Interview with Zayad Motlib

Winner of Architecture Design Awards

Award Winning Designer Zayad Motlib shares insights


Interview with Zayad Motlib at Thursday 3rd of May 2018:

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
ZM : I have studied and worked in different countries, both as an academic and a practicing architect. I did my undergraduate degree at the department of Architecture, University of Baghdad, in 1990. Then I worked in Jordan, in New Zealand and in Australia. I have also completed a Masters degree at Auckland University, New Zealand. Currently I am residing in Dubai.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
ZM : The desire to explore and to create. I have always had a passion for complexity in natural systems, whether biological systems, materials systems, or physical systems. With the new computational developments in deign and fabrication, my passion became how we can learn from the underlying logic behind the formation or the behavior of these system, and use it to create meaningful design at different scales: from products to urban scale.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
ZM : At both entities that I run: AmorphouStudio and d-NAT (Dubai Network for Art, Architecture, and Technology), we research and design across different scales, from products to architecture and urban scale. We dont have preference in terms of design type or scale. What is important for us is how to be innovative and to manifest our design principles across different products and scales.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
ZM : First they need to keep exploring and trying different techniques, and to develop their skills and knowledge on materials, fabrication methods and so on. Such practice will help them to decide what is important for them as designers. Then, they need to keep developing and refining their skills in that field.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
ZM : Innovation and originality of the produced work.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
ZM : I would like to quote Alain de Botton "Good design is not a quest for a luxury life ... Beauty is a promise of Goodness”.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
ZM : Beyond its utilitarian purpose , good design inspires us, moves our imagination. It is transcendental.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
ZM : Designing is part of my daily life. I sketch ideas continuously, as an analogue of digital sketching. Some of these idea get developed beyond the sketch, some stay in my notebook, or computer. It is like a daily activity. I love to design at different scales, from product design scale to master plans. My new passion is to take traditional artifacts and to infuse them with technology to transform them into the future. To use new digital processes to re-think the adaptation of traditional vernacular materials in today’s architecture.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
ZM : To build the Symbiotic Towers !.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
ZM : There is no secret here. Beyond talent, great design needs clarity of the idea, hard work, dedication, and resilience.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
ZM : Frie Otto, Cecil Balmond, Mies van der Rohe, and Zaha Hadid.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
ZM : The Sydney Opera House, Mies Barcelona pavilion, Frie Otto Munich stadium, Verner Panton chair, and Zaha Hadid glacial collection. They were all pushing design boundaries of their time into future possibilities with form, materials, spatial structure, or techniques.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
ZM : All the above mentioned designs are among my greatest. What made them great is the originality of the idea within the time frame they were produced. They were transcendental.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
ZM : They need to have a talent first. After that they need to keep exploring, and to work hard to develop it. Hard work with dedication are essential to refine the talent towards great work.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
ZM : An astronut, space exploration !.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?
ZM : My design is often inspired by the complex order exhibited in natural systems: biological, cultural, materials, or physical systems. I study the underlying forces behind the formation, or the behavior, of these systems, and look at meaningful ways to re-adapt it in my design pursuits.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
ZM : Recently Marta Krivosheek has been my big supporter for the growth and development of both the research entity, d-NAT (Dubai network for Art, Architecture, and Technology), and the commercial entity AmorphouStudio - Visionary Architecture and Design Studio.,

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?
ZM : I never regarded myself as a great designer. That was never my goal. But my curiosity, combined with a clarity of what I want to achieve in my designs, then working hard to keep exploring and refining these ideas, is the recipe I have been using to get to where I am now.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?
ZM : Every idea is different, and every idea requires different form and media for its presentation. I use a combination of sketches, renderings, 3d printed models, laser cut boards, etc. Whatever it takes to communicate the idea.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
ZM : I am working on number of new projects, all looking at innovative use of technology on different design scales. My new passion is to take traditional artifacts and to infuse them with technology to transform them into the future. To use new digital processes to re-think the adaptation of traditional vernacular materials in today’s architecture.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
ZM : To have my designs getting materialized to their full scale.

DL: How does design help create a better society?
ZM : Good design inspires and elevates people spirit. It helps creating better environments, and bridging dreams with reality.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
ZM : I am working on number of new projects, each has its own challenges. I am excited about breaking through these challenges to bring in new innovation for each of them.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?
ZM : The different projects I worked on throughout the years brought me different satisfaction. The one that I consider closer to my heart is a proposal I worked on few years back to bring in new visionary approach to the marshes in southern Iraq. It was a bold vision aimed at providing a conceptual framework to organize the marsh communities of Southern Iraq into a modern and an economically viable entity while addressing most critical ecological concerns. You can view it at my AmorphoStudio site

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?
ZM : The architectural design industry needs to adapt and to catch up with the technological developments in the construction and fabrication industry. Architects need to look at the implication of the new technologies such as machine learning, AI, robotics in creating new design to fabrication workflow. Also, contractors need to upgrade their construction techniques to facilitate the construction of new bespoke design using new technologies such as 3d printing and robotic techniques. I think both design and the construction industries need to go through huge transformation to adapt to the rapid technological changes.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?
ZM : The new design opportunities presented by the evolution of new technologies in Nano materials, Robotics, and 3d printing. I think there is big design space to be explored with these technologies.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
ZM : This depends on the nature of the project and its complexity. If it is a piece of furniture could be a month, a building can take up to 2 years.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?
ZM : Stay curious. Keep questioning, exploring, and venturing.

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
ZM : I think they feed into each other. First certain design can trigger a certain trend in the public domain. Then other designers start to take notice so they follow that trend. For example the trend today is to use technology and 3d printing in design. As a result, more and more designers follow this trend. However, some of them lack proper understanding to these technologies and their role in design and fabrication. Thus they often produce work that reflects an immature use of such technologies. Personally, I dont like to follow trends. Trends come and go. But good design that is based on sound creative principles, always stays timeless.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?
ZM : It is integral to my design and workflow. I like to explore that space at the intersection of design, nature, and technology. How can technology inform better design decisions that are sustainable, and forward looking.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
ZM : I have a hybrid design pallet of analogue and digital tools consists of: pens and papers, 3d printer, laser cutter, software mainly Rhino, Maya, grasshopper, and others.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
ZM : My mind gets inspired with possibilities of other design. Great design is contagious. It creates seeds of new cycle of ideas and aspirations.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
ZM : Yes I believe in co-design. However this requires shared understanding of the design approach, the workflow, and the objective. Design is becoming more and more a collaborative activity, as designers need to deal with not only the creation of a form, but with technologies, materials, structure, fabrications techniques, etc. So the role of the star designer / architect is gradually fading.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
ZM : Keep learning, exploring, and questioning. I never felt or regarded myself as a master designer, I always prefer to be a beginner, willing to explore new territories, to venture into the unknown.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
ZM : The different social media networks facilitated communication with all people of common interest on a global level. I continuously communicate and exchange ideas with like-minded people, as well as share images of what we are developing or researching. Both our d-NAT and AmorphouStudio networks keep expanding, as we keep reaching out to more people to share ideas.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
ZM : Looking at anything that is familiar with fresh eyes, as if I am seeing it for the first time. Driving the ideas to their realization is my big motivator.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
ZM : I think we are at the boarder line of three huge revolutions: Bio-tech, Nano-tech, and AI or robotics. Each of these technologies can transform the design field into new horizons. However I am interested more in their intersection, when we combine Nano-tech with robotics, and the possibilities that may come out of that. What we see happening in todays design and technology is what we used to see in the Sci-Fi some 50 years ago. With the intersection of these three strands, we are yet to create the Sci-Fi of 3020. This might not be on earth alone anymore, and certainly not with biological creatures alone !.