, I often get approached to do commissions, or collections based specifically on the artwork or architecture of a museum. These opportunities are creatively very interesting for me, since they allow me to do something outside my normal workflow. I typically launch new collections twice a year, and they’re planned out pretty far in advance. So injecting a different element into my design calendar is really exciting (though a bit stressful!).

On a gray day it will look like a moth. On a sunny day, l like a butterfly.”

Last year was a great year for collaborations, with Pico launching collections with both Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The YCBA Moth Butterfly Collection by Pico Design was initiated on the heels of the Center’s renovation – completed in May, 2016. Designed by architect Louis I. Kahn, Yale Center for British Art houses the largest collection of British Art outside the United Kingdom.

The Center was Kahn’s final building and was completed after his death, opening to the public on April 15, 1977. It was the first museum in the United States to incorporate retail shops in its design.

Visible formwork on the central stair, in concrete.

To commemorate the renovation, the YCBA team asked us to come up with some designs based on some of the details of the building. I visited the site and was immediately inspired by the palette of materials, the amount of natural light and the way the design made the art the hero. I took photos, viewed the amazing collection and then headed back to my studio to draw.

One of the great things about what I do is getting access to architect’s drawings and plans. When I look at plans and elevations, I can see the space come to life and there are details I see in 2-D that inspire me to create jewelry in 3-D. So I used all of these pieces as my inspiration.

Pico Design | Andrea Panico
The fourth floor reflected ceiling plan shows the glass block detail clearly

After sketching some initial concepts, I started building the concepts in Rhino (a 3-d software modeling program). Sometimes when I’m working with a client, I use Rhino as a tool to help everyone visualize the design more easily. It takes more time, but it does help hammer out the technical details a little earlier in the process.

Upon completing all the designs, I sent them to the Yale team for approval and then began the process of prototyping. Here, I test finishes and construction details to ensure I can make the pieces efficiently and at a reasonable cost, while meeting the specifications I laid out for myself in the previous stage. Sometimes, adjustments are necessary when the design is hard to execute en masse.

Pico Design | Andrea Panico V Beam Earrings
3-D Rendering, V-Beam Earrings

After the prototypes were approved, we started production on the collection, aptly named the Moth/Butterfly Collection. Kahn said of this building, “On a gray day it will look like a moth. On a sunny day, like a butterfly.” I love this quote because that is exactly what it felt like on my visit. The exterior in a blackened steel, boasts cool tones and concrete. The interior, with its warm wood features, travertine and light filled spaces creates a clean backdrop for the art.

I encourage you to visit the Yale Center for British Art, as well as the well curated museum shop there. Pico will be doing a trunk show June 16, 2018. You can see the entire collection in person and see how well we translated this great architect’s vision into intimate pieces of jewelry.

Have you been to the YCBA? What is your favorite Louis Kahn building? Comment below!

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