"Nothing represents home more than a carpet"
Design must be holistic, says Hadi Teherani. In an interview, the German architect and designer explains how floors define a room - and why it pays to follow your dreams.
Mr. Teherani, you started off as an architect and later branched out into interior and product design. Your approach to design is holistic; a composition is not perfect unless it incorporates all three disciplines. What does that mean for your work?
Hadi Teherani: The work doesn't stop when the architecture is in place. My thought process continues. While drawing a ground plan, I also decide what the ceiling, walls, and floor will look like and how the rooms can be furnished, including specific products. For me, these things are inextricably linked. I can't ignore what comes afterwards.
As a member of the jury for the 2017 Carpet Design Awards, you help choose the most beautiful designer carpets. Let's take a trip down memory lane. Can you remember the carpet in your parents' home?
Yes, I remember it well. It was a Kerman Lava, a carpet with hunting motifs - horse riders and hunters, leopards and forests. That inspired me even though I was still just a child. My father traded in carpets. I helped out in the carpet warehouse at the Port of Hamburg when I was a little older. That taught me how carpets feel, how they smell, how to roll them up and how to declare them for customs.
When designing a house, what criteria do you apply in choosing the right floor covering for each room?
Philosophers put great value on their words and formulations. As architects and designers, we express ourselves in materials, details, shapes, and colors. However, I can't just do whatever I want - I also have to take my clients' requests into consideration. If a room needs a solid floor, I work with stone. Parquet and carpets are lighter options. Sometimes acoustic requirements alone can dictate that carpets are the right choice.
How much influence does the floor have on the atmosphere of a room?
The floor defines the space and shapes its atmosphere to a significant extent. When the early nomads set up camp in the desert, the first thing they did was lay out a carpet. It's a basic, archaic way of creating a home. Even today, when you want to have a picnic, you spread out a blanket and create your own little island in the great outdoors.
You were born in Teheran, Iran, the home of the Persian rug, and came to Hamburg with your family when you were six. Are you inspired by your heritage?
In my early years as a student, I distanced myself somewhat from the culture of my home country. I am now rediscovering my love for Iran and my interest in its carpets is growing. I am learning more about the language and culture and am there often, as I also have an office in Teheran. Rug weaving is an art form there. Some traditional companies have been making the same carpet with the same pattern for centuries. However, now there are also designers like my friend Hossein Rezvani ( interview with Hossein Rezvani in german language ), who has re-interpreted Persian rugs for the present day. And he even has his designs woven in Iran. The pieces he produces are wonderful. Designer Jan Kath has also worked in a similar way.
You have designed many famous buildings: the Dancing Towers on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, the Crane Buildings on the banks of the Rhine in Cologne, and the long-distance railway station at Frankfurt Airport. What makes for a perfect design?
When I view a site for a building, my design is generally already hidden somewhere within - I just have to find it. I try to pick up on the energy of the location and find out whether there was a historic building on the site or whether the property has specific parameters. I try to incorporate and interpret these aspects. If you can trace the site’s history back and find a story behind the design, you create a new symbol. Or landmark. With the Dancing Towers, it was the spirit of St. Pauli in Hamburg, one of the largest entertainment districts in the world. The Crane Houses in Cologne hark back to the location's history as a harbor.
You have also designed parquet floors with herringbone patterns, lamps, a kitchen, and leather furniture.
As an architect, my core competence is building houses. So I asked myself as a designer: how does this piece connect with my building in terms of atmosphere and emotion? I want to enhance the design of my buildings, for example with floor coverings, carpets, door handles and suspended ceilings.
Do you ever come up with ideas for interior design and building details before the architecture has been finalized?
No, that never happens. My method is always to design for the location and the specific building. You can only design details and perfect the atmosphere for a specific space, in the same way as you can only create architecture for one specific place.
You once said that you can't play it safe if you want to get to the top. What has that meant for your career to date?
I always had a positive attitude to my work as a designer who crosses borders. But I could never have predicted that I'd have a career like this. When starting out, if you believe in something and stick with it, you can really achieve a lot. I believe that everything depends on your own hard work. I have to approach every job as though it were my first day. I don‘t rest on my laurels.
If you were completely free, what would you like to design?
Architects are never completely free. We always have to take certain restraints into consideration, which is why we are not artists. But I often have ideas that I believe would take a location into the future. It is extremely important for me to inspire people, which is why I always wanted to design cultural buildings, such as museums. I have also designed three or four bridges with buildings on them as small urban districts. Unfortunately, none have been built yet. For the time being, I can only dream about them. But when I dream of them and think far enough into the future, I know it will happen someday. Everything I can realistically envision comes true. For example, I used to always dream of building a railway station. It was something I thought about all the time. In the end, I was commissioned to build not one but two railway stations.