An interview with Zaha Hadid on her vision of quality and design

04/03/2015
Zaha Hadid Noken

Born in Baghdad (Iraq), Zaha Hadid chose the British capital to establish her own studio in 1979 after studying at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. At the same time, the Iraqi-British architect collaborated as a teacher at this same institution in the 1980s.

Throughout her career, Zaha Hadid has received some of the industry’s most prestigious awards, such as the Mies van der Rohe Prize for Contemporary Architecture (2003) and the Praemium Imperiale (2009), as well as being the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, comparable to the Nobel Prize for Architecture.

The Zaha Hadid Architects studio is known around the world for its dynamic and innovative projects, which focus on the interrelation of design, landscape and topography to integrate each building into its environment. To do so, Zaha Hadid Architects makes use of experimentation with and application of cutting edge technology.

The MAXXI: National Museum of the 21st Century Arts in Rome (Italy), BMW’s headquarters in Leipzig (Germany), and the Guangzhou Opera House (China) are some of the buildings which are most representative of the studio’s vision of integrated architecture. Additionally, its contributions to design research have allowed it to collaborate with numerous artists, designers and engineers in a wide range of projects.

A guided tour at the Zaha Hadid Gallery in London with Ms. Hadid immediately shows us that Zaha Hadid Architects is not only about buildings and interior spaces but a remarkable list of amazing design objects, or should we call them rather sculptures or creations, covering various sectors from fashion to cars and furniture. Zaha Hadid is considered one of the most innovative architects of the 21st century with an advanced language of contemporary architecture, but how to create a new language for product design?

A closer insight with Ms. Hadid…

-On the Gallery lower floor we admire jewellery, footwear, tableware, and many other beautiful items… Which of these products has been the biggest challenge so far?

The challenge is to best apply formal, technical and material innovations to create exciting and inspirational new pieces.  This applies equally to any product design. Designing products is of great importance to us. These collaborations inspire our creativity and provide an opportunity to express our ideas in a different scale and through different media.  We see it as part of a continuous process of design investigation. It’s a two way process – we apply our architectural research to these designs, but we also learn a great deal about the process and materials of other industries.

- How are architecture and product design interrelated? Is product design the equivalent of micro-architecture?

In terms of form, all our projects – architecture, fashion and furniture – interest me equally; and all of the designs originate from similar principles. All the projects are connected somehow. The idea for a building, furniture, or a fashion piece can come up just as quickly, but there is a big difference in process of resolving and realizing each design.  Of course, there is a lot of fluidity now between furniture design, architecture and art—a lot more cross-pollination in the disciplines. But this isn’t about competition; it’s about collaboration and how these different practices and processes can contribute to one another. One of the most exciting things about product design is the advanced technologies used for design and manufacture – the production process between idea and result is so much quicker than for architecture. This faster timeframe leads to greater opportunities for experimentation – we also have the possibility to create real prototypes very quickly allowing us to immediately evaluate and revise the design. These greater opportunities for experimentation certainly help to perfect the design.

-What is the definition of the term “design quality” for Zaha Hadid Architects?

It is not only the form of a building, or of a product, that interests us. For every project, we always try to interpret its purpose. We are always researching new and better ways in which people can use a building or product.

-Which trends you consider have a particularly strong influence on the design of today? What kind of product would Zaha Hadid Architects like to design someday?

I’m always curious about the next step – the next big thing – and our designs apply the very latest developments in design and fabrication technology. These industries continue to evolve ever more sophisticated tools and materials. There is a strong reciprocal relationship whereby our more avant-garde designs encourage the development of new design technologies, construction techniques and materials – and those new developments in turn inspire us to push the design envelope ever further. Great things come from this method of working!

Our designs for products are excellent opportunities to develop and explore the new possibilities created by significant technological advancements in three-dimensional design software, as well as engaging the very latest manufacturing capabilities such as 3D Printing and CNC (computer numerical control) milling. This allows the digital models developed on the computer to be directly produces by a 3D printer or CNC milling machine in almost any material.

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