Living Among Art


Zaha Hadid’s gravity-defying buildings, simply put, are art. The late British-Iraqi architect transformed cities and communities through her evocative amorphous shapes, fluid lines, and the use of monochromatic, industrial materials like concrete and steel. Her beautiful structures allow people to live, work, and intimately experience her artful design. A powerful female architect in a male-dominated industry, Hadid said she always designed for modern life. Her legacy lives on through her eponymous architecture firm, but also through her product collection, Zaha Hadid Design (ZHD).

Hadid began designing products when she founded her architecture firm in the 1980s as a way to experiment and develop ideas on a different scale. The first commercial ZHD Collection was launched in 2014 at Harrods department store in London. Today, the collection features a series of objects, sculpture, and tableware, including candelabras, furniture, game sets, vases, and trays, all of which double as art pieces.

ZHD is led by co-directors Maha Kutay and Woody Yao, who both trained as architects and had been working with Zaha Hadid Architects since 1995 and 1993, respectively. Both have a longstanding connection to the office and worked closely with Hadid to bring her vision to life, which was always to interpret the ordinary into something unexpected.


“Our inspiration and our background is architecture, so the work itself is very much related to that,” Kutay says. “For [Hadid], it was a good way of experimenting and seeing her ideas transform into shapes and into physical elements.”

The ZHD portfolio encompasses 40 years of research and has pioneered innovation in lighting, furniture, décor, and finishes. Some of the most popular pieces include the Plex Vessels, Node Vessel, the Swirl Bowl, and the Cell Candleholders and Centerpiece, as well as the Field of Towers Chess Set. The collections often feature monochrome colors, which reflect the true colors of the materials used.

“It’s about the simplicity of using one material per product, yet having complexity in form,” Kutay says. “The idea is about not repeating or re-engineering something, but actually questioning what the item is, what purpose it serves and the materiality.”

Hadid also used painting as a medium to visually express her creative concepts and would create her own custom color palette. Many of the colorful pieces seen within the ZHD Collection are inspired by Hadid’s custom colors she’d use in her paintings. Kutay says they try to make the connection between the tones she’d use in the paintings and the new work in the collection. The collection’s materials include metal, crystal, and ceramics and the designers tend to stick to one material per product.

“At the beginning of the collection, we always laugh about the use of color because we sit in a room and we ask, ‘What color are we going to go with?’” Kutay says. “Then, of course, the colors that come out are the true color of the metal, which is black, gray, or white. We’re always very monochromatic with our choices, but felt with time that we needed to inject a little bit more into the collection than just the black and white that we started with. Color is important for us because it sets the mood of a space.”

Many of the pieces are inspired by an architectural approach; for example, how light moves within buildings and which materials are used. “Architecture influences the product design, but we also look at how the product design influences the architecture,” Yao says. “It’s a cycle. For example, Zaha always looked at movement through light and how light travels in a building. We look at how color and light travel from one object to another.”

“With spaces, it’s all about the experience,” Kutay says. “With the object, it’s the relationship between the body and the item. It’s how you interact with it and how it relates to you.” Kutay and Yao create work that is timeless and forgo seasonal launches in favor of building upon the existing collection. The duo gets inspiration from production and fabrication of each product and pushing boundaries of what is possible.

“Zaha was never a person who looked out for creativity, but actually looked in for creativity,” Kutay says. “She came in with her ideas rather than seeing what other people are doing and then getting inspiration to do something. She was a trendsetter in that way.”


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