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Zaha Hadid Architects’ Parametric Approach to Fashion Design: A Conversation with Melodie Leung

An Interview with Melodie Leung from Zaha Hadid Architects by Marie Sieber and Justin Hager

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Within the framework of the Architecture for Fashion 2024 course at YACademy, we had the honor of welcoming Arch. Melodie Leung, Associate Director at Zaha Hadid Architects, for a lecture about her work and the office’s designs. There is no need to introduce this globally recognized firm, which has consistently distinguished itself with its innovative, organic-parametric designs spanning various scales and purposes, whether in urban design, architecture, objects, or even fashion. Indeed, Zaha Hadid Architects has pushed the boundaries of architecture by collaborating, for example, with Louis Vuitton for the design of their Icone Bag in 2016, with Fendi for their Peekaboo Bag in 2014, or even with Bulgari for a reinterpretation of their B.zero1 ring.

During her lecture, Melodie emphasized the importance of iterative processes and meticulous form-finding for achieving balanced compositions across all projects, whether urban or object design. One notable example discussed was the very recent whiskey bottle display design in collaboration with the legendary brand Glenmorangie. Its captivating static motion showcases seamless beauty achieved through years of iterative refinement. This display not only captures the essence of the product and its brand but also reflects the unique signature of the designers themselves.

The lecture highlighted an intriguing aspect: the balance between the architect's identity and the brand or client. A notable case demonstrating successful collaboration between public space and unique architectural signature was their billboard project in Kensington, London. Originally a standard roadside billboard, the transformation extended beyond the site, revitalizing the surrounding urban space. Wrapped in two ribbons of stainless steel, the billboard integrated the rear with an illuminated pedestrian walkway, exemplifying small-scale yet impactful urban interventions.

At the conclusion of the lecture, we had the opportunity to ask Arch. Leung a few questions. One of them focused on the challenging position of women architects within the profession. According to an article by the SIA (Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects) published in 2015 titled 'Switzerland Overview, Women in Architecture Seminar,' it appears that the gender distribution within architecture schools in Switzerland is more or less equal. However, the text then mentions that after 10 years, only 10% of women remain in the professional field.

In light of her status as a female architect, we sought advice from her for young women starting their careers in architecture. Her response succinctly encapsulated her viewpoint: 

“Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with people who support you.”

This underscores the importance of confidence and a supportive environment in achieving professional fulfillment. The right professional environment, where individuals are trusted with responsibilities and supported, is crucial. She added that diversity, not only in gender and background but also in the nature of relationships, is essential. Every encounter, whether professional or personal, enriches us and contributes to self-discovery. As Leung aptly stated:  

“We learn about our own capacities through our interactions with others.”

We would like to thank Melodie Leung for her exciting conference and inspiring pieces of advice.

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