The Vision In His Eye - Hadi Teherani

By Margie T. Logarta

Hadi Teherani Portrait ©Roger Mandt, BerlinHadi Teherani, the Iranian-born architect-turned-designer, entered his career in a most unique and unexpected way. He tossed a coin.

He recalls: “I already enjoyed drawing a great deal and spent a lot of time at it when I was a schoolboy. My daydreams were filled with imagining intriguing and visionary drafts. In the end, I let the toss of a coin decide: graphic design or architecture. The coin made the decision and that’s how things started off with architecture.”

Teherani was a six-year-old when his parents left Iran, not because of any political or economic reason at the time, but simply because they possessed a strong wanderlust, their son explains. “They were quite fond of travelling and were open minded to ‘the new’. The move to Germany arose from a yen for far-away places and out of curiosity.”

The family settled in Hamburg where Teherani put in his early schooling. Architectural studies took place at the Braunschweig University of Technology from 1977 to 1984, and from 1989 to 1991, he taught at Aachen’s Technical University.

But before going into architecture full time, Teherani worked as a fashion designer then established BRT with colleagues Bothe and Richter in 1991. He set up the eponymous Hadi Teherani AG in 2003 to further his design work. He says: “The holistic approach is important to me. In my opinion, design represents a synthesis of the arts: it encompasses all the creative dimensions. Designing furniture, a door handle or a floor, fashion and even architecture are only individual spectra of a large, whole entity.

“In recent years, communication design and storytelling have played an increasing role, too.”

He goes on to explain his fascination with the creative side of expression: “Design has always interested me. Ulimately, this spectrum merely signifies a change of scale and function. Form follows function: a chair has to be well designed, comfortable, and shaped ergonomically.

“It’s exactly the same with a house. Here too, the house has to function for decades to the pleasure and enjoyment of its inhabitants or users. It can’t be limited to simply looking good. It ultimately comes down to anticipating demands and requirements far off into the future while transposing them into good design. The only difference is that with product design we tell a story.”

The age-old debate as to which trumps which, form or function is irrelevant to Teherani. “The question can’t be answered with ‘either or’. Both of them are important, you can’t have one without the other. And alongside form you have emotion, identity and sustainability, which equally bear major importance.”

SilverChair Familiy Side

HBO Washington House
Mumbai © Macina
HR1Dancing Towers ©Tom Philippi
St@nd-by Office

SilverChair Familiy Back

Inspiration for Teherani, especially when conceptualising structures, comes from a special way of “seeing”. He elaborates: “When I see a piece of property, the draft for it is already there and waiting – it just has to be recognised. The draft emerges from that property.

“For instance, the Dancing Towers (one of Teherani’s most distinctive oeuvres) stand between the inner city and the historically evolved suburb of St. Pauli. They form a gateway to the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s ‘entertainment mile’”. In other words, the location is marked by many different aspects and compounded by the fact that St. Pauli is an extremely dynamic and bustling quarter. The guiding idea for my draft is an expressive structural shell that does justice to the site’s heterogeneous context and its transregional significance.”

The evolution of Teherani’s work cannot be easily captured in mere words. He says he responds to the client’s brief. “The goal is always to draw up the best possible draft design. To that extent, my design always depends on the respective project involved, on the demands being placed on the product.

“Although, viewed on the whole I do have an inclination towards an elegant and “reduced” look. Many of my draft designs have meanwhile become classics – the Silver Chair for example – precisely because of the timeless appearance and technical innovations. With this, the whole technology is concealed in the seating surface. It can do everything an ergonomic chair has to be able to do, yet what truly sets it apart is that you don’t see the functional elements and they don’t disrupt the form.

“On the other hand, what happens to me time and again is that my ideas are so visionary that people aren’t ready for them yet. Then, a few years later those same ideas are taken up on a widespread scale. The St@ndby Office I designed in 2000 is a noteworthy example: these days there is no lack of similar mobile office units, but 18 years ago they were too innovative.”

But in whatever Teherani does, “It’s about finding the right answer to a question, a solution. How do I design something so that it’s functional on the one hand, and appeals to me on the other,” he says.

What materials does he favour working with?

“It’s the new materials that always pique my interest. They frequently make new liberties in designing possible. Sustainability is a matter of course.”

Speaking about sustainability, he adds: “People are increasingly beginning to give thought to the context of a given product again: what kinds of materials is it made of, is it recyclable, can I buy it with a clear conscience? Aspects like these are gaining weight in addition to a good design. Intriguing approaches and solutions emerge from these.”

He cites the example of his partnership with the firm Alimex which resulted in the development of a product named stylecast®, a wall cladding comprised of by-products from manufacturing aluminium which exhibits a 100% percent capability for recycling.”

He adds: “All of our design products originate in co-operation with manufacturers. We don’t produce on our own. What results from these cooperative efforts are interesting and rewarding dialogues in which each partner is able to let their expertise flow into them. I recently designed a chaise longue made of marble in a limited Art Edition for the firm DRAENERT and learned a great deal about working with this particular stone from the experts there.”

Most of Teherani’s designs are available directly from the respective co-operation partner including Carpet Concept, FSB, Keramag, Interstuhl, Poggenpohl, Thonet, Vorwerk, Walter Knoll, Zumtobel among many others.

Hadi Teherani Consultants, employing 100 men and women, is headquartered in Hamburg and has offices in Frankfurt and Munich as well as architectural bureaus in Tehran, Iran and Bangalore and a presence in Moscow and Dubai. Designers, interior architects and architects work closely together in the Hamburg hub, according to their boss, it’s precisely the short communication routes that enable the team to come up with holistically conceived solutions. He says: “Since the architect’s profession has evolved with time and project management nowadays is handed over to consultants, I founded a consulting firm so that this sector is readily offered along with our other services.”

How his people work is to start a joint kick-off conference date that includes everyone involved in the project. Following that, the design teams have to be able to work further on a self-reliant basis under Teherani’s remote, yet close direction because of his intensive travel. But he assures: “We do meet regularly for feedback rounds where the current status and further product development are reviewed and stipulated.”

No stranger to accolades, Teherani especially treasures his multiple MIPIM Award, received in 2003 for “Berliner Bogen” office building complex in Hamburg, in 2007 for the “Europa-Passage” mall in Hamburg, in 2009 for the “Kranhäuser” crane houses in Cologne,and in 2014 for the Dancing Towers in Hamburg.

“Every prize is a confirmation of one’s own work, and in that sense each award always acts as a motivation, too,” he says. “Although, to me the greatest reward is that people passing by on the street in Hamburg often recognise me and speak to me: they congratulate me on the buildings I’ve constructed or thank me for a certain structure.”

Can any form of praise get better than that?

FreeSCALE Crystal
CB95 Forma Arena
FreeSCALE Mes CV95 Forma quer