The light­ness and flu­id­ity of late ar­chi­tect Zaha Ha­did’s de­signs are re­alised in a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of one of Bul­gari’s sig­na­ture rings.

VOGUE Australia - - News - By Zara Wong.

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


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.

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