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Farshid Moussavi OBE RA (born in 1965, Shiraz, Iran) is an Iranian-born British architect, educator, and author. She is the founder of Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA) and a Professor in Practice of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.[1] Before forming FMA, she was co-founder of the London-based Foreign Office Architects or FOA (1993-2011), recognised as one of the world's most creative design firms, integrating architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture in a wide range of projects internationally. Moussavi was elected a Royal Academician in 2015, and subsequently, Professor of Architecture at the RA Schools in 2017.[2] She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours for Services to Architecture.

Farshid Moussavi
Farshid Moussavi.jpg
Born1965 (age 53–54)
Shiraz, Iran
Alma materHarvard University
Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Dundee University
PracticeFarshid Moussavi Architecture
Previously Foreign Office Architects
BuildingsŌsanbashi, International Passenger Terminal, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio
ProjectsThe Function of Ornament
The Function of Form
The Function of Style
WebsiteOfficial website

Early life and educationEdit

Moussavi was born in 1965 in Shiraz, Iran and immigrated to London in 1979 to attend boarding school.[3] She trained in architecture at the Dundee School of Architecture, University of Dundee, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London and graduated with a Masters in Architecture (MArch II) from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD). While at the Harvard, Moussavi met architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo.[4]


Moussavi first came to prominence with Foreign Office Architects (FOA), the practice she co-founded in 1993 with her ex-husband Alejandro Zaera-Polo.[5] At FOA, Moussavi co-authored the design for the award-winning Yokohama International Ferry Terminal in Japan (which was subject to an international design competition in 1995) and was part of the United Architects team who were finalists in the Ground Zero competition. She also completed a wide range of international projects including the John Lewis complex in Leicester, England and the Meydan retail complex in Istanbul, Turkey.

In June 2011 after splitting with Zaera-Polo, Moussavi re-established her own London-based practice, Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA).[5] Her notable projects with FMA include the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Victoria Beckham's Flagship Store in London, a residential complex in the La Défense-Nanterre district of Paris, a multi-story residential building in Montpellier, and the Harrods Toys Department in London. The practice is currently working on a number of high-profile projects including an office tower for the City of London. It was a finalist for London National Portrait Gallery competition, and joint winner of the international competition for the new headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne.

Moussavi has served on numerous design committees including the Mayor of London's Design for London Advisory Group and LDA International Design Committee, the RIBA Gold and Presidents Medals, the Stirling Prize and the Venice Architecture Biennale. She was Chair of the Master Jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004, and a member of the Award's Steering Committee between 2005-2015. She was an external examiner for the Royal College of Art in London from 2010-2013 and for the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design from 2014-2016, for The Architectural Association in London from 2016-2017, and a columnist for the Architectural Review. Moussavi was also a trustee of the Architecture Foundation and the Whitechapel gallery between 2009-2018. She is currently an external examiner for the Norman Foster Foundation London, and New Architecture Writers (NAW), and serves on the academic court of the London School of Architecture.


Farshid Moussavi at the Tate Gallery

Alongside her professional practice, Moussavi has held a longstanding commitment to research across the academic and professional field of architecture. Since 2005, she has been Professor in Practice at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.[2] Previously, Moussavi taught at the Architectural Association in London for eight years (1993–2000), and was subsequently appointed as Head of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (2002–2005). She has been a visiting professor of architecture at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, the Hoger Architectuur Instituut Sint-Lucas in Gent, and in the US, at UCLA, Columbia University and Princeton University.

Moussavi's research, which began while teaching at the Architectural Association in the early 90s, has focused on instruments that allow architects to embed built forms with design intelligence and creative possibilities – such as the diagram, information technology, new construction technologies, envelopes and tessellation – and how they can be used to develop alternative concepts for the practice of architecture.

Installation exploring affect for Common Ground at 13th Venice Biennale

Since 2004, Moussavi's research has focused predominantly on the relationship between the construction and experience of a built form, and how the architect's agency is to navigate the many choices provided by the design process to give built forms the unique propensities which individuals experience as affect. Her work in aesthetics is influenced by a range of philosophers, notably Spinoza, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and Jacques Rancière. Following from Gilles Deleuze's work on affect, she proposes that built forms' affects play an active role in the daily experiences of individuals and the affections they develop. Moussavi argues that, in order to move people's experience away from routine and to open up the possibility for new types of action, architects need to provide built forms with novel affects. It is not what built forms represent but how they provide experiences that would otherwise not exist that makes their aesthetic experience relevant and gives their architecture a function or agency in culture.

Moussavi has published three books: The Function of Ornament, The Function of Form and The Function of Style in conjunction with her teaching at Harvard, all of which disclaim architecture's traditional binary oppositions – form vs.function, structure vs. form, ornament vs. function, style vs. function – proposing that architecture's creative potential lies, rather, in finding ways to relate them to one other.


The Function of OrnamentEdit

The Function of Ornament

In The Function of Ornament (2006), Moussavi proposes that ornament has always carried a function, and that function is the construction of aesthetic experience. In this book, she argues that contemporary ornament is not symbolic and does not function through the representation of something else but through its own actuality. She proposes that in order for built forms to contribute to how culture evolves, ornament should not be conceived through a set of superficial and decorative elements which are introduced to a building to be representational or symbolic of external narratives, but should be constructed through the elements that define an actual built form so that the actuality of it defines new and inherent aesthetic contributions. Ornament is that which makes the actuality of one form distinct from another, a distinction which is the result of the architect's activity, rather than something imported from an 'external' realm.

Redefined as such, ornament is integral to each built form and can engage a variety of depths depending on the way the architect assembles the form's particular set of concerns or materials. Ornament may therefore be experienced through the entire form of a building, the depth of its external envelope or the surface of its external envelope, as a cluster of affects.

Rather than functioning through symbol and meaning, this definition of ornament positions the function of ornament through a built form's affects and therefore their actual aesthetic experience. Unlike symbolic definitions of ornament, which are rooted in a unified concept of society, Moussavi's definition of ornament argues that in a contemporary plural society – which lacks shared image-memories – the non-representational nature of affects allows built forms to be perceived by everyone but differently, making allowance for different subjectivities. This enables the built environment, like movies, music and art, to act as a common social fabric.

The Function of FormEdit

The Function of Form

In The Function of Form (2009), Moussavi further explores the relationship between the construction of an architectural built form and its aesthetic experience away from the limitations of representation (symbolism), towards repetition and differentiation to nurture multiplicity within culture.

Fundamental to Moussavi's proposal is that, due to the speed at which technology, the environment and culture are changing, the rate of change in contemporary architecture has shifted from a process of overhaul and replacement to a mode of continuous and incremental change. This rapid rate of change is the consequence of multiple intersecting causes which are rooted in human (social, subjective, sensorial) as well as nonhuman (natural, objective, technical) spheres. In order to be compatible with these mutating and diverse values, architecture cannot be limited to the representation of a-priori concepts or singular causes and must evolve through constantly producing, enriching and reinventing its environment.

Moussavi revisits the relationship between function and form and proposes that – rather than being considered as the outcome of movements – the history of form contains a continuous thread in which historical ideas have been evolved and transformed to produce novel forms. To illustrate this, The Function of Form presents built forms with distinctive structural systems from 500 to the present and classifies them into seven groups (Grids and Frames, Vaults, Domes, Folded Plates, Shells, Tensile Membranes, Pneumatic Membranes).

To illustrate this, The Function of Form presents a survey of experiments with the repetition and differentiation of structural systems, dating back to 12th century such as those with 12th-century vaults, 15th-century domes, or 20th-century frames, and pneumatic and tensile structures, each time generating a novel built form. The Function of Form detaches each building from its original motives, author or context, and presents them side by side each other as a comparative rather than symptomatic study. Particularised and differentiated in this way, these physical structures become mutable and can be re-appropriated and transformed without prejudice, to produce novel built forms with singular affects which individuals with different norms, desires and habits can cohabit.

The Function of StyleEdit

The Function of Style

The third volume in Moussavi's Function series, The Function of Style (2015) interrogates what the function of style is today. If the 1970s were defined by Postmodernism and the 1980s by Deconstruction, how do we characterize the architecture of the 1990s to the present? Some built forms transmit affects of curvilinearity, others of crystallinity; some transmit multiplicity, others unity; some transmit cellularity, others openness; some transmit dematerialization, others weight. Does this immense diversity reflect a lack of common purpose?

Moussavi argues that the diversity of contemporary architecture should not be mistaken for an eclecticism driven by external forces and is the outcome of a new approach to style which is driven not by representation but by aesthetic experience. She defines contemporary style as the agency given to the elements of a building through their specific arrangement, which manifests itself as a cluster of affects that spreads out from the building and influences the kind of assemblage people will form with it as they take part in their everyday activities like residing or working. Moussavi also proposes that architects, by shifting the conventions associated with a building for certain activity, can generate a new presence or style for it that loosens the building's traditional relationship with that activity and allows people the freedom to creatively respond to it.

The Function of Style suggests that this new way of understanding style reveals a coherence underlying the diversity in contemporary architecture. The book presents compares buildings from two timeframes, the early 20th century and the period from 1990 to the present, and highlights similarities in the way they are organised in relation to the activities (like working, residing or shopping) which they host. Identifying the similarities between past and more recent buildings makes apparent, as in an open source, architecture provides ideas which can be shared between architects, not for copying but for creating something new. This involves appropriating conventions of arrangement established by other projects, questioning them, and shifting them to make something new appear in the encounter between people and their everyday activities. Moussavi argues that by embracing the process of making choices regarding the assembly of buildings for everyday life as a raw material, architects assume the agency or freedom to change the conventions of how buildings are assembled, to ground style, and people's aesthetic experience of buildings, in the micropolitics of the everyday.

Select projectsEdit

Farshid Moussavi ArchitectureEdit

  • 2018 – Harrods Toys Department, London, England[6]
  • 2017 – La Défense Residential Complex, Paris
  • 2016 – Victoria Beckham Store, Hong Kong, China
  • 2014 – Victoria Beckham Flagship Store, London, England[7]
  • 2013 – 130 Fenchurch Street Office Complex, London, England
  • 2013 – Les Jardins de la Lironde Residential Complex, Montpellier, France[8]
  • 2012 – Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio[9][10][11]
  • 2012 – Installation for Common Ground at 13th Architecture Biennale in Venice[12]

Foreign Office ArchitectsEdit

  • 1995–2002 – Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal, Japan
  • 1999–2000 – Bluemoon Hotel, Groningen, the Netherlands
  • 2000–2003 – Police headquarters, La Villajoyosa
  • 2000–2004 – Coastal park with outdoor auditoriums, Barcelona, Spain
  • 2000– 2005 – Headquarters for Dulnyouk Publishers, Paju, South Korea
  • 2000–2006 – Municipal Theatre, Torrevieja, Spain
  • 2000–2008 – John Lewis department store and Cineplex and pedestrian bridges, Leicester, England[13]
  • 2002 – British Pavilion at the International Architectural Biennial, Venice[12]
  • 2003 – Olympics 2012 & Lower Lea Valley Regeneration Masterplan, London
  • 2003–2007 – La Rioja Technology Transfer Centre, Logrono, Spain
  • 2003 – Trinity EC3 office complex, City of London, England
  • 2004–2005 – Spanish Pavilion at the 2005 International Expo, Aichi, Japan
  • 2004–2007 – Social housing in Carabanchel, Madrid, Spain
  • 2004–2008 – Villa in Pedralbes, Barcelona, Spain
  • 2004–2010 – D-38 Office Complex, Barcelona
  • 2005–2007 – Meydan Retail Complex and Multiplex, Istanbul, Turkey
  • 2005–2010 – Ravensbourne college on the Greenwich Peninsula, London, England
  • 2006 – World Business Centre, Busan, South Korea
  • 2006 – KL Central Plot D Residential Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • 2007 – Sevenstone Quarter mixed-use complex, Sheffield, England
  • 2008 – Euston Station, London, England
  • 2008 – Mixed-use extension of West Quay II retail centre, Southampton, England
  • 2008 – New Street Station, Birmingham, England

Select awardsEdit

Detail of the façade of Edificio Bambú (literally "Bamboo Building" Carabanchel Social Housing in Madrid).
Year Award name To By For Notes
2003 Kanagawa Prize for Architecture in Japan Foreign Office Architects
2004 Enric Miralles Prize for Architecture Foreign Office Architects Yokohama International Passenger Terminal [14]
2004 RIBA International Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
2004 Lion Award for Topography Foreign Office Architects 9th Venice Architecture Biennale [15]
2005 Charles Jencks Award for Architecture Foreign Office Architects
2005 RIBA International Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
2006 RIBA International Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
2008 RIBA European Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Carabanchel Social Housing, Madrid, Spain
2008 European Business Award for the Environment Foreign Office Architects
2008 Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence Foreign Office Architects
2009 RIBA National Award Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
2010 Civic Trust Award Foreign Office Architects Civic Trust St Malachy's Church, Belfast restoration
2010 International Council of Shopping Centres Award Foreign Office Architects
2011 RIBA Award in the education and community category Foreign Office Architects Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Ravensbourne campus [16]
2018 Order of the British Empire (OBE) award Farshid Moussavi Order of the British Empire awarded for service and diversity in the architecture profession [17]



  • Moussavi, Farshid; Kubo, Michael (2006). The Function of Ornament. Harvard Graduate School of Design, ACTAR. ISBN 978-8496540507.
  • Moussavi, Farshid; Lopez, Daniel; Schricker, Ahmadreza; Ambrose, Garrick (2009). The Function of Form. Harvard Graduate School of Design, ACTAR. ISBN 978-8496954731.
  • Moussavi, Farshid (2014). The Function of Style. ACTAR. ISBN 978-1940291307.



  1. ^ "Interview: Farshid Moussavi, Architect, Author and Professor". Something Curated. 7 July 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Farshid Moussavi, Artist". Royal Academy of Arts. 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  3. ^ Kenrick, Vivienne (28 September 2002). "Farshid Moussavi". The Japan Times Online. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  4. ^ Chamberlain, Lisa (2008). Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction. Da Capo Press. p. 159. ISBN 0786718846.
  5. ^ a b Moore, Rowan (16 November 2014). "Farshid Moussavi: 'We are in a world where ideas migrate'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Farshid Moussavi's new Harrods Toy Department is a joyful exercise in colour theory". Wallpaper* Magazine. 18 June 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  7. ^ Compton, Nick (22 September 2016). "The 'unpredictable' architect behind Victoria Beckham's flagship store". Wired UK. ISSN 1357-0978. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  8. ^ Garcia Menocal, Cat (17 April 2013). "farshid moussavi architecture wins montpellier tower residence competition". designboom. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, designed by Farshid Moussavi". Wallpaper* Magazine. 22 October 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  10. ^ Rawsthorn, Alice. "Build It and They Will Come". W Magazine. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  11. ^ Ryan, Raymund. "Blue Steel: MOCA by Farshid Moussavi in Cleveland, Ohio". Architectural Review. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  12. ^ a b Rawsthorn, Alice (2 December 2012). "Defining the Emotional Cause of 'Affect'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  13. ^ "ShowCase: John Lewis Department Store and Cineplex". Archinect. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  14. ^ "AD Classics: Yokohama International Passenger Terminal / Foreign Office Architects (FOA)". ArchDaily. 17 October 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  15. ^ "11th Annual Arthur Rosenblatt Memorial Lecture: Farshid Moussavi: Thoughts on New Architecture". Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Ravensbourne by Foreign Office Architects". Archinect. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Farshid Moussavi recognized with Order of the British Empire award amid Queen's Birthday Honours 2018". Harvard Graduate School of Design. Retrieved 19 December 2018.

External linksEdit