A white house
“Fluid”, “dynamic” and “curvaceous”. A quick sampler of online hits shows that these three definitions are used in more than half of all articles and project briefs, which describe Zaha Hadid’s work. Three words that the public seems to have agreed upon in the search for a common understanding, and which try to pin down the essence of the more than 50, often unfamiliar looking creations that Hadid’s London-based office has brought to life in recent decades. General discussion tends to search for basic typological definitions, as the commentator is left free to choose whether to lay, lean or sit on or at the various inclined surfaces of these free-form volumes. Typically, formal and visual aspects prevail, whereas definitions like “functional” or “comfortable”, which are words closer to the traditional design vocabulary, are rarely chosen.
Crevasse vase by Zaha Hadid for Alessi 2008
Morine sofa by Zaha Hadid for Sawaya & Moroni 2000
“Fluid”, “dynamic” and “curvaceous” are also among the most common definitions, which come into mind – and result online – when we think about Verner Panton and his iconic chair, which he started to develop as early as 1956. Even though revolutionary at its time, his version was considered as a next (natural) important step in the evolution of cantilever chairs after those by Stam, Breuer, Aalto and Rietveld. The public was placed at ease as they recognized its basic chair-like typology. Then, first models in fibre-glass reinforced polyester resin were presented in 1967, but only after experiments with three different plastics that tried to overcome reoccurring material failure, the final version in coloured polypropylene of the “Panton” chair was relaunched 40 years after the first sketches. Good design, especially when it is breaking new technological barriers, needs time to develop.
Zaha Hadid surely had her share of waiting to see her first work actually made, as projects continued to be endowed with prizes for their astonishing drawings and sense of vision, yet than dismissed as unfit to be built. However, Hadid’s architecture has finally overcome this kind of prejudice and now challenges existing construction methods, yet her work on a smaller scale, even though it is generated from algorithmic variations that could be repeated again and again, still tends to give way to serialized industrial production. This is exactly where the difference between architecture and design lies. It is a question of a mindset. An architect tries to find the one unique solution for a specific site; a designer must begin from the principle of multiplication. Shape, even though important, cannot be the only starting point. As a result, Zaha Hadid’s furniture pieces are always “fluid”, “dynamic” and “curvaceous”, but they are also “exclusive” as they have not entered many homes, at least until now.
The large white space at the centre of the home.
The white one-off clutch was a private commission. Among the memorabilia on the central table also an ashtray, a spiny miniature sculpture and the catalogue of the “Ceremonial Silver” collection (1998) given to Zaha Hadid in 2010 by the artist Michele Oka Doner with a personal letter.
Hadid’s own home is showcase to some of her iconic art and design pieces. Ranging from a wall-covering homage to “Malevich’s Tektonik” to more recent objects, together this furniture creates a fluid form of unity. Yet the sculpture-like installation seems strangely alien in its white open floor space, which is an ordinary orthogonal warehouse floor. This tension, can only be resolved, when Zaha is not only designer, but also the architect of an equally “fluid”, “dynamic” and “curvaceous” space.
Iceberg Bench by Zaha Hadid for Sawaya & Moroni 2003
Acrylic Bowl by Zaha Hadid for Sawaya & Moroni 2007
Stalagmite-Stalagtite table by Zaha Hadid for Sawaya & Moroni 2000
Revolving Cabinet by Shiro Kuramata for cappellini 2005
Tea and coffee set by Zaha Hadid for Sawaya & Moroni 1995/96
Acqua Table by Zaha Hadid for Established & sons 200
Piazza coffee & tea set by Zaha Hadid for Alessi 2003
Mistic candleholder vase by Arik Levy for Gaia & Gino 2005