Design Visionary: Mohamed Hadid

by Jesse Stirling / Photos by Dennis Owen

With vast knowledge of the arts and sciences, Mohamed is a poet of stone, a creator of fantastic visions manifested into reality.

For three decades, Mohamed Hadid has offered unsurpassed architecture and design vision to the world. From major office and residential developments on the East Coast, to Ritz Carlton hotels in Washington D.C., New York, Aspen and Houston, Hadid has expanded his work to redefine exquisite estates. Focusing on projects considered by many to be insurmountable, Hadid’s insight coupled with his fusion of business desire, elegance, perfection and belief in stretching the realm of possibility has led to his latest Beverly Hills creation.

When Mohamed enters the room, you immediately sense the power of his artistry. Maybe it’s his mirthful laugh, soulful voice, or intense eyes. Whatever the case, the man exudes wisdom and greatness. With vast knowledge of the arts and sciences, Mohamed is a poet of stone, a creator of fantastic visions manifested into reality. This particular Beverly Hills home feels like a museum. Everything is huge in scale, spacious and spectacular. But how does one get to this point in life, a master of craft, a virtual embodiment of the Beverly Hills Lifestyle? What is the story behind this architectural legend?

Beverly Hills Lifestyle: How do you find your inspiration?

Mohamed Hadid: Most often, nighttime is my creative time. Even while I sleep, things come up in my head. I’ll jump out of bed and put them on paper.

BHL: Are you influenced by other artists and architects?

MH: At one time I was doing a lot of masters paintings. Rubens and Picasso are my favorites. As I get older, I literally don’t have
the patience any more to wait for paint to dry, so I am switching to different mediums. When you have less time, you do things faster and in a different light. So I started looking at Franz Klein and Mark Rothko and other artists that have amazing talent, but also can create a lot of pieces fast. Modern art takes less time. I’m influenced by great architects around the world, from Philp Johnson to I.M. Pei, wonderful artists.

BHL: You once said: “Designing a house is a free flowing experience.” What does this mean?

MH: You put the walls up and go from there. What I do is I build the walls, then I decide from where the light comes in, and I start building and designing room by room. I build houses for the environment they are in. Depending on the setting, the house could take on a Victorian design, or a modern feel, or Mediterranean. So the house fits the environment and will become that environment. It fits into the grounds.
This particular house was originally designed as a 4000-5000 square foot mid-century home. Because the area lends itself to contemporary artistry, I decided to keep a modern feel. Fine lines, great old materials, stone and wood and so on were all brought from overseas. Ideas from over the years, travels, thoughts, things that I have picked up around the world – I bring them into the home.

BHL: One of the striking features of this house is how the outside blends with the inside. Did you have that in mind the whole time, or was that something that evolved as you were creating?
MH: It developed as I created. Because it’s a one-story house, I wanted to build a 50,000 square foot indoor/outdoor experience. Even though it’s a 13,000-14,000 square foot house, the design takes you to the outside to incorporate the space and the grounds. Once you open the doors, you live indoor-outdoor.

BHL: How did you strike upon the pyramid theme?

MH: I am intrigued by the ancient pyramids. I thought it was a modernistic style, even though built in ancient times. It’s really a very contemporary art; geometrical and precise. So I thought I would bring that back and introduce it into this home.

BHL: How long would it take you to create a house such as this? Where are you in the building cycle?

MH: Well, the building of homes like these actually doesn’t take that long, as long as you have ideas that you can implement immediately. You have the workers. You have the artists. I do all the interior and exterior design, so it’s easily done. A house like this would maybe be a 12-13 month project, total, including design and construction. I oversee every detail.

BHL: You said this home is not done yet. What is to come?

MH: Some of the garden features are not done yet. There’s a sunken sitting area with a fireplace. I’m building a studio here for my art and sculpture. We have not finished the theater room. When the finishing touches are completed, hopefully I’ll move into this house soon.

BHL: There are some breathtaking textures in the house, materials that you don’t see implemented often. Can you tell me about them?

MH: Some of the woods include African zebra, elements of olive wood, and pearl wood, which comes from the bottom of the tree. All the stone, indoor and outdoor, came from Jerusalem, from the quarries of Bethlehem. We have entire walls made of beautiful brown alligator skin. All these unique textures interplay to create this modern home.
For this particular house, because it is modern, I decided to do a “one man show.” Design the house, build it. Design the furniture, build the furniture on the premises. All the furnishings and artwork and sculptures are done by me. The total package is art to me.

BHL: What are your favorite aspects of the house?

MH: I like the dining table; that is an original custom design. The piece is family oriented and it brings people together. The large sofa is unique. So these are some things that are totally custom and will never be built again.
What is the biggest challenge you face when building a house like this?
I’ve designed many houses. Right now,
for example, I’m simultaneously designing seven or eight homes, all of different styles. It’s difficult to manage all the projects, all at the same time, and switching hats from a modern to a Victorian to an English classic. There’s not enough time in the day to do all these things. So time is the only challenge. Otherwise, these are easy things to do.

BHL: What else are you devoting your time to?

MH: Family. I have children. Sometimes, I remind myself to stop thinking about designing and spend time with family!

BHL: Backing up a little bit, this journey your life has been, what was your start in architecture? When did you decide in your heart that this is something you wanted to do in life?

MH: Well it started when I was a child. I thought that I had art in me. But my dad told me to stay away from it because it’s not a way to make money. So I became an engineer. I’m an architect professionally. The combination of art, engineering and architecture under my wings makes me a man of all trades.
I was born in Nazareth then moved to Syria. So I had that “old culture” from the Arab world. I came to the States in 1964 for high school, then after undergraduate studies, went to MIT in Boston. I have developed homes, hotels and office buildings since the early 70’s. In 1991, I moved to Los Angeles and here I am.

BHL: Tell me about your connection to Beverly Hills. Why choose this city to be your home?

MH: Beverly Hills is a very attractive city that is becoming more cultural. Twenty years ago, there was not much. But now there’s all the elements that families enjoy. It’s a safe environment. It’s beautiful, 320 days of sunshine per year. So all the elements are there for great living.

BHL: What’s next for Mohamed?

MH: I’m living in the moment. When the next project comes, it comes, and I deal with it. But at this moment, I’m here. I’m also working on an all-inclusive hotel in Morocco, and I’m doing another project in Mexico. So these are big projects I’m dealing with at the moment.

BHL: You must do a lot of traveling.

MH: I really don’t. I used to travel a lot but I’m switching gears. I want to spend as much time in Beverly Hills as possible. My kids are in Malibu, so I want to be here for them. I have my family. I have a good life, thank God.

BHL: Any words of wisdom you want to impart on our readers? Any advice?

MH: Enjoy what you do. Do what you enjoy.