Zaha Hadid was “an architectural genius” says Vladislav Doronin, the client behind the only house the late Iraqi-British architect ever built.
In an exclusive interview for Dezeen, the businessman reveals how he was determined to work with Hadid on his forest home near Moscow, even though the architect had never built a private residence before.
“I wanted to work with Zaha because she was an architectural genius with great vision,” Doronin said.
“I have worked with many of the world’s best architects, bringing them on board for large-scale projects,” he continued. “Zaha had unique vision, so I wanted to work with her too.”
Doronin is the founder of property companies Capital Group and OKO Group, and also the owner of luxury hotel and resort brand Aman. He commissioned Hadid to design the Capital Hill Residence back in 2006, after unsuccessfully trying to work with her on a larger development.
“When the project I had in mind didn’t get planning permission, I was determined to find something else to build with her,” he said. “My private home was the perfect fit.”
Located in a forest on the outskirts of Moscow, the house comprises a series of fluid forms, typical of Hadid’s architectural style.
Its defining feature is a tower that rises 22 metres above the ground, offering views over the surrounding trees. It also boasts expansive glass-fronted living spaces on the lower levels.
“For this particular home I wanted not only a sanctuary to escape to, above the tree tops, but also a great entertainment space. Zaha’s vision allowed me to have all I wanted for this home,” said Doronin.
The house was substantially complete long before Hadid’s death in 2016, but the complexity of the form meant that furnishing it took time. Doronin has spent several years fitting out the property with bespoke furniture designs.
“A lot of people tell me that I am a perfectionist. I like to be involved in making decisions for my businesses as well as my personal homes,” he said.
“Zaha Hadid also had the same approach to her work – another reason why we had a good relationship and built this project together”.
To mark the completion of the house, OKO Group has released a short film about the property, featuring both Doronin and architect Patrik Schumacher, who is now the director of Zaha Hadid Architects. In the film, Schumacher describes it as “a dream house”.
Similarly, architect Norman Foster has described the project as “extraordinary”.
“It’s an extraordinary resolution of this futuristic image and the built reality,” he told Dezeen in a video interview.
Read on for the transcript of the interview with Vladislav Doronin:
Dezeen: How did you end up working with Zaha Hadid on this project?
Vladislav Doronin: I had actually planned to do a large 78,000-square-metre development with Zaha in the city of Moscow. I introduced her to the mayor and the city planners – they all liked her and her work very much but, because of the proximity of the site to a protected conservation area, we couldn’t get permission for our plan. I decided to develop my own private home with her instead.
Dezeen: What was it about Zaha that made you want to work with her?
Vladislav Doronin: We were quite similar, we both appreciated quality, were passionate over what we did and motivated to impress. More than anything I wanted to work with Zaha because she was an architectural genius with great vision. I have worked with many of the world’s best architects, bringing them on board for large-scale projects. Zaha had unique vision, so I wanted to work with her too.
When the project I had in mind didn’t get planning permission, I was determined to find something else to build with her. My private home was the perfect fit.
Dezeen: Would you describe yourself as a perfectionist?
Vladislav Doronin: A lot of people tell me that I am a perfectionist. I like to be involved in making decisions for my businesses as well as my personal homes. Zaha Hadid also had the same approach to her work – another reason why we had a good relationship and built this project together.
Dezeen: What was your vision for the Capital Hill Residence?
Vladislav Doronin: I have worked with a number of architects and interior designers over my career. I am currently working with Jean Michel Gathy on the architecture for Aman New York, and Hani Rashid and Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill on two residential developments in Miami. My private homes in Miami and New York were designed by Jacques Grange. These spaces suit my mid-century design collection: Prouvé, Royère, Le Corbusier, Ettore Sottsass, Mies Van Der Rohe and Nakashima. You could say my taste is varied.
For this particular home I wanted not only a sanctuary to escape to, above the tree tops, but also a great entertainment space. Zaha’s vision allowed me to have all I wanted for this home.
Dezeen: I understand your brief to Zaha was for a house that allowed you to only see blue sky when you wake up in the morning. Does the house allow you to do that?
Vladislav Doronin: Yes, you feel completely free, you are above the trees. In winter you see snow on top of the trees, in the spring, you see green trees and blue skies. You cannot see anything else because it is in the countryside, there are no high-rise buildings. You see blue skies and beautiful scenery. It’s an amazing view, you feel like you are flying.
Dezeen: Did you have a chance to thank Zaha?
Vladislav Doronin: Yes, we became close friends, travelling together to different parts of the world. I wanted to build projects with her in major cities around the world because I appreciated what she designed. She knew how much I valued her intellect, vision, her enormous skill and also her friendship. She admired the Capital Hill Residence very much herself.
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