Zaha Hadid Design

Questions & Answers

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We have compiled some of the questions posed to Maha Kutay and Woody Yao, directors of Zaha Hadid Design, on Instagram and have edited them in an interview format.

In this interview, Maha and Woody delve into their origins and the values that have defined their professional career and reveal the future plans of Zaha Hadid Design.

What is the essence for you to design such particular, special, enigmatic, but flowing pieces that manage to caught interest and admiration?

Experimentation is key. Zaha had a unique design vocabulary, and a shorthand has certainly developed over the years to communicate the intention of each design. However, as long as we remain open to experimentation, we avoid relying heavily on the past for inspiration. Perhaps this is what people respond to the most when they consider her product or exhibition design; there will always be something different, new or unique.

Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion Philadelphia Museum of Art. © Paul Warchol.

How did you know architect is the right path for you?

Maha: As a child, I was never really the loudest in the room; I was more comfortable communicating through making. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to see my ideas and creations realised. As a student applying to university, I didn’t know what my career path would be, but I knew that I wanted a challenge. I chose architecture, as I was drawn to the potential of implementing change through creating.

Woody: I was always interested in fashion and design. My father actually wanted me to follow in his footsteps and become a Civil Engineer. Ultimately, it was my brother who suggested that I should consider architecture because it could combine both design and engineering. I started to look closely at the backgrounds of fashion designers whose work I liked at the time, and discovered that many had in fact begun their careers in architecture. I soon realised that becoming an Architect could open many possibilities and allow me to combine and pursue my interests.

In what direction do you expect the design of ZHD to change in the future?

We must remain open to the possibility of change. This flexibility is our strength because we can adapt to new ways of working. For Zaha she was never interested in looking backwards. It’s more about what we learn in the process of creating that we can then take with us to future projects.

What are the unique values of ZHD’s design language?

The term ‘Innovation’ is used to describe a broad range of processes in the design industry, but we really believe that this value is embodied in our practice, and it has been at the core of Zaha’s ethos from the beginning.

Collaboration is also highly valued within ZHD’s work, and has been since our inception. They allow us the opportunity to play and experiment with new materials or fabrication. We always learn something new from our collaborators; it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Mentorship is also a key value; Zaha believed in the role of a mentor, not just as a teacher for a new generation of designers, but within her studio as well. We really feel that this is an important part of her legacy to maintain.

Pulse Collection. Material: Glass. Photographer: Baker & Evans. Social Media: @bbdestudio

Few tips to start our own business?

Zaha’s path was very unconventional, but in saying this what we have learned is that you should have a strong belief in the intention of your design, and develop a team that compliments your strengths and supports your weaknesses. Be honest with yourselves about what these are so that you can find the best support for your needs.

I would like to ask them how one deal with rejection of your best design.

This is interesting question because design is subjective. It is important to be confident in your ideas, but also be willing to receive feedback, and applying it constructively. Rejection can be something positive. Sometimes it can reveal a new perspective on the design that was not considered previously, or perhaps it re-enforces the original concept, but ultimately you understand the intention, and so working on how you communicate your ideas is just as important as the idea itself.

What is ZHD working on, will we see any new projects soon? Maybe with new designers?

Yes, we have several new projects in the pipeline – a fashion accessory collection, as well as a commercial collection of timber furniture pieces, and we’re excited to release these collaborations later this year. As well, we are pleased to have been chosen to design a pavilion as part of the International Design Carnival, Haizhu Lake Park, Guangzhou; the theme is ‘Ecological Wisdom For the Future Home’, and it opens in October this year.

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