Zedi Hair Reviews

Magazine Reviews

What is the `Big (IDEA)’ behind this project?

Based on the Zedi, n (zed-ee) from Zedi – Stupa is a traditional Buddhist monument consisting of a solid gently tapering cylindrical cone that represents the steps to enlightenment.

Architecturally, Zedi Hair Salon takes steps to hair enlightenment with tranquility and comfort incorporated in the collective functions of cutting, washing, grooming and colouring. The zedi motif is used to divide spaces, provide social connections between levels and enhance natural  lighting to the main hair cutting area downstairs. This project promotes awareness about our consumption and prepares the architectural form to evolve dependent on the patrons of the salon.

How did you maximise the project’s outcome through used resources and existing restrictions?

At the design stage the existing building fabric was analysed to recognise materials remaining, potential materials salvaged during demolition (vinyl flooring), incorporation of recycled materials (recycled blackbutt flooring and recycled woollen carpet for reception couch). The design was to use off-cuts of construction wastes (slithers of plywood for tabletops and other trimmings), forecasting useable materials accumulated during operation (cut hair and shampoo bottles) and designing for longevity by preparing for replacement of individual components likely to suffer wear and tear during operation (fluted pads of the hair cutting chairs).

At the construction stage existing vinyl flooring glued to masonite was removed during demolition, re-cut, wiped down, prototyped and then used as internal cladding for walls.

And at the operation stage cut hair from the patrons of the salon will be laminated into A3 sheets and used shampoo bottles are washed and retained for future use as part of the evolving building fabric design.


The Zedi stupa, from which the establishment’s name comes, is a Buddhist monument consisting of a solid, gently tapering cylindrical cone that represents the steps to enlightenment.

Following the tradition of its namesake, Zedi Hair Salon offers steps to “hair enlightenment” in a tranquil and comfortable surrounding where hair cutting, washing, grooming and colouring take place. The zedi motif is used to divide spaces , provide social connections between levels and enhance natural lighting to the main hair-cutting area downstairs.

This project consciously promotes an awareness of consumption habits, of waste and the idea of architectural forms
being dependent on business growth. Hair cuttings and used shampoo bottles decorate the salon’s interior: hair cuttings are laminated and arranged in the form of a giant lotus suspended from the ceiling above the main hair cutting floor (forming the dome of the zedi); and empty shampoo bottles form an abacus-like screen between the cutting and washing areas.

The recycled elements illustrate the salon’s history, its built fabric growing with its business and patronage over time. Waste build up today means recycling tomorrow and, with it, the development of the salon’s architectural form.

Recycled and redesigned furnishings are used throughout the salon. Used carpets – redesigned into couches of various shapes and sizes – are placed in the salon’s waiting area. Ergonomic chairs in the hair-cutting area have padded panels designed for longevity; each panel damaged by wear and tear can be replaced without having to purchase new chairs. Vinyl flooring removed during refurbishment – exposing the timber floor beneath – is cut into tiles and refashioned as wall cladding. The more waste is created, the more reconditioning will occ ur as part of the salon’s future architec
tural fabric.

Architect statement Zedi Hair is one of many salons littered between Brunswick and Smith Streets in Fitzroy, continually producing people’s bodily excess and product waste during the make-over process.
This project is a hospitality fitout for a young hairdresser personally concerned about reducing his ecological footprint through the practice of cutting and colouring hair.

Zedi, n, (zed-ee); from Zedi – Stupa is a traditional Buddhist monument consisting of a solid, gently tapering cylindrical cone that represents the steps to enlightenment.

Architecturally, the Zedi Hair Salon takes steps to hair enlightenment through comfort, tranquility and pampering incorporated in the collective functions of cutting, washing, grooming and colouring. The Zedi motif is used to divide spaces, provide social connections between levels and enhance natural lighting to the main cutting area.
Beside the environmental and economic savings of energy and water achieved by lifecycle analyses, Zedi Hair architecturally presents the social consumption of this salon’s urban metabolism.
Waste collected from the daily operation of the salon re-dress the interiors. This included shampoo bottles and cut hair. The architectural design grows, as the business grows over time, as grown by the patrons of the salon.

Like an abacus, used shampoo bottles create a scrim-screen that divides the cutting area from the basin area.

Cut hair from the salon patrons is immortalised on laminated sheets and suspended from the ceiling in a giant lotus arrangement (forming the bell of the Zedi motif) over the main cutting floor. Their beauty catalogue, the history of the salon’s life.

Recycled carpet was re-rolled into the reception couch in the waiting area of the salon. Hair cutting chairs were ergonomically designed with replaceable fluted padded panels in preparation for wear and tear over time.’

Materials doomed for landfill at the site were salvaged. Vinyl flooring removed during demolition to expose the existing timber floor beneath was cut into tiles and refashioned as wall cladding.
Today more waste builds up, tomorrow more waste reconditioning will occur to develop the salon’s future architectural form.

ZEDI, THE REINCARNATION OF A TWO-STOREY BRICK WAREHOUSE AS a hairdressing salon, started with the client’s brief to create a sustainable “temple to hair”. In this small project in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, the architects, Peter Ho and Emma Young, confronted not only ideas of sustainability and the culture of consumption, but also how they might be represented in architecture. Projects tagged ‘sustainable architecture’ are sometimes little more than engineered showcases of ESD technology. Zedi shows that a more architectural approach allows these issues to permeate the community in subtle ways. This project doesn’t make a fuss of its sustainability credentials; they are built into the fabric of the salon in a refined and stylish language.

Zedi is the Burmese name for the stepped dome of Buddhist pagodas in South East Asia. In this salon project, the metaphor of the dome’s steps leading to enlightenment is elaborated as an intention to enlighten the community about sustainability. The architects approached the project with social responsibility and an educational agenda. They sought to demonstrate that opportunities for recycling are many and enriching, even in a project of this type and scale.

The architects extended the lifespan of the existing building fabric and on-site materials. The building is left largely intact, with the old vinyl flooring taken up and cut into scales for cladding new internal walls. The architects also incorporated by-products of the salon’s operations into the fitout: empty hair product bottles are strung up as colourful screens. The floor is recycled hardwood and a sofa is made of a Beuys-like roll of recycled carpet. Joinery is plantation pine plywood, with off-cuts employed to create slatted benches. Materials are made to work hard; waste is minimised.

The salon has a warm materiality from the timber, the original brickwork and the yellow and orange bottle-screens. Like vintage clothing, the recycled materials enrich the new salon with ready-made character. The Zedi void, clad externally with the reconfigured vinyl flooring in an inventive diagonal pattern, connects the levels and directs natural light to the ground floor.

This was an unconventional architectural process – the client, Adrian Clarke, project-managed the construction with a team of workers that included Peter Ho. This allowed the design and construction stages to overlap. Peter considers craft as being able to develop in that overlap, because the traditional separation of drawing and building was avoided, and there was flexibility to assess materials on-site and, if salvageable, incorporate them into the design. The architect and client managing the construction process achieved greater efficiency. Transport, a vital consideration because of fuel consumption, was minimised by sourcing local materials and services. For example, the entry doors’ bronze handles are the work of a local craftsman rather than an overseas import. Efficiency like this is the foundation of sustainability – maximising resources and minimising waste to reduce the impact of construction on the environment.

Zedi has a campaign agenda of education through example. It aims at a transparency of design philosophy, a visible sustainability to build awareness. The recycled bottles are added to the screens over time, so they can be read, as Peter Ho says, “like an abacus”. We are presented with the amassed by-products of our consumer culture. The representation of consumption and recycling in this way can be understood within the `found object’ art context, an accumulation of consumables for aesthetic impact. Discarded items are transformed into valued fabric, and take on a decorative role, in a way like the work of Melbourne architects Six Degrees, employing recycled material to give character to new projects. Material ageing and the passing of time are appreciated. At Zedi, the constantly updated bottle-screens allow the architecture to emerge over time in an ongoing, open-ended process.

The project shows sustainability is achievable at an everyday level, in a small scale, low-budget, commercial, re-fit project, and is not restricted to major infrastructure, community projects or large public buildings. This is a constructive approach, project-by-project bringing the city fabric into line with community concerns. The architects take a broad view of their ‘clients’ to include the community. In a sense, the community was present  in the briefing and design process, a social agenda such as that found in the office of Gregory Burgess Architects, where Peter Ho worked for several years. Peter takes on a further role in the community as an educator, teaching the building ecology and sustainable construction subjects to building students at RMIT.

Where does Zedi stand in the negotiation of architecture and sustainability? The RAIA’S BDP Environment Design Guide states that architects’ duty of care to the environment and community includes “a reorientation toward the materials, products and built structures so that they are treated as ecological assets throughout their material life / lives.” The salon is an exemplar for this, but does not abandon architecture’s cultural role. The architects looked beyond environmental and ecological benefits and understood architecture as participating in a dialogue. Zedi accepts architecture as a site of communication. The artifacts of consumption are recycled to represent ideas about our consumer culture and sustainability. This interpretation of architecture as representation is shared by Melbourne architects Lyons, for whom Emma Young has worked. Zedi takes its place in the Melbourne architectural tradition of a consciously ‘speaking’ architecture, of buildings that articulate ideas, and engage in ongoing architectural dialogues.

The salon operates like an undercover agent within a consumer lifestyle. It is located in a fashionable inner-city locale, but its expressed anti-waste philosophy confronts us with our cycle of excessive consumption and waste. On the aggressive to gentle range of environmental activism, however. Zedi is not feral. The salon is sleek and subtly enriched by the inventive use of recycled materials. The architects have achieved a kind of convergent evolution between found object art and the current responsibility to the community in regard to the culture of consumption and the need for sustainability.

Fitzroy is one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs and the passage of time is on display. Asphalt roads still have bluestone curbs and gutters, reminders of the horse-and-cart era. So it is appropriate to find an interior that acknowledges the cycle of life, an investigation of reuse and reinterpretation.

Zedi Hair salon is named after a type of Buddhist monument, a bell-shaped structure around which people pray. Zedis are solid and have a relic buried inside, a small piece of bone, a tooth or even some of the Buddha’s hair.

The name was the client’s inspiration, and Phooey have manifested the form over two levels.

Very little has been built in the space. Downstairs some shelving separates off a reception area, and a raised timber floor constructed over the existing concrete slab defines the main hair cutting area. Upstairs the zedi appears as negative space, cut out from the right-angled junction of two new walls. Mirrors line the cut, completing the symmetry of the zedi form and helping to direct light down a void to the ground floor.

The bottom of the zedi, visible at the ground floor, is a decorative ceiling rose formed from plastic and patrons’ hair. Sheets of laminated transparent plastic, fused to contain hair clippings, are attached to cables that radiate out from the void, completing the bell shape of the zedi. The effect is of a delicate, luminous veil, subtly coloured with curls of various shades.

Then there are the walls of restitched lino.

Step 1. Take up the old vinyl floor. (Why? Underneath are old floorboards, relics from a time of plenty, prior to today’s awareness of limited resources. Old timbers from big trees – precious. decorative and warm.)

Step 2. Cut the vinyl into little pieces of identical size and reinstall vertically, as cladding. (Imagine buying new vinyl flooring and cutting and cladding an interior wall with it.)

Phooey are looking at what exists, with an eye to how it can be reordered, rearranged, reclassified. A rearrangement of the available material means low embodied energy and minimized waste. Vinyl flooring is a hard-wearing product that lasts for many years. Why throw it out? This reuse has encouraged creativity. What was once on the floor has moved to the wall. Where could it go next?

Most architectural designers don’t ask, what can we use this for? when looking at existing building fabric, let alone, how could this be reused in the future? when designing something new. The original vinyl floor was not designed for disassembly. It was hard work to remove and difficult to salvage.

For the rolled-up couch, the carpet, unlike the linoleum came from elsewhere. Phooey visited a second-hand carpet warehouse and imagined new life for the stuff – not as a floor surface, but as slightly floppy cylinders of colour. Now imagine buying new carpet and rolling it up for a couch. Perverse. To use new carpet would not be cost-effective, but buy it from the recycling depot and it justifies itself.
The privacy screen dividing off the hair washing area is made of empty shampoo bottles, slightly deformed by the absence of pressure from the liquid shampoo, strung up on cables. Is the shampoo-bottle screen junk? Or art? What we would once have thrown away is now decoration.

The aesthetic of low energy is different from what we are used to. Like Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, 1917 (a urinal purchased from a manufacturer and signed by the artist), the shampoo bottles have not undergone any process to transform them; they have simply changed context. They have not been melted down and recast, or cut up and reconfigured; they have just been washed out and strung up. They are still shampoo bottles.

Phooey are sending a sharply focused message about waste with the hair sculpture and the screen of shampoo bottles. The screen is not a display of abundance and excess (like the more familiar rows and rows of unopened “product”; suggesting an infinite resource) but an acknowledgment of the environmental cost of production and the dilemma of reuse and recycling.

This may represent a giant leap in the way we think about recycling – that decoration on its own is a valid use for a recycled material in building.

While the repurposed line and carpet perform a utilitarian function, the hair in the ceiling rose performs only the function of decoration. It’s not necessary for the operation of the business; it doesn’t facilitate the process of cutting hair. Is it grotesque? What can one do with cut hair? This is waste reconditioning. We are being taught a lesson about our own way of seeing and our own way of life. One day, what was beautiful but unsustainable will look ugly.

A sculptural attitude – looking at a material’s formal and functional potential, without regard for its cost or what it was originally designed to do – is luxurious, a lavish way to design. The eye looks at something and has free association:

a door becomes a table, some rolls of carpet a couch, lockets of hair an art piece.

There is a touch of Dada here – the art of changing perception rather than making a new object. There is also a clear message to the community at large – here is the result of our lifestyle, this is the reality of our cycle of production and consumption.

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