Zaha’s Jewels

Getting from a sketch to a finished building takes years (if it is ever completed at all), so it’s no wonder architects have looked to product design for quick creative fixes. Zaha Hadid, the feisty Iraqi-born architect, is no exception. Having spent nearly two decades creating abstract forms that seemed impossible to construct before the advent of computer-aided-design software, the Pritzker Prize winner once dismissed as a “paper architect” seems bent on seizing every opportunity to give concrete form to her singular vision. She’s now racking up objects—from faucets and chandeliers to shoes and handbags—as fast as buildings (which number, on last count, 13). Her latest venture is a jewelry collection for Atelier Swarovski, and it’s the first time the Austrian crystal manufacturer has commissioned a series from an architect.

That wasn’t the only first for the company. Never one to cleave to convention, Hadid didn’t string large, perfectly faceted crystals into faux-jeweled trinkets; instead, she reduced them to the size of glitter and encased them in resin. According to Swarovski, such small, continuous pieces of resin had never been made before, and polishing the fragile structures so the crystals would show through posed an additional technical challenge. The finished products reflect Hadid’s signature aesthetic, with biomorphic forms that would com-plement a Star Trek uniform.

As one might expect from the cape-wearing architect, each piece expresses the same daring that can be seen in her large-scale work. Hadid identifies a synergy between product design and architecture, writing in an e-mailed interview, “We apply our architectural research and experimentation to these designs—but we also learn a great deal from the process of designing products.” And if her wearable CAD creations don’t make as great a splash as her buildings have, that’s OK; like the flamboyant lady herself, they’ll still turn heads.

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