LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Hani Rashid's Upward Curve


Hani Rashid of Asymptote creates art, design and architecture that echo the spirit of the new century

New York-based architect Hani Rashid creates forward-thinking architecture with an artistic appreciation and an inquiring mind for technology.

Hani's definition of luxury:
It's an interesting question that's close to my heart because we are working on these luxury residences. It probably has to do with a kind of tranquility coupled with sophistication and intelligence. I think that the misnomer with luxury is extravagance and deliberate opulence.

If luxury were:

A moment
Quite frankly, for me, it's when I'm able to turn of my computer, my phone, my office and to be with my son and Lise Anne and just chill.

A place
I had an interesting luxury place a few weeks ago. It was 5:30 in the morning in a Maybach racing along the Autobahn in Germany at 240 kilometers an hour while I was half asleep. When I woke up, I saw the needle at 240 and thought, this is luxury.

A person
Sounds sentimental, but it's my son, Tynan.

An object
The latest object that I'm fascinated with is a carbon fiber bike that I bought. It's the Trek Madone.

While Hani Rashid's brother Karim has become one of the biggest players in industrial design, Hani and his wife Lise Anne Couture, collectively known as Asymptote, are making a name in the architectural world for future-forward master planning for the 21st century.

Although Asymptote currently boasts only one built structural project – HydraPier, a pavilion constructed in 2002 in the Netherlands – with almost 10 large-scale projects in the pipeline, ranging from a 40-story residential tower in Abu Dhabi to the World Business Center Busan in South Korea, the duo is well and truly breaking new ground. Rashid's studio also recently took a host of awards, including an AIA Design Award (Interior Architecture Category) for the interior retail space of Alessi's New York flagship store, as well as Travel & Leisure's Best Retail Space, 2007.

While Asymptote's architecture illustrates the studio's dedication to art and technology, recent work has extended beyond the blueprint and into the realm of design art. At this year's Milan Furniture Fair, Rashid presented high-end works for London's latest design art producer Meta, with an exhibition of one-off works for the forthcoming Philips de Pury exhibition in New York this June.

How does it feel to work so closely with your wife, and with the overlap between your and your brother's fields?
I don't feel that my work overlaps with my brother's too much, even though it may seem that way. His gravitational pull is toward product and industrial design, that's his real trajectory, while mine is towards building – although, yes, there are areas where we overlap. For Lise Anne and me, the start of our relationship ran in tandem with our career. Our marriage happened after our practice. We were already both professional architects. In fact, sometimes I think that architects can only marry other architects because no one else will understand them! On the other hand, growing up with my father, who was a painter, and with my mother being very involved in art as well as being an English teacher, it was a natural environment in which our career paths and passions were all melded together. Growing up with evenings at the dinner table where we discussed culture and ideas and architectural design just kind of stayed with me. My poor son is now also subjected to it.

What kind of theories are you working with, architecturally, at the moment?
Architecture is a fascinating subject, and one of the reasons that I was drawn to it was because I didn't really want to become an artist – at least not in the old-fashioned sense. What I like about architecture is that it is a mathematically based art form and at the same time, it's very much a technology-based art form, and that's the whole side of the building aspect. So there is an interesting overlap, which is very intriguing because you have to think about everything. I think that in the virtual work, it really was a case of putting our architect hats on. We discovered that what was missing in virtual reality was that although there was lots of technological stuff going, and people working in theoretical realms and mathematics, nobody was looking at it from a humanist point of view and, after all, the basis of architecture is humanism.

What kind of technologies are you currently exploring?
We're very deeply involved now in time metrics, modeling, high-end software utilization and building technology. We are using computing to help us understand buildings and time. Strata Tower in Abu Dhabi is probably one of the first projects to be entirely configured, generated and manipulated by parametric modeling, which means you can basically control every aspect of the building through the computer.

You are showing an installation at this year's Venice Biennale. You have quite a strong link with the event; in 2000 you designed the American Pavilion and in 2004, you created the architecture for the event. Previously, your father showed there in 1958. How does that resonate with you?
I feel very proud and humble. The first time we showed in Venice in 2000, we traced my father's footsteps to see where he showed and what he did there, and we looked at the catalogues and the archives. I remember that he was very proud of my being there.

You are also creating two art pavilions for the Guggenheim project in Sadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. You have also worked with the Guggenheim previously, as well as the Venice Biennale. Does this project share any common traits with those projects?
We were invited first of all for our work with the Guggenheim and with architecture in general, but of course because of my history with Venice I really jumped on it.

I really wanted to stay away as much as possible from the Disneyland effect that Dubai sometimes suffers. It's an incredible initiative. It's unprecedented in the world as a cultural hub. However, when we got the commission, I actually put forward an idea that was close to my heart, that I don't want to create a contemporary art museum for traditional works and sculptures, I'd like the museum to represent high-end contemporary artists, especially virtual and digital art and media art. Those two pavilions are based on the idea that they would be the world's first video and media ventures of commercial art.

Will you do anything like the Solomon R. Guggenheim's virtual museum, which you began in 2000, for Abu Dhabi?
If I can build these two pavilions the way that I want to build them, they will be the world's first physical virtual museums.

Will you be creating any specific art installations within the museum?
I would love to install a show within the museum, but I'm also self-effacing enough to know that there are a lot of artists around who are a lot better virtual artists than I am. But if they were to commission work by us, we would definitely do it. I'm trying to help by directing them. The museum will not be run by the Guggenheim, it will be run by the cultural ministry of Abu Dhabi, so I'm trying to get involved with them and help them decide which kind of artists are the most forward-thinking on the planet and how they can be put into this museum and be shown to the world.

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