The lightness and fluidity of late architect Zaha Hadid’s designs are realised in a reinterpretation of one of Bulgari’s signature rings.
Zaha Hadid’s designs are realised in a reinterpretation of one of Bulgari’s signature rings.
Maha Kutay picks up the Dictaphone and places it in her palm of her outstretched hand. She pretends to look at it in bewilderment, and giggles. She is shy and economical with her words, but Boris Barboni, Bulgari’s head of marketing, describes her as “polite but strong-minded” – the perfect soft power to promote Zaha Hadid’s design aesthetic as the late architect’s trusted accomplice.
Having been tasked to establish and head Zaha Hadid Design 10 years ago, she is in Miami for the design practice’s latest project: reinvigorating Bulgari’s B.zero1 ring. And with Hadid’s death last year, Kutay is now Zaha Hadid Design’s spokesperson, a new role for her, meaning she’s not used to Dictaphones.
When art and architecture collaborates with fashion, synergies and parallel aesthetics often occur. Not necessarily in this case, though. “Zaha Hadid’s aesthetic with Bulgari – they do not fit. We are geometric, we are about colour and opulence. Hadid’s aesthetic is very asymmetrical, very linear and with a colour palette that is very unsaturated
“IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO GET THIS LACELIKE EFFECT AND THIS TRANSPARENCY”
compared to ours,” says Barboni. “Our designs do not fit, but we share a passion for design and architecture, and innovation.”
For Hadid, an Iraqi-born Brit, innovation came from her distinct way of understanding space. In the Arabic language, there is no word for landscape. Suzanne Trocmé, the British curator, author, designer and friend of Hadid, elaborates: “Within the Arabic language, [traditionally] there are no words for space or spatial awareness, and there’s no word for deadline – so with those constraints, where do you start if you’re from the region?” Trocmé reminds that there are more female than male designers in the Middle East, “… because the men go into oil and gas and women go into design from engineering and graphic design”, she says.
Hadid herself studied mathematics in Beirut before pursuing architecture in London. Earlier in the day, Trocmé fascinated the media at the press launch by relaying how she introduced Karl Lagerfeld and Zaha Hadid. It was the start of a fruitful friendship that went on to see Hadid designing a mobile Chanel museum, another milestone in her long association with the fashion and style spaces.
Hadid’s favourite designers included Issey Miyake, Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo, whose work, much like her own, challenged the norm.
The late architect recognised in herself that distinctive approach of looking beyond the conventional boundaries of architecture, a propensity perhaps due to her background: born in Baghdad and being a woman in the male-dominated world of architecture.
She writes of finding inspiration in the work of painter Kazimir Malevich: “I found the traditional system of architectural drawing to be limiting and was searching for a new means of representation … My work explored these ideas through concepts such as explosion, fragmentation, warping and bundling. The ideas of lightness, floating and fluidity in my work all come from this research.”
Within her portfolio this lightness and sinuous movement is more than apparent, from the London Olympics Aquatic Centre to the d’Leedon apartments in Singapore. B.zero1 shares the same curvilinear form and rhythmic fluctuations. “If you hold the original B.zero1, it has movement, it springs a bit,” explains Kutay, showing off the ring, which stands out on her palm like a miniature modernised Colosseum. “So we wanted to visually try to portray that … it was very important to get this lace-like effect and this transparency within the ring.” Removing streams of metal and twisting what’s left has produced a lighter, looser and more modern piece. “The point wasn’t to make a new ring by Zaha Hadid; instead, it’s a reinterpretation of something that was so legendary and important to us. And we were very interested to see where we would end up,” says Barboni. “We chose it because it was very architectural, but being so small, too, it’s a challenge.”
Barboni remembers sorting through the final sketches submitted by Zaha Hadid Design and being struck by the beauty of the chosen work. “The smiles were twisted, so they weren’t symmetrical, and then the changes made it have a fluid, wavy design language,” he says. “The approach was very different.”
The timing of the ring’s launch during Art Basel in Miami is meaningful. Hadid died in Miami, and lived in an apartment in South Beach’s W hotel. The famously straight-talking designer often complained of the hotel being ruined by visitors, and disliked the city’s architecture. And, just prior to her death, she had been working on a residential apartment the city, to be completed in 2018. When asked she had said that she had greatly reduced her commission fees on the project, such was her desire to contribute to the skyline of the beach city.
The original concept for the ring was Hadid’s own. “Zaha came up with an idea and initial sketch,” explains Kutay of the process, which then had the team designing further and reconvening for feedback. The original B.zero1 ring used the tubogas technique, which allows precious metals like gold to be made flexible and pliable. Kutay points to the three elements of the ring that she and her team determined must remain unchanged to share the same essence of the original: the “smiles” within the centre of the ring, the logo, and the quality of movement of the springs. “So in the same way we look at our buildings connecting to the environment, linking to the surroundings, this piece of jewellery is somehow connected to the human body.”
A celebrated and award-winning architect, Hadid’s completed designs clustered late in her life. She has a body of work that remains unrealised, like the infamous opera house in Cardiff and a resort on Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak. Trocmé says Hadid would have been overjoyed to see the Bulgari B.zero1 ring; all architects want to see their work realised and within reach, so that, in Hadid’s case, admirers of her work wouldn’t have to travel to China or Italy to see her work, or only see it in theoretical sketch form.
When we meet, Kutay is wearing the B.zero1 ring in yellow gold. How satisfying must it be been for her, then, to see the Bulgari B.zero1 ring finalised, to have her designs twisting and turning on her own finger?
Maha Kutay and below, Bulgari’s new B.zero1 ring, $3,220, which she helped reimagine.