What happens when one of the world’s most innovative and progressive modern architectural firms decides to get into the jewelry business? TREATS! heads to downtown LA’s jewelry district to find out why Ron Radziner, of the award-winning architectural firm Marmol Radziner (clients include Anthony Kiedis, Demi Moore, and Tom Ford), launched the 2012 Marmol Radziner Jewelry line—and what areas he might take his aesthetically pleasing creativity into next. (HINT: NIKE beware.) By Jane Helpern
Ron Radziner isn’t afraid of a little roughness. In fact, it’s kind of his thing. Just beyond the reach of the seductive scent of street meat, Dosa818 sits pretty and discrete, a spacious loft with the requisite exposed brick and expansive industrial windows nestled high above the urban hustle. Mr. Radziner and I converse over a rustic walnut table, which he built for the debut of the Marmol Radziner Jewelry line. He slides a piece of metal off his own wrist and inspects it thoroughly, passing the leather-lined bronze cuff back and forth between his hands like a hot potato. I ask him if it’s okay if I touch it. The award-winning architect looks up and says, “Let’s not be too precious about any of it. I prefer working with inexpensive materials like bronze because you can get a little rough.”
Founded in 1989 by Leo Marmol, Managing Principal, and Ron Radziner, Design Principal, Marmol Radziner is a full service design/build architectural firm with its headquarters in Los Angeles. The local operation also owns custom metal and wood shops, where hardware from faucets to doorknobs to towel bars are fabricated in-house. The prestigious design team, comprised of the principals and four associates, has received numerous industry accolades, including an induction into the Interior Design 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame and being honored with inclusion in the Architectural Digest AD 100.
The creative powerhouse is behind many of California’s most visited luxury commercial destinations and exclusive private residences, and boasts an A-list roster of clients that includes Anthony Kiedis, Demi Moore, and Tom Ford, as well as Tommy Perse (father of James Perse), whose Maxfield boutique is located in the Malibu Lumber Yard, a sustainable shopping sanctuary that has become a Mecca for bohemian affluence and the pinnacle of beach-home chic.
While most design aficionados will never get closer to setting foot inside a Marmol Radziner dwelling than a real estate tour or a trip to the Hennessey + Ingalls Hollywood book store (a MR client), with the launch of Mr. Radziner’s unisex collection of industrial bronze jewelry, now in select retail stores and museum gift shops around Los Angeles, perhaps highbrow design is finally within arm’s reach. Literally.
Marmol Radziner Jewelry was born of the designer’s appreciation for utilitarian practicality and aesthetically pleasing functionality. While on a build site a few years ago, during the peak of the economic implosion, Radziner was working with a high-fashion client who dealt in precious stones and diamonds. Radziner recalls, “I would be looking at the men’s jewelry, the big blingy diamonds, and I thought, While I love the weight of it all and the big heavy items, isn’t there a way to do this in a more reductive, simpler fashion? Isn’t this just too much of an excess?’”
In that moment Ron Radziner Jewelry was conceived. Well, not quite like that—but when you have a metal shop and a wood shop and pounds of scrap materials and manpower at your disposal, impromptu whims can become shiny, wearable things at a surprising velocity. The quick turnaround from concept to product is a welcome change of pace for Radziner, and just one of the many aspects of the jewelry business that he finds exhilarating. “There is a speed to this,” he notes, almost relieved. “You can sketch in the metal shop and literally be working with the guys an hour or two later and have something to show for it. Whereas with a building, by the time you draw and build it, it’s usually been a couple of years. So there’s that immediacy here that’s kind of amazing.”
RAW. PRECISE. DURABILITY.
Though technically the collection is unisex, Radziner designs with the subtleties of both genders in mind. He considers such details as the interplay of bracelet width and a woman’s wrist and views certain shapes as more masculine than feminine, or as more durable than dainty. While architecture relies on careful lines and precise calculations, for Radziner, this new creative cycle has presented its own unique challenges. “With women, there is an ability to be a bit more expressive. There aren’t that many men who are going to layer multiple pieces at once. I see women wearing three or five pieces at the same time, playing with different sizes and colors.” With a boyishly excited inflection he adds, “My wife wears it and she looks good in it…”
The relationship between architecture and jewelry is both complimentary and counterintuitive. The permanence of one seems in stark contrast to the playfulness of the other, and while a house becomes the foundation of a life, jewelry is a peripheral, expendable embellishment to it. It’s a dichotomy that Radziner seems to enjoy. He jokes, “It’s a little bit hobby-ish compared to some of the bigger stuff, but it’s fun.” What does remain consistent across both platforms is his approach to design, which relies on the meticulous selection of raw materials. He explains: “Using materials that weather and patina on their own over time is my preference. I’m drawn to materials like brick or steel or stone or concrete that actually change and evolve, versus using things that are painted, that don’t accept age as well.”
In a society that prioritizes perpetual youth and technological modification at any cost, Radziner’s love affair with the natural, his admiration for the inevitable effects of erosion and the wear and tear of time, is a rather rare and romantic notion. “How I know that I’ve designed a building that I’m very, very happy with is that I can imagine it as a ruin that’s been taken over by nature. I know architects who want to see the whole building. They hate when trees are planted in front of it, obstructing their view of it. I am completely the opposite. I love when the messiness of nature conflicts with the precision of the architecture. Those two together is what really makes it work.”
So what’s next for the man who can build anything from environmentally sound dream houses to androgynous jewelry? Mr. Radziner alludes to possible ventures in footwear and silver castings, though he doesn’t commit to a concrete agenda. Never one for rigid twenty-year plans, he tells me: “I prefer things to happen more organically.” It’s an attitude, and a lifestyle, which mirrors his architectural approach: letting nature takes its course.
To view the whole collection go to www.marmol-radziner.com