In a radical move in 2000, Mehrdad Yazdani established the Yazdani Studio under the larger umbrella of CannonDesign. The shuffle surprised many architects, both competitors and some members within Cannon itself. The move created a firm within a firm, established to be both part of CannonDesign and at the same time somewhat separate. This allowed Yazdani to explore design ideas that were distinct and somewhat unusual when compared to most of the buildings coming out of the large architectural and engineering practice at the time.
Yazdani explains that his namesake studio is a platform for exploration of design ideas, separate from CannonDesign’s Los Angeles office. When you walk into the L.A. office of CannonDesign, you see a broad open space of desks, people, and computers, but the Yazdani Studio is set apart upstairs, almost as though it were a completely different office. The Yazdani Studio offers an innovative model for designer-centered ateliers, one where an architect can work with the security of a large practice and the flexibility of a boutique operation.
Yazdani came to CannonDesign when his previous firm, Dworsky Associates, was acquired by the larger office. For six years (1994-2000) Yazdani served as Design Director for Dworsky Associates in Los Angeles. During that time they were selected to design the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada as part of the national GSA Federal Design Excellence Program. The 437,000-square-foot project won acclaim and drew national attention, demonstrating that a federal courthouse could be both secure and welcoming, giving the judges both the monumentality they wanted and the public the accessibility they sought. The project’s success carried Yazdani’s national design reputation to such a level that when Dworsky Associates was acquired by CannonDesign in 2000, Yazdani was offered the option to create his own studio within the larger firm.
Creating the Yazdani Studio was a paradigm shift from how large integrated A/E firms had been working. Typically, if design was a high priority, a firm might promote one or two individuals to positions of authority and design leadership. Several examples made waves nationally: Ralph Johnson, FAIA, Global Design Director, at Perkins + Will; David Childs, FAIA at SOM New York and Craig Hartman, FAIA at SOM San Francisco, both Design Partners; and Joan Soranno, FAIA, Design Principal with John Cook, FAIA at HGA. All of these architects set design direction, lead clients and internal teams, and have won many national design awards, yet none have a studio in their name.
CannonDesign agreed to create the Yazdani Studio to help elevate design within the firm. Today with roughly 1,000 people and 20 offices, CannonDesign CEO, Brad Lukanic remains a strong proponent of the Yazdani Studio. This year, Lukanic invited Yazdani extend his influence further by joining the Cannon board of directors to bring, “pre-eminent design to the board.”
University of Utah, Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute
Salt Lake City, Utah
Consistent with the Yazdani Studio ambitions to constantly innovate, this was a first-of-its-kind facility, combining places for students to live, invent, and collaborate. It brings together 400 student residences and 20,000 square feet of “garage” or incubator space to encourage students to develop ideas that will spawn Utah-based start-ups. After being open for just over a year, the number of start-up companies developed on campus has tripled. The building attracts students from all over campus—it’s a magnet for creative thinking.
CJ Blossom Park
Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Recently selected as the “Lab of the Year” by R&D Magazine, this 1,200,000-square-foot facility is a new research headquarters for CJ Corporation intended to reposition the company’s operations into an interdisciplinary format, designed to “increase efficiency, create a culture of integrated innovation, and accelerate speed-to-market.” With a three-leaf-clover floor plan, the internal spaces encourage interaction and stimulate cross-fertilization.
Museum of Tolerance, Jerusalem, Permanent Exhibitions
A series of undulating pavilions provide a journey through human history. The 44,000-square-foot exhibit seeks to teach the core values of kindness and respect for mankind. The delicate human scale reflects the museum’s goal of teaching social justice and dignity through interactive, multi-media exhibits.
EMAAR Hospitality Address Towers at Harbour Point
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
EMAAR Properties selected the Yazdani Studio to design two major towers. The design frames the Santiago Calatrava-designed Observation Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour City, now under construction. EMAAR Properties gained international recognition when they developed the Burj Kalifa, the 160-story mixed use tower that is the tallest building in the world, designed by Adrian Smith, then of SOM. The Yazdani Studio-designed towers are 60 and 65 stories totaling 2,240,000 square feet.
The project serves as both a focal point and a gateway to the Dubai Creek Harbour.