“Design ... is a way of life” Alan Fletcher
The front side of this Attic red-figure bell krater represents a banquet (symposium) scene, with three pairs of men reclining on couches and, in the centre, a woman playing the double flute or aulos. In Ancient Greece, where this piece was made in the fourth century BC, it was used to serve wine mixed with water at banquets, where drinking together was a privilege reserved solely for upper-class Greek males as well as a sacred ritual honouring the god Dionysus. Functionality took precedence over other considerations, and this is precisely what makes the formal, ergonomic and structural aspects that define its organic integrity so remarkable. Far from arbitrary, the krater’s form was designed for a specific purpose. The deep body is ideal for mixing wine and water; the wide mouth makes the blend easy to serve; and the handles are adapted to human hands for a comfortable grip. Of a size proportionate to its human users, the krater was made from clay to ensure proper conservation and temperature conditions for the liquid inside. The carefully planned design, based on curving organic forms, is both dynamic and harmonious, balanced along an axis of symmetry.
However, this krater was found in Grave 43 at the Iberian necropolis of Baza, very far from where it made, among the grave goods of three individuals whose cremated bones were placed inside it and two other Attic kraters. For the Iberians, kraters denoted the personal prestige of their owner. This explains why they used them as cinerary urns, serving a very different purpose from the one for which they were intended. This dual use lives on in the popular modern trend of recycling or giving objects a “second life”, in which the new purpose depends on the recycling society and its habits or lifestyles. In this case, old wine barrels have been turned into a drum set.