Making modernist jewellery based on the modernist houses of West Auckland

For her Masters of Architecture, Gina Hochstein looked at the relationship between modernist architecture and jewellery, and that involved making her own jewellery based on the houses of Titirangi.

Gina, centre, with her mother Marlene (far left) and her twin daughters, Olivia Holdsworth (left) and Isabella Holdsworth, and (in front) Dr Manfred Hochstein

The former book designer, who returned to university to study architecture in 2013 in her mid-40s graduated this week with a double Masters; a Masters of Architecture Professional and Heritage Conservation.

What makes her exploration of the connection between the modernist architecture and jewellery of Bohemian West Auckland in the 1950s particularly unique is her “research through making”.

That is, it included her making a Brian Brake House ring, a Stuckey Pole House brooch, earrings based on the north and south elevations of the Bardwell House and many other pieces of jewellery based on the houses of Titirangi.

The topic and her own approach to it were partly informed by the house she grew up in Titirangi, known as the Bardwell house, which was designed by Edward Erikson in the late 1950s.

It was only through a research project while at university that she discovered the house she grew up in was designed by a former student of Mies van der Rohe.

The Bardwell house was bought by her parents in the late 1970s; her father, Dr Manfred Hochstein, was the founding member and former director of the Geothermal Institute at the University of Auckland.

“But it was only when we found the link to Mies van der Rohe, that I realised it was the closest we had to a Miesian house in Titirangi.”

Much of Gina’s research revolved around European émigré enclaves in West Auckland, and people who bought concepts of International Style modernism to New Zealand which was evidenced in both architecture, jewellery, painting and other art forms.

As she notes, modernism in architecture emphasises functional simplicity. This can also be seen in the modernist approach to jewellery – in a deliberately pared-down form of adornment characterised by the selection of materials. Like architecture, jewellery is site-specific.

“A house might be built to be north facing to catch the light, for instance, and so can a pebble when positioned on the slope of a human finger,” says Gina.

"Research through making" included making a Brian Brake House ring, a Stuckey Pole House brooch and earrings based on the north and south elevations of the Bardwell House. 

Gina identified over 30 modernist houses in West Auckland through her research, 20 of them in Titirangi.

While the thesis began as an exploration of the link between jewellery and architecture, it culminated in the design of an artist-in-residence for jewellers, on Scenic Drive in Titirangi.

But “research through making” was a key aspect of the thesis and after receiving tuition from renowned jeweller Brian Adam in his workshop in Titirangi, Gina translated her research about the modernist houses of West Auckland into over 40 pieces of jewellery.

In addition to those mentioned above, that included a brass ring based on Philip Johnson’s Glass House, a silver ring based on Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, and a Tibor Donner House tiara.

It also led to several items of jewellery based on her design of an Artist-in-Residence building, such as a titanium pendant based on the north elevation and a copper collar based on the south elevation.

Last week, the day after graduating, Gina was awarded the Head of School Special Award for Architecture. “The recent award gives resonance to an idea whereby I can design precious jewellery pieces for people who would enjoy wearing their home as a personal adornment,” says Gina.

“We live, reside and work daily in architecture and why not wear a piece inspired by architecture?”

The relationship between jewellery and architecture is much closer than one might initially think says Dr Deidre Brown, Head of School of Architecture and Planning, “but Gina is the first to articulate this for architecture through her scholarship.”



Margo White I Media adviser

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