The Designer: Zaha Hadid
The Lowdown: In 1957, when Zaha Hadid was seven years old, she accompanied her parents to a furniture maker’s studio in Beirut, Lebanon. “My father was a forward-looking man with cosmopolitan interests, and in those days, Baghdad, where I was born and where we lived at the time, was undergoing a Modernist influence—the architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Gio Ponti both designed buildings there,” she recounts. “I can still remember going to the studio and seeing our new furniture. The style was angular and modernist, and for my room there was an asymmetric mirror. The mirror thrilled me, and it started my love of asymmetry. When we got home, I reorganized my room. My cousin liked what I had done and asked me to do hers, then my aunt asked me to design her bedroom, and so it started.”
Yes, that one moment begat the storied career of Hadid, one of the most—if not the most—prominent and critically acclaimed female architectural designers to ever live. She has been hailed as a visionary, as a fantastical dreamer, as an architect whose vision and imagination are as powerful as her flamboyancy. She has been credited for changing the face of contemporary architecture and design through her exploration of fluid geometries and her use of cutting-edge techniques and technology. She has been criticized as a “paper architect,” a designer who envisions theatrical, out-of-this-world ideas only to find them decidedly unbuildable. She has even been referred to as a diva for her single-minded determination and her inability to compromise. But above all, Hadid is a pioneer, a woman who has broken boundaries, both as a female and as an architect. This is a woman who, at the opening of her first project in the US, at the acclaimed Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, had her staff wear T-shirts that read, WOULD THEY CALL ME A DIVA IF I WERE A GUY? Enough said.
Although Hadid is best known for grand-scale architecture, her oeuvre covers other elements of design. And from September 17 through late March 2012, the Philadelphia Museum of Art showed Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion, an exhibition that she herself developed to showcase her avant-garde furnishings, accessories, and even tabletop utensils. This exhibition will feature more than 40 objects that she personally deemed emblematic of her design. Some highlights include a decidedly futuristic sterling silver coffee and tea set for Sawaya & Moroni, reptilian-like shoes created for Lacoste, a straight-from-thefuture carbon fiber three-wheeled aerodynamic concept car, a sleek bevy of Swarovski crystalencrusted necklaces and bracelets, and sinuously sculptural furniture crafted from steel, aluminum, and polyurethane.
“By warping, pulling, and pushing the boundaries of the gallery spaces, we develop spatial representations that redefine the notion of physical space to create interior landscapes informed by the work exhibited,” says Hadid. “I think it will be very exciting to continue this dialogue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which already has a well-established history and excellent reputation for exhibitions of the highest quality.”
After growing up in Baghdad (in one of the city’s first Bauhaus-inspired houses, of course), Hadid bounced between schools in Switzerland and Lebanon before finally settling in London in the mid-’70s, where she now sits at the helm of her own architectural firm. She and her firm have since created some of the world’s most elaborate structures, including the BMW Central Building in Leipzig, Germany, the Guangzhou Opera House in China, and the Museum of XXI Century Arts (also known as MAXXI) in Rome. Currently, Hadid is in the process of finishing London’s controversial Aquatics Centre, a majestic, wave-inspired structure built for the 2012 Summer Olympics. She even designed a mobile art pavilion for Chanel in Paris, for artists inspired by the brand’s iconic quilted handbag.
Goods to Grab:
The Mesa Table (2007) is part a new exhibition, Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through March 25, 2012. The design has a polyurethane base, fiberglass top, and metallic paint finish and was made by Vitra GmbH, Basel, Switzerland. Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, photography Eduardo Perez.
Hadid’s Wave Sofa, a 1988 upholstered seating design with a lacquered fiberglas and wood frame manufactured by Edra Italy, sold last April at Wright for $18,750. Courtesy Wright.
Richard Wright says, “Hadid’s works in silver are my favorites from her oeuvre.” The designer’s TCTHADID sterling tea & coffee set (2003), made in limited edition by Alessi, sold for $21,250 in 2009 at the Chicago auction house. Courtesy Wright.
A Gyre Lounge Chair from the Seamless Collection, part of a morphological furniture series by Zaha Hadid, sold for $84,000 (est. $70,000-90,000) at Wright in 2008. Courtesy Wright.