Contemporary Jewellery: a phenomenological approach to making informed by Architecture

Sabine Pagan
2011 Conference

Relations between the body and mind occupy a significant role in both architectural and contemporary jewellery practice. Despite obvious differences in scale, purpose and function, these creative disciplines share a common aspiration for engaging us, as human beings, through our senses.

This paper examines the role of a phenomenological approach in creative practice. Existing models in architecture are explored with the aim to propose new methodologies applicable to the current and future development of contemporary jewellery practice.

In 2010, I visited Therme Vals, an iconic work of architecture designed by Peter Zumthor. The monolith structure, partially buried underground, is tucked away in a small valley of Graubünden, Switzerland. Made primarily of stones from the local quarry, its façade blends with the mountainous surroundings. Inside, the space is divided in a very systematic way, referencing cave-like forms, most of which house thermal baths, filled with water from the local spring. The layout of the various baths, the materials from which they are made and the building itself as a hybrid between built and natural environments, together create a unique atmosphere that transports bathers into a sensorial experience, far beyond the mere physical act of bathing.

Therme Vals is a model of phenomenology applied to architecture. In a cross-disciplinary context, it acts as a catalyst for understanding the role of sensorial experience in our lives and, in particular, its relevance to memories. In contemporary jewellery practice more specifically, it is used to reconceptualise the relationship between maker, wearer, object and architectural space.

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About the author

Sabine Pagan is a Swiss born Australian jewellery designer, gemmologist and academic. Pagan’s jewellery practice is informed by her training in both traditional and contemporary realms. Since her arrival to Australia thirteen years ago, Sabine has continually exhibited at peak National exhibition centres such as the JamFactory in Adelaide, CraftACT in Canberra as well as Object – Australian Centre of Craft and Design. In addition, she was awarded two residencies, including Object Studios in Sydney and at ANCA (Australian National Capital Artists) Studios in Canberra.

For the last eight years Sabine is Lecturer in charge of the Bachelor of Arts (Jewellery) at Charles Sturt University. Her research interests examine cross-disciplinary concepts between Contemporary Architectural and Jewellery practice. In particular, it focuses on the dis/location and sensorial qualities of the object in relation to its context, and its influence on memory.

In 2010, Sabine was awarded special study program (SSP) from CSU to conduct research in Switzerland on the architect Peter Zumthor’s work Therme Vals. Field trips were also partially funded by a International Travel Award from UniSA, where she is currently enrolled as a PhD candidate.