Born and raised in Lebanon, the Italian designer William Sawaya once admitted to admiring the famous Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Known for defying all reason and physics, Ms. Hadid’s architecture trumps convention with boundless (and genius) flights of fancy. Is it possible to judge an artist by his or her heroes?
While his architecture and design are decidedly grounded – solid, simple, and elegant, often taking brief sojourns to an earlier, more classical era, Mr. Sawaya also shows signs of whimsy, always managing to put a new spin on the past, reinventing himself with every new collection. Now – as one of Qatar’s “Stars Of Science” judges – he has an opportunity to inspire young Qatari couch potatoes to do the same.
Mr. Sawaya was born in Beirut in 1948 and graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts in 1973. In his online biography, he claimed to have been initially captivated by the “definition of internal spaces.”
He was able to explore this interest in several residential projects in Lebanon before leaving to study in Paris and Milan. This, he says, was an important project in “living culture.”
Just five years after graduating, he moved to Italy and with Paolo Moroni and established the Sawaya and Moroni Design Office; six years later they founded the Sawaya and Moroni Contemporary Furniture.
Since then, business has blossomed, and Mr. Sawaya now collaborates with none other than Zaha Hadid in addition to several other acclaimed artists.
In a 2001 interview with designboom, Mr Sawaya said:
“I do honest design. I don’t demand anything. I don’t change the world, nobody changes the world…”
As someone who has no ambitions to change the world, it is not surprising that no “eco” or “green” verbiage appears in his marketing portfolio. It may be presumptuous to assume so, but Sawaya and Moroni seem unaffected by the constraints of the new world, where extracting new materials exacts a formidable environmental price.
Nonetheless, their work is well respected and has appeared as far afield as France, Japan, Greece, Russia, and the Arabian Gulf.
Interestingly, in the same designboom interview, he notes that Italian men never fully grow up because they are coddled by their mothers. Years later, he will judge a reality TV show that aims to get lazy, couch potatoes interested in what our own Susan Kraemer calls “thrilling nerdy challenges.”
While getting in back in touch with his Lebanese roots as judge of young Qataris, seems like Mr. Sawaya could afford to add a touch of green blush to his beautiful baroque pieces.
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