An icon in the making
For a humble kettle to make its mark on modern history is quite something. After all, it's one thing to become a ubiquitous part of our daily existence, but another to reach the upper echelons of "design icon". That the 9093 kettle has managed to achieve both - consistently over the course of three decades - is down to its innovative approach to design and a partnership between architecture and homewares. Here, we explore its origins and milestone Tea Rex reincarnations.
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In 1980, internationally renowned architect, Michael Graves, was invited to a design a tea set as part of the "Coffee and Tea Piazza" design promotion sponsored by Italian kitchenware brand Alessi. His entry was so well received - outselling all other designs - that he was commissioned to collaborate and design the now-famous Whistling Bird Kettle which made its design debut in 1985.
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The Portland Building, Oregon
Graves was already well-known for his ground-breaking structural designs such as the Portland Building in Oregon, which was considered an architectural phenomenon when it opened in 1982.
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Alessi 9093 Kettle
Graves' original 9093 design allowed Art Deco and Pop Art influences that were also evident in Graves' buildings to enter the mass market and people's homes. The kettle was really as much about experience as it was about practicality - after all, who could resist a smile in the morning when your kettle is happily chirping away as it boils?
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Inspired design touches were employed to convey heat. The blue handle signals that it's cool to touch, while the red bird signals warmth - famously singing when the water has boiled. It quickly became a design icon and led to a long partnership between Graves and Alessi that produced over 150 products in 30 years.
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The 30th anniversary Tea Rex edition
To mark the 30th anniversary of the timeless classic in 2015, the whistle was playfully redesigned, transforming the famous bird into a prehistoric and somewhat mythological creature: the Tea Rex.
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Tea Rex 9093
With 'Tea Rex 9093 30th anniversary' engraved on the lid; the Tea Rex is a modern-day adaptation of a true collector's item. After all, an early design is on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Not bad for an architect's first foray into kitchenwares. Alessi Tea Rex Water Kettle, $295; David Jones.