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.


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