Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born architect of the late 20th century, started her practice in London in 1980. Since then, she has worked in museums and exhibitions across the world. Hadid never feared any design boundary and pushed limits across different scales. 

Only ten years after establishing her firm, Zaha Hadid broke into Japan with her first built interior project, Moonsoon Restaurant and Bar in Sapporo, Japan in 1990. With hopes of accommodating a formal eating space and a relaxing lounge, Hadid created contrasting atmospheres of fire and ice as the central narrative while paying homage to the traditions of the city.

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Study Model_Zaha Hadid Architects

Hadid’s Design Approach

As this was an interior project, Zaha Hadid needed to work within the existing static exterior. To combat the lack of moment from the outside, Hadid designed a dynamic interior that squeezes and unfolds through space. Each floor, trapezoidal in plan, carries its own identity and aesthetic while adhering to the program. Going against traditional ideologies, she creates a first-floor dining space representing Ice, and a relaxation lounge on the upper level representing Fire. 

Hadid is immediately creating tension by the opposition of concept and color. She is also blending architectural styles, like Futurism and Deconstructivism, to show off her unique approach. Catherine Slessor from The Architectural Review argues that, “Hadid’s design approach has strong resonances with the contemporary Japanese cultural climate in which any kind of exuberance can be sanctioned,” and states that, “Japan is the ideal starting point for Hadid.” 

The Moonsoon Restaurant and Japan’s chaotic spirit perfectly aligned with her, “‘hypertechnological architecture.’” Hadid is able to show controlled chaos that twists and turns both vertically and horizontally in her distinct style. Being that Japanese architecture tends to be experimental and innovative, Hadid does not hold back on pushing boundaries.

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Sketch Study_Photo by Paul Warchol

The Marriage of Fire and Ice

The monochromatic first floor, Ice, is a world of clear glass tables, crushed glass panels, and chairs that look as if they have been molded from the snow. Sapporo is a city known for its traditional ice sculptures and buildings. Ice and snow are attractions for millions of visitors every February for the Sapporo Snow Festival. 

Zaha Hadid takes inspiration from these sculptures and chooses to expose the natural irregularities of materials used. For the staircase, she uses unpolished optical glass and retains the undulating pattern that forms through the extrusion process. She also showcases brushed and burnished stainless steel. This, in turn, creates interesting surfaces and highlights the symbolic ties to Sapporo. 

The central focus of the first floor is a “long, low slung table, of the type commonly found in Japanese drinking establishments table,” that shines in front of the irregular panes of the kitchen screen. For Zaha Hadid, the cool grey tones and sharp furniture completed her vision of a formal dining area within the restaurant.

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Sapporo Ice Buildings_Photo by Dale North
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First Floor Restaurant_Photography by Paul Warchol

Just upstairs, however, Zaha Hadid creates a new realm. Massive spiraling sculptural glass, known as “The Orange Peel,” unravels vertically while fading from a chill gray to a hyper yellow and connecting the opposing worlds. The sculpture, “emerges embryonically as a tightly wound coil above the dining area and penetrates upwards, tornado-like.” 

In contrast to the quiet grey of the first floor, the upper level shines with exciting shades of red, vivid tones of orange, and exuberant yellows. The once transparent background becomes an opaque slab of black terrazzo, allowing the curving glass to take all the attention. The stiff shards of glass below are replaced with fluid, biomorphic sofas and galvanized steel cocktail tables. The upper level embodies organic form and acts as the inverse of the lower level.

Gracefully, Zaha Hadid uses opposites to create unity and personifies the act of unfolding within a given space. The Fire floor brings the second half of the program, a relaxing lounge, to life.

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Second Floor Lounge_Photography by Paul Warchol

Hadid’s Bold Mark

Zaha Hadid is truly a master of her craft. The Moonsoon Restaurant and Bar stands in Sapporo’s entertainment district as a modern symbol of the city. Hadid plays with naturally exposed material, juxtaposing color, and gravity-defying structure to create an infinity within a finite exterior shell. This project was just the start of Hadid’s bold career that followed. Three years later in 1993, Zaha Hadid completed her first major work that confirmed her position as an international architect, the Vitra Fire Station in Germany. 

Countless other projects in Germany and around the world in cities like London, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, and Hong Kong were imagined and realized by Hadid. Despite her seemingly massive architecture, Zaha Hadid can construct meaning and connection within her structures. The function is admired but also challenged and reinterpreted to conjure an atmosphere of awe and wonder. 

In 2016, at the age of 65, Zaha Hadid sadly passed away but her legacy remains strong. All around the globe, she is acknowledged and remembered as a fearless female architect that transcended the possibilities of architecture.



Shatha Abushaikha is an environmental design student in Houston, TX with a passion for writing and research. Aside from being captured by architecture and its endless possibilities, she also enjoys watching anime and painting. Shatha hopes to spread inspiration and believes that people are what drive design.