Maha Kutay

September 5, 2017

Zaha Hadid Design creates a variety of pieces from architecturally inspired homeware to limited edition furniture and lighting, as well as innovative installations and interiors. darc spoke with Maha Kutay, Director of Zaha Hadid Design, to find out how the studio continues to push the boundaries of traditional design methodologies.

Zaha Hadid’s product design and architecture have always been connected – with some of the earliest projects, product designs and interiors part of the studio’s repertoire from the very beginning, and the strong connection between the two completes the experience architects try to realise for the user to some extent. Whether in large scale such as buildings, or small scale such as lighting, architects are designing for the end user. Many of the same ideas and principles used in the studio’s architecture can be applied to its product design.

Design Director Maha Kutay studied environmental design from Parsons School of Design, New York followed by a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University, New York in 1994. Having joined Zaha Hadid Architects in 1995 Kutay has been involved in a number of major architectural projects. After a short time away from the studio, she returned to lead the team at Zaha Hadid Design.

Commenting on the studio’s ‘design style’, Kutay tells darc: “The work explores the potential for a new language of architecture and design that is driven by the many new possibilities created by significant technological advancements in 3D design software, as well as our inherent desire to test and engage with both traditional and innovative new manufacturing capabilities.

“The design language explored within each collection emphasises seamlessness and the smooth transition between elements. Each piece, while initially morphologically conceived is shaped further by typology, functional and ergonomic considerations.”

Zaha Hadid Design has collaborated with a number of lighting brands throughout the years, with some of its most notable pieces including: the Genesey lamp for Artemide; Vortexx chandelier for Zumtobel in association with Sawaysa & Moroni; Eva & Dune for Lasvit; Swarm chandelier for Established & Sons; Luma for Wonderglass; and Slamp’s Aria and Avia pendants.

“Collaborations provide us with an opportunity to express our ideas through different scales and different media,” says Kutay. “We see it as part of a continuous process of our on-going design investigation. It’s a two way process – we apply our architectural research and experimentation to these designs, but we also learn a great deal from the process of product design.

“One of the most satisfying things about the product design collections is that the techniques used for design and manufacture – and the production process between idea and result – is so much quicker than for architecture. This faster timeframe leads to greater opportunities for experimentation; particularly in the design of furniture and products for the home where we have the possibility to create real prototypes very quickly and we can immediately evaluate the design for performance and functionality.

“There’s a lot of fluidity now between architecture, design and fashion, there’s a lot more cross pollination in the disciplines. But this isn’t about competition it’s about collaboration and what these practices and processes can contribute to one another.”

For the studio, lighting is an important and very effective medium of architectural articulation and definition of space. It is also a major component with respect to creating a pleasant and effective environment for work and face-to-face communication.

“We consider each lamp or chandelier design a microcosm of the same ideas inherent within our architecture. Form does not follow only function but instead, is also derived from fabrication methods and the quality of light and space to define context and provide dramatic punctuation. Advanced 3D modelling software and rapid prototyping enables our teams to evaluate lighting equipment, detail with confidence, and experiment with various approaches.”

The design studio strongly believes in a collective, multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving, making use of robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and big data, which are all impacting architecture and design and revolutionising both industries. “Evolving technologies are changing how we design and create new collections that convey the coherence of natural forms but are completely modern in expression.

“We regularly welcome new talent to the company as well,” continues Kutay. “They contribute to the discourse and bring their own specialist knowledge and expertise to each design. They are encouraged to be part of the progress we make each day.

“Every new design benefits from the inventiveness and abilities of others. Teamwork was very important to Zaha – she always believed in it – and Zaha Hadid Design continues to work with the same principles and methods.”

Zaha Hadid Architects / Zaha Hadid Design continue as one of the most innovative and successful design studios in the world. Its directors are among the most experienced architects in the industry, collaborating with Zaha herself for many decades, to deliver some of the world’s most renowned designs.

“Zaha will always be embedded within the DNA of Zaha Hadid Design,” says Kutay. “Her unwavering belief in the power of invention continues to drive and inspire us every day and we work on as she taught us – with curiosity, integrity, passion and determination.”