Farshid Moussavi: Style Matters

Farshid Moussavi presents six projects that illustrate the subversion of architectural conventions.

January 12, 2015

Recorded on April 7, 2014.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Farshid Moussavi established London-based Farshid Moussavi Architecture in 2011, following 18 years as a co-founder and partner at Foreign Office Architecture.

Research is an integral part of Moussavi’s practice, carried out both in her office and academic positions. Since 2006, she has been a professor at Harvard University.

Her Current Work lecture title, “Style Matters,” references the latest volume in her “The Function of…” book series, which explores the theory and history of ornament, form, and style. Moussavi gives examples of conventions of form that have become codified, such as theater layouts and office work arrangements, which have led to “a sense of inevitability about certain activities.” She presents an argument for identifying and then breaking these conventions, allowing for arrangements that inspire new habits of behavior and engagement with form.

Moussavi presents six of her own projects, organizing the presentation of each around the convention in form, envelope, or structure that the project seeks to subvert:

  • The Yokohama Port Terminal questions the monumentality and isolation of traditional ports through a form that is integrated with the landscape of the city, “appropriating the terminal” as a public space.
  • Subverting the closed or blank façade of the department store, the John Lewis Department Store in Leicester employs a semi-transparent glazed screen that creates privacy without limiting light and views.
  • The One La Défense building outside of Paris takes advantage of a shallow, irregular site through a slab building divided laterally with five elevator cores, creating light-filled, naturally ventilated apartments in a form normally organized with interior corridors and single-aspect units.
  • With an “assemblage of floors and balconies,” La Folie Divine in Montpellier uses varied floor plates and balcony configurations to create privacy, flexibility, and diversity in a residential tower.
  • The 130 Fenchurch Street office tower in London transforms the standard glass curtain wall with a fluted black glass whose concave pieces “neither mirror its context nor act as a transparent window.”
  • Moussavi’s first project in the US, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, defies the traditional white cube gallery with flexible, reconfigurable spaces in which art and social activities can cohabitate and deep blue walls that create continuity from exterior to interior.


Annabelle Selldorf lecture

A lecture by Annabelle Selldorf, who works nimbly within a wide range of architectural typologies.

Current Work Video 2016

Lina Bo Bardi’s return to Salvador

Angela Starita discusses the architect's (mostly unrealized) plan to restore the historic city center of Salvador, Brazil.

The Deborah J. Norden Fund Essay 2008