when danish designer hans j. wegner first presented his ‘shell’ chair in 1963 its reception was mixed. however, over the last half century the piece has become a design classic thanks to a resurgent appreciation of its avant-garde appearance defined by its apparent lightness and distinctive three-legged construction. now, 55 years later, zaha hadid architects (ZHA) has reinterpreted the iconic design using italian marble reinforced with carbon fiber.

zaha hadid marble chair
all images courtesy of zaha hadid architects



in developing the project, titled ‘lapella’, ZHA teamed up with engineering firm AKT II, new fundamentals research group, and stone fabricator generelli. the team approached the field of furniture design from an architecture and engineering perspective, a strategy that allowed them to harness the compressive properties of stone as well as carbon fiber’s tensile characteristics.

zaha hadid marble chair
the iconic design has been reinterpreted using italian marble



the team sought to retain the proportions, scale, and form of the original design, while employing contemporary engineering techniques and materials. to enable the parallel study of multiple loading configurations on an evolving design, structural analysis was delivered using AKT II’s in-house parametric interoperability solution, re.AKT.

zaha hadid marble chair
the structure is reinforced with carbon fiber



this analysis was pivotal in incrementally improving the project’s design parameters to address factors such as stone tolerances, curvature thresholds, and mass distribution. simultaneously, the design was modified through ‘dynamic relaxation’ to minimize effects of bending within the form itself. the result is an optimized design that demonstrates the thinnest and lightest structure capable under the given constraints.

zaha hadid marble chair
the piece was forged using precision CNC milling



‘forged using precision CNC milling and the application of tailored textiles, it renders visible its own making and the forces that flow through its thin-shell skin,’ explains zaha hadid architects. ‘lapella continues our mission to develop design tools that generate geometry expressive of light-weight material utilization and structural performance.’

zaha hadid marble chair
the chair’s form shown from different perspectives



‘the design employs contemporary, state-of-the-art algorithmic extensions to historic design techniques usually found in stone masonry of yesteryear,’ the team adds. however, ZHA also believes that the project could serve as a test-bed for the potential deployment of novel material and manufacturing technology at a much larger, architectural scale.

zaha hadid marble chair
design iterations

zaha hadid marble chair
design workflow

zaha hadid marble chair
material and fabrication

zaha hadid marble chair
the chair shown during its construction

zaha hadid marble chair
the team sought to retain the proportions, scale, and form of the original design



project info:


zaha hadid architects —
design: patrik schumacher
design team: ZH code — shajay bhooshan, vishu bhooshan, henry david louth, marko margeta, taole chen
engineering team: AKT II — edoardo tibuzzi, lorenzo greco
primary sponsor: generelli SA — matteo generelli
other sponsors: new fundamentals research group — guiseppe fallacara, maurizio barberio
new york institute of technology — maria perbellini


dimensions: 91 cm w x 84 cm d x 74.cm h
material: palissandro classico marble: polished finish
italian marble with a cream colour and delicate hazel stripes; slightly pearlescent
using computer numeric control (CNC) manufacture (variable thickness 8-12mm) carbon fibre roll: woven black finish
5 layers – 1mm total thickness
fabrication: european patent EP3156221A1 ‘method of production of objects in stone and composite material’