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Zaha Hadid

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

June 3 to October 25, 2006

Queen of energetic, explosive works of varied perspectives

Rendering of Louvre expansion

Rendering of addition proposed for the Louvre in Paris

By Carter B. Horsley

The retrospective exhibition on Zaha Hadid at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2006 makes it abundantly clear that Ms. Hadid is the foremost creator of intriguing architectural compositions in the world, surpassing even Frank O. Gehry in this regard.

Gehry, of course, is the pre-eminent architect in the world as measured by his completed projects. In comparison, Ms. Hadid has only a handful of projects that have brought to fruition as real buildings, although this exhibition suggests that her built portfolio is likely to be grow substantially over the next few years.

Museum rotunda

Rotunda of Guggenheim Museum's Hadid exhibition

The exhibition is overwhelming and a bit claustrophobic: despite the fact that it occupies all the exhibition space in the museum's famous rotunda, there is too much to absorb. For those only familiar with a couple of Hadid works such as "The Peak," a proposal for a country club in Hong Kong, and a recent building in Cincinatti, this exhibition is a real eye-opener that goes a long way to explaining her quite impressive reputation in architectural circles.

It perhaps might have been better to have organized it into three separate and consecutive shows: the first based on her remarkable paintings and drawings; the second based on her even more fantastic models; and the third based on photographs, models, and renderings of her completed and in-progress projects. This exhibition takes the non-unreasonable, chronological approach to her work and is accompanied by a catalogue that is good but frustrating.

One comes away from a couple of visits to the museum and a quick reading of the catalogue visually exhausted and rather dumb-founded.

"The World"

"The World (89 Degrees)," by Zaha Hadid, acrylic on canvas, 83 7/8 by 72 1/16 inches, 1983, ©Zaha Hadid, Ltd., London

Some artists and architects create an oeuvre with a consistent and rather easily identifiable style. One can recognize such a style in Hadid's early large paintings, which are energetic, explosive works of varying and mixed perspectives. One such example is "The World," a large 1983 acrylic painting that is one of the simpler ones.

Her visions of warped, colliding "worlds" at first glance appeared to be cosmic and universal rather than specific, single-project oriented. Closer examination of some of the images reveal that the subject of the work, the project, have contexts that exist with similar dimensionalities, which is to say, that her "projects" have no discernible "roots," "specificity," and are very abstract.

"Grand Buildings, London" by Hadid

"Grand Buildings, London," by Zaha Hadid Architects, acrylic on canvas, 90 9/16 by 53 9/16 inches, 1985, ©Zaha Hadid, Ltd., London

Another early large painting, "Grand Buildings, London," is supposed to capture "the behavior of Hadid's proposal project for Trafalgar Square during a 24-hour period. Like many of her early large paintings, its swirling forms have something of a faschinating, hynoptic, almost pscyhedelic impact as if through a three-dimensional kaleidoscope.

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid has been "The Flying Dutchman" of contemporary architecture for almost a generation: a mythical, rather undecipherable force whose works have been more virtual than real, whose influence has not matched her fame. Although she became the first woman recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 2004, her oeuvre remains largely unknown to the public.

For the cognoscienti, however, her warped visions hinted at exciting new worlds and new dimensions. Her drawings were more colorful and wilder than those of Peter Eisenman, the profession's most intellectual practitioner. She seemed to be visualizing a new language of forceful and very dynamic forms, well in advance of computer-aided designs.

Her roots were at the Royal Academy in London where she studied with Rem Koolhaus, a serious but at times whimsical architect of considerable influence. Koolhaus has finally gotten around to building some good and quite interesting projects, but Hadid's built oeuvre is still small and while interesting not really cataclysmic.

Yet her reputation has not faltered and her current retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York gives ample evidence of her genius. She has been very, very busy and produced a staggeringly impressive body of work that is without equal for its inventiveness.

Untangling Hadid is not easy. Her work owes a substantial debt to the Russian Constructivists and the more recent Deconstructivist style of architecture. Examining her designs reveals planes to float and fly apart, but despite the explosive chaos of some of her renderings there is an organic goo to her work that keeps it from falling apart like a discarded, splayed corpse. There is a pounding heartbeat and staccato rhythm to many of her designs.

The following commentary is from the Pritzker Prize citation:

"The architectural career of Zaha Hadid has not been traditional or easy. She entered the field with illustrious credentials. Born in Baghdad, she studied at the highly regarded Architectural Association in London, was a partner in the avant gard Office of Metropolitan Architecture with Rem Koolhaas, and has held prestigious posts at one time or another at the world’s finest universities including Harvard, Yale, and many others. Much admired by the younger generation of architects, her appearance on campuses is always a cause for excitement and overflowing audiences.

"Her path to world-wide recognition has been an heroic struggle as she inexorably rose to the highest ranks of the profession. Clients, journalists, fellow professionals are mesmerized by her dynamic forms and strategies for achieving a truly distinctive approach to architecture and its settings. Each new project is more audacious than the last and the sources of her originality seem endless.

"Ms. Hadid has become more and more recognized as she continues to win competition after competition, always struggling to get her very original winning entries built. Discouraged, but undaunted, she has used the competition experiences as a 'laboratory' for continuing to hone her exceptional talent in creating an architectural idiom like no other....

"The competition winning phase of Ms. Hadid’s career gradually began to result in built works such as the Vitra Fire Station, the LFone in Weil am Rhein, the Mind Zone in the Millennium Dome and reached a recent high point with the opening of the critically acclaimed Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, Ohio."

Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic who then was a member of the Pritzker jury, remarked that "Hadid’s fragmented geometry and fluid mobility do more than create an abstract, dynamic beauty; this is a body of work that explores and expresses the world we live in.”

Another member of the same jury, Carlos Jimenez observed that "Presaged by an inimitable graphic and formal exuberance, Zaha Hadid’s work reminds us that architecture is a siphon for collective energies, a far cry from the stand alone building, perennially oblivious to the vitality of the city," adding that "Buildings for Hadid are thresholds, passageways, that reveal or intersect the ever shifting actions of the city. Her work celebrates this encounter as the catalyst through which hidden, past, present or future events revolve."

There is, unquestionably, a lot of hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo associated with Hadid's work, or at least the finished product that so far has not lived up to the hype.

In the media kit for her Pritzker Prize, it was noted that "More recently, she held the Kenzo Tange Chair at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University; the Sullivan Chair at the University of Illinois, School of Architecture in Chicago; and has held guest professorships at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg, the Knolton School of Architecture, Ohio and the Masters Studio at Columbia University, New York. In addition, she was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture and a Commander of the British Empire, 2002. She is currently Professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria and is the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor of Architectural Design for the Spring Semester 2004 at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut."

The media kit also listed her "built works":

"Zaha Hadid’s built work has won her much academic and public acclaim. Her best known projects to date are the Vitra Fire Station and the LFone pavilion in Weil am Rhein, Germany (1993/1999), the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome, Greenwich, London, UK (1999), a Tram Station and Car Park in Strasbourg, France (2001), a Ski Jump in Innsbruck, Austria (2002) and the Contemporary Arts Centre, Cincinnati, US (2003). She has also completed furniture and interiors: Bitar, London (1985); Moonsoon Restaurant, Sapporo (1990); Z-Play (2002) and Z-Scape (2000) furniture manufactured by Sawaya and Moroni; and the Tea and Coffee Towers for Alessi (2003). Her temporary structures include: Folly in Osaka (1990); Music Video Pavilion in Groningen, Netherlands (1990); a Pavilion for Blueprint Magazine at Interbuild, Birmingham (1995); the installation Meshworks at the Villa Medici, Rome, Italy (2000) the summer pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery, London, UK (2000); and the R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Pavilion, Barcelona, Spain (2001). Zaha Hadid has also worked on a number of stage sets: Pet Shop Boys World Tour (1999/2000); Metapolis, for Charleroi Dance production company, Belgium (2000); and Beat Furrer’s opera, Desire, commissioned by the Steirischer Herbst, Graz (2003), and an Ice and Snow Installation in Lapland."

Such accomplishments are mildly impressive, but the real excitement is what has been on the drawing boards. The following is the media kit's list at the time of winning the Pritzker Prize:

"Zaha Hadid’s office is working on a variety of projects: the Contemporary Arts Centre “MAXXI” in Rome, Italy; the Ordrupgaard Museum extension in Copenhagen, Denmark; a Guggenheim Museum in Taichung; a Science Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany; a Maritime Ferry Terminal in Salerno, Italy; a High Speed Train Station in Napoli-Afragola, Italy; a public square and cinema complex in Barcelona, Spain; a masterplan for Singapore’s Science Hub; a masterplan for Bilbao’s Zorrozaurre district, Spain; a masterplan for Beijing’s Soho City, China; the interior design for “Hotel Puerta America” in Madrid, Spain; a Central Plant Building for BMW in Leipzig, Germany; a social housing project ‘Spittelau Viaduct’ in Vienna, Austria; a major bridge structure in Abu Dhabi; the Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy, Scotland; an extension of the Price Tower Arts Centre in Bartlesville, USA; the Opera House in Guangzhou, China; and a new archive, library, and sport center in Montpellier, France."

Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany

Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg, Germany, 1999-2005. Photo: Hélène Binet

Perhaps the best "built" Hadid project is the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany, that was built between 1999 and 2005. The building is supported by very large angled columns that are intended to permit the space beneath the building to "become part of the urban fabric" and the building's "distorted" shape is intended to "convey movement and the sense of transformation."

The building resembles a bent punch card from the early days of computing or a model of a barcode spaceship. It is attractive.


BMW building, Leipzig, Germany

BMW Plant Central Building, Leipzig, Germany, 2001–06. Photo: Roland Halbe

Hadid's BMW Central Building in Liepzig, Germany, was built between 2001 and 2006 and its exterior is not as interesting as itsinteriors where a car production line passes over multilevel floor plates with platforms that function as open office spaces.

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The prize was established in 1979 by The Hyatt Foundation.

Hadid is the third architect from the United Kingdom to be awarded the Pritzker Prize: the late James Stirling of Great Britain was elected in 1981, and in 1999 Lord (then Sir Norman) Foster. Philip Johnson was the first Pritzker Laureate in 1979. The late Luis Barragán of Mexico was named in 1980. Kevin Roche in 1982, Ieoh Ming Pei in 1983, and Richard Meier in 1984. Hans Hollein of Austria was the 1985 Laureate. Gottfried Böhm of Germany received the prize in 1986. Kenzo Tange was the first Japanese architect to receive the prize in 1987; Fumihiko Maki was the second from Japan in 1993; and Tadao Ando the third in 1995. Robert Venturi received the honor in 1991, and Alvaro Siza of Portugal in 1992. Christian de Portzamparc of France was elected Pritzker Laureate in 1994. The late Gordon Bunshaft of the United States and Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil, were named in 1988. Frank Gehry was the recipient in 1989, the late Aldo Rossi of Italy in 1990. In 1996, Rafael Moneo of Spain was the Laureate; in 1997 Sverre Fehn of Norway; in 1998 Renzo Piano of Italy, and in 2000, Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands. In 2001, two architects from Switzerland received the honor: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Australian Glenn Murcutt won the prize in 2002. Danish architect Jørn Utzon was chosen in 2003.

The Guggenheim exhibition provides the following commentary by Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, the museum's assistant curator of Architecture and Design:

"At the outset of her career, Hadid’s architectural practice followed Russian Constructivist ideals from the early 1920s. Based on floating simple geometries, lines and planes frozen in time and space, her early architectural representations presented broken, compound angles with acute interstices that expressed considerable tension. These early projects were most commonly represented in large-format paintings. For Hadid, turning to painting was a necessity. Feeling that traditional methods of representing architecture were not appropriate for inventing new ideas, she used painting to research representations of three dimensions through multiple perspectives. Her reconsideration of the architectural drawing, through nontraditional floor plans with spatial configurations open to interpretation, had a major impact on all areas of design and architecture.

"Since then, she has moved from abstraction and fragmentation to fluidity and seamless complexity. The first fractured forms have given place to a system of fluid and undulating shapes. While the formal treatment of the three-dimensionality of the Constructivists influenced Hadid as a student, her primary interest was their utopian program of inserting “social condensers” into architecture. These condensers were spaces meant to encourage social contact. Hadid’s research has focused on potential forms that would integrate public space in the dispersed 20th-century city by creating spaces whose functions are not defined. Hadid resorts to different strategies in her search for a new texture for the public space. She has challenged the Cartesian grid and the single perspective, set forth the potential of fragmentation and distortion, and developed the notions of “fluidity” and “artificial landscapes” to achieve it. The attack on the Cartesian grid, the geometric system that organizes shapes into horizontal and vertical coordinates, has allowed her to explore territories untapped by architecture. The painting The World (89 Degrees) (1983), for example, presented a distorted horizon, revealing unexplored intermediate spaces. The relevance of those spaces is their capacity to become part of a public space aimed at social and cultural interaction. Challenging gravity and the logic of the single perspective, Hadid’s paintings suspend the body of the viewer in a succession of perspectives. The result is a multiplicity of viewpoints and an absence of structural and spatial hierarchy, producing an unfolding of the space that appears to be fragmented. Fragmentation allows for new interaction between the architecture and its site. The plans for the Zollhof 3 Media Park in Düsseldorf (unbuilt, 1989–93), situated along a harbor, fragment one continuous structure through a number of incisions to create different relationships with the water. Through the fragments of this long building, Hadid created an unorthodox response to the site and provided different options of public access to the waterfront.

"Multiple viewpoints also produce distortion, and Hadid takes advantage of that distortion as an optimistic tool to adapt the architecture to a site. After experimenting with this notion in The Peak, Hadid was finally able to materialize these explorations in the 1994 Vitra Fire Station (Weil am Rhein, Germany, 1990–94). She achieved distortion here by stretching the building alongside the development’s central street and breaking it into different planes that serve as walls. The walls appear to tilt, move, break, and want to fly away. Constructed in solid concrete, the Vitra building achieves a sense of transparency through a multiplicity of views into the interior. The disappearance of one prominent frontal plane opens up the possibility of mulitple entries into the building.

"The fluid relation between ground and building, a constant program in Hadid’s work, is the dominant characteristic of the environmental research center and exhibition space LFOne Landesgardenschau (Weil Am Rhein, 1996–99). The building intends to recuperate the way nature establishes territories that define space by means of overlaps, rhythms, and textures. The figure of LFOne is not contained—it continues into its surroundings while simultaneously emerging from the paths already suggested in the landscape. The consolidation of those different paths also gives way to a lifting of the ground, making it unclear where the “ground floor” begins or ends as it curves up and expands into different terraced spaces. The indefinite boundaries create fluid spaces that allow for spontaneous social activities. The blurring of boundaries and the creation of fluid spaces also inspires the creation of new artificial landscapes.

"As her architecture continues to explore new possibilities for public space, Hadid incorporates smoother surfaces, and the built form becomes almost a landscape form. Her latest work, the Phaeno Science Center (Wolfsburg, Germany, 1999–2005), rises from the ground with strange undulating forms that liberate an open space below its belly. This rescued urban space unifies the elements of its surroundings and produces a new artificial landscape dominated by funnel-shaped cones. The strangeness of the landscaped access to the building are also present in the interior. The Phaeno’s smoothness, seamlessness, and distortion is evident in walls that seem to melt, floors that curve upward, and ceilings that appear to compress, bend, and expand, creating a sense of constant transformation. Hadid’s early fractured forms have given place over her 30-year career to more fluid and undulating shapes without letting go of her initial intensity and conviction. Her suggestive buildings with tilting spaces, exteriors that blend with the interiors, and forms that project out into their surroundings, have found a way to incorporate seamlessness and deformation in exciting and moving ways. For Hadid architecture is not about recognizing and feeling comfortable in familiar spaces. Her buildings are stages for new ways of socializing, for the unpredictable to occur."

Once considered unbuildable, her projects can now be seen around the world, including major projects in Europe, North America and Asia. Hadid's most recent work incorporates smooth surfaces where walls seem to melt, floors curving upward, and ceilings that appear to compress, bend and expand.

The 316-page catalogue of the exhibition features color illustrations of designs and models, previously unpublished paintings and photographs of buildings at all stages of construction, and two previously unpublished interviews with Hadid by Alvin Boyarsky.

In his June 2, 2006 review of the exhibition in The New York Times, architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff describes Ms. Hadid as "architecture's diva, the most precocious talent in her profession" and he claims that the exhibition "illuminates her capacity for bridging different worlds: between traditional perspective drawing and slick computer-generated imagery, between the era of utopian manifestos and the ambiguous values of the information age."

After growing up in Baghdad, she bounced, according to Mr. Ouroussoff, "to Switzerland and Lebanon before settling in the mid-1970's in London, where she cut her teeth as a student at the Architectural Association, then a center of experimentation." "It was there," Mr. Ouroussoff continued, "that she met Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis and Bernard Tschumi, architects who would leap to the forefront of experimental European architecture in the following decade. Shaped by the 1968 student protests, those architects were groping for a way to distinguish themselves from their immediate forebears without sundering their ties to Modernity. Many of them found inspiration in the utopian forms of the Soviet Constructivists, an attraction that had the romantic benefit of having been crushed in its infancy by Stalin."

Not all critics have been smitted with Hadid. In a review of the exhibition posted at Slate.com June 21, 2006, Witold Rybczynski observes that "The paintings—and there are many—are cartoonish, like frames from a sci-fi comic strip."

"Despite their presentation and surroundings," Mr. Rybcyznski continued, "it's hard to take them seriously as art, so perhaps they are merely a testimony to the architecture. The beautifully crafted models, in wood, metal, and glass, have the self-sufficiency of abstract sculptures, pure undiluted form. After the exquisite models, mundane reality intrudes: In the photographs of the actual buildings, the geometrical shapes turn into windows, with sills, and sashes, and caulking; pristine geometry is interrupted by metal handrails; the smooth concrete cracks. The impression is of idealized forms left out in the rain, to paraphrase a remark of Frank Lloyd Wright's to Philip Johnson....Hadid's taste for retro fashion was evident in her first project, The Peak, which is appropriately accorded its own room at the very beginning of the exhibit. Designed in 1982, The Peak is a hotel on a dramatic mountainside overlooking Hong Kong. Although the competition-winning scheme was never built, it brought Hadid international recognition. In hindsight, it looks pretty tame, a revival of Russian Suprematism combined with the 1950s googly architecture of Miami Beach, Fla., and Wildwood, N.J. Next to the model and drawings of the building (unlabeled, like everything else in the show, so it's impossible to understand how the building actually functions) are two examples of seating designed by the architect in 1985-86. What is striking is the extent to which the forms of the building and the furniture are interchangeable....Walter Gropius once said that an architect should be able to design a city or a teacup. Whatever the merits of such a dubious claim, even Gropius wouldn't have suggested that teacups and cities were interchangeable. In Zaha's world, they are."

Z-car prototype

Z-Car, prototype design by Zaha Hadid for Kenny Schacter ROVE, London, 2005

Mr. Rybcyznski is perhaps too harsh. Hadid clearly has a fine design talent as evidenced by her lovely Z-Car prototype produced in 2005 for Kenny Schacter ROVE, London, shown above, and her "Tea and Coffee Tower" manufactured in 2003 by Alessi.

Hérault Culture Sport in Montpelier, France


Hérault Culture Sport, Montpelier, France, digital rendering by Zaha Hadid Architects, 2002-ongoing

One might begin to despair that Hadid might be just another superb architectural draftsperson, or teapot designer, but then there are her current building designs, some of which are...alluring, sinuous and sexy, such as the Hérault Culture Sport in Montpelier, France that is an on-going project since 2002.

Glasgow Museum of Transport in Scotland

Glasgow Museum of Transport, Riverside Project, Scotland, 2004-ongoing, Zaha Hadid Architects

More daring is her design for the Glasgow Museum of Transport, Riverside Project, in Scotland, that has been on-going since 2004. From its front at ground-level it appears to have a cardiogram roofline, but from above it appears to be the bottom of a spectacular, pleated Fortuny dress in the midst of a Charleston (dance).

CMA CGM Head Office in Marseilles

CMA CGM Head Office, Marseilles, France, Zaha Hadid Architects

The CMA CGM Head Office in Marseille is a very nice blue-glass tower with sloping sides.

Hadid's most daring and intriguing design appeared last year as a digital rendering, shown at the top of this article, of a competition design for a proposed expansion of the Department of Islamic Art in the Cour Visconti, a neo-Classical courtyard.

Her submission did not win the competition. The winning design of a contemporary sail-like roof made up of small glass disks was submitted by Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti and in July, 2005 Prince Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabia announced he was giving $20 million towards the project's $67 million construction costs. Completion is scheduled for 2009.

Hadid's Louvre wing

Another view of Hadid's losing competition entry for an Islamic wing expansion at the Louvre

Hadid's proposed building appeared somewhat like a cardboard milk container that has been squashed so that its bottom is severely bent back upon itself while its top is tentatively trying to right itself. Of course, this is no ordinary milk container but something fitting for a King, or Queen, of Persepolis, or Mesopotamia. From the mesmerizing renderings, it would appear to have a metallic facade punctuated by openings shaped like "arrows," sometimes singly, sometimes in joined pairs, sometimes dark and slightly recessed, sometimes protruding and golden.

While I. M. Pei shocked the world with his glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre, his design was relatively free-standing and open. Hadid's design, on the other hand, is tightly surrounded by a Neo-classical courtyard from which her "emerging" construction appears ready to bound, and devour Paris and then the world with stylish licks.

aerial view of Louvre project

Aerial digital rendering of Hadid's proposed Louvre wing

Could Hadid have topped Pei?

Pei's pyramid was an enlarged version of his much smaller cluster of pyramids between the old National Gallery of Art in Washington and his sensational East Wing Building. His Louvre pyramid was a shocking modern intrusion. Immensely controversial, it has, however, worked because it is a simple, abstract, modern sculpture that clashes with but does not overwhelm its traditional surroundings.

Hadid's design for a Islamic Department expansion at the Louvre, on the other hand, promised to take over all of the courtyard in gargantuan fashion. It was a wondrous, masterly structure that might well be an unquestioned masterpiece in a different, larger setting. It is quite an amazing and arrogant design that is highly original, much more so than Pei's pyramid.

It is proof that Hadid is a form-maker of immense talent and imagination. The winning design by Martini and Rosso is a bold, flowing, flying carpet of a structure but one that is much lower in height than Hadid's design.

In a catalogue essay, "In the Nature of Design Materials: the Instruments of Zaha Hadid's Vision," Joseph Giovannini discusses this competition design and notes that "In a classic Boolean move that produced a completely hypnotic project, she took two different volumes with different sections and intersected the two get a third shape whose adaptive irregularity allowed breathing room for the facades of one of the Louvre's oldest courtyards, permitting space for light to penetrate into the lower floors. Hadid wrapped the distorted shape, rising in the courtyard like an angular emanation, in a pattern inspired by Islamic geometries. The pattern itself, conforming to the irregular volume like a dress wrapped on a bias around a body, stretched differentially across its surface. The surface distortions resulted from algorithms made along a path from a small square rotated thirty degrees to a larger square. Only two computer operations, the Boolean combining of volumes and a distortion of the pattern in the rotation, created the design, which would have been impracticably difficult to conceive, draw, and dimension by hand. The geometries create a hallucinatory effect that fuses Hadid's underlying desire to 'make it strange' and the computer's generative capabilities."

Fiera di Milano, Milan

Fiera di Milano, digital rendering, Zaha Hadid Architects, on-going since 2004

Unfortunately, not all of her current projects demonstrate the same degree of genius.

Hadid's trio of high-rise towers known as the Fiera di Milano, an on-going project since 2004, is much less successful and these three completely dissimilar towers compete unsuccessfully and look like an abandoned LEGO set.

Olympic Aquatic Centre, London

Olympic Aquatic Centre, London, Zaha Hadid Architects

In London, she is designing an Olympic Aquatic Centre that conjures a beached whale, a big beached whale.

2012 Olympic Village, New York City

2012 Olympic Village, New York City, Zaha Hadid Architects

In 2004, she designed an 2012 Olympic Village for New York that consisted of a cluster of golden-colored bulbous glass waterfront towers that was pretty as a rendering though perhaps not as an architectural ensemble.

Rendering of proposed Guangzhou Opera House

Rendering of proposed Guangzhou (China) Opera House by Zaha Hadid Architects

Far more successful than the aquatic centre design is her proposed Guangzhou Opera House in China, where she seems to be paying homage of a sort to the Gehry blockbuster building type by substituting the darkness of her cape for Gehry's bright titanium. The digital rendering for this project suggests that it may be rather ominous, yet the broad plaza with sunken plazas suggest that this might be an exciting project.

New Eusko Tram Central Headquarters, Durango, Spain

New Eusko Tram Central Headquarters and Urban Planning, Durango, Spain, 2003-ongoing, Zaha Hadid Architects

The New Eusko Tram Central Headquarters and Urban Planning in Durango, Spain, however, is fabulous, and is the logical "ticker-tape" successor to her "punch-card" design for the Phaeno project. The Durango program has been on-going since 2003.

The bottom line?

Hadid's built oeuvre has yet to live up to her tremendous promise as a designer/artist, but that promise remains exciting. The most impressive thing about this exhibition is the extremely impressive, indeed, rather staggering output of ideas. Some of her small sketches and studies are full of wonderful ideas and her models are exquisitely tactile.

Translating her rush of concepts into something walk-throughable and workable remains on-going....

 

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