One year after her untimely death, there is an exhibition of the work of Iranian architect Zaha Hadid in the Maxxi Museum in Rome. And it couldn’t have been a more appropriate place: the reconstruction of the old building in which the museum is housed is done by the master herself! Her signature unusual points of view of the interior, articulating space inside and out, is omnipresent throughout the building.
Focussing mainly on the buildings and projects she executed in Italy, but leaving room for a selection of her work elsewhere in the world, that signifies her development as an artist as well as an architect, the exhibit shows the marriage she made synthesizing elements of the natural environment and cultural surroundings from her childhood with the modern use of material and futuristic look of sinuous, flowing lines, and curvilinear geometries.
In addition to the buildings she designed as an architect, she also tried her hand on furniture, interior decor items such as vases, and jewelry. And all with ravishing results: I wouldn’t mind owning the gray, simulated leather couch in those unusual bendy shapes and flowing lines of hers!
Many designs, buildings as well as other designs, made me think of science fiction movies and series I have seen at one time or another. Some buildings echo Stanley Kubric’s 2001 A Space Odyssee, the white rounded interior of the space vessel, and its hallucinatory board computer HALL, for instance. And the use of Skai leather in couches next to the flowing asymmetric lines of the design, made me think of the tv-series The Jetsons. In a design for a hexagonal building complex and its surrounding grounds, I could imagine the swimming pool with sliding cover of the Thunderbirds tv-series. And the atomic age of the 50s and the 60s, including the outfits of Diana Rigg in The Avengers tv-series, came to mind often also, while taking in the different designs of buildings and objects.
But looking at some designs you see the influence of the environment in which she grew up, the organic, natural phenomena as she knew them resonating in it: wind-eroded rocks which also vaguely imitate interconnected beehives, shell structures worn to the bone, plant forms with their bloom reaching for the skies after rain, and leaves’ vines in horizontal structures.
Three high rises pointing upward called ‘Blossoming’ actually remind me more of a couple of tuning-forks. Looking at other high rises, they seem to me pressed together by some giant thumbs halfway through, and yet other high rises resemble vertical mazes.
One other building looks like a pile of dishes that are not stacked too neatly, which is called ‘incremental twisting’ in architectural language, and look like they are on the point of toppling over.
This all just goes to show that her designs spark imagination, and are never easy, straight forward structures, that you just walk past without noticing. Instead these eye-catching, arresting, exciting and slightly bewildering structures are audacious and utopian in nature. They call into question everything you thought you knew and believed about architecture.
She combines in her structures geometric forms in such a way that they almost give an impression of speed and movement, which of course is in blatant contrast to and, moreover, the very negation of the classic nature of buildings as silent, immobile structures. Her dynamic approach in design takes you away from that classic nature and pushes the presence of the building in your face.
Throughout her life Hadid kept experimenting, changing the lines of her structures from sharp and angular, to the flowing ones of plant-like structures, to the circular ones of beehives. Application of new technologies and solutions never ceased to interest her.
‘There should never be an end to experimentation’
Pioneering with new approaches, and new materials, she was ever investigating the premises of architecture and design. Trained in design, with its notions of field, mathematical flux, and vectors, she worked with adaptable and evolving design processes, from parametric design to the algorithmic approach. Using as her USP her design intuition, spatial sensibility, and material experimentation, she came to her extraordinary designs which can fortunately be admired for ages to come.
The scale on which she envisioned buildings grew ever bigger. She wasn’t a woman of small mind. Along with her success, of course her vision grew bigger. And given the opportunity, she went for the stars. Of course.
Also in the location of the places and cities where her buildings arose, you can see her growing name and fame reflected: starting in marginal and out of the way places she worked her way towards more prominent locations like New York and other world cities of much renown.
In the exhibition, you will find scale models, pictures, and wall projections of her work. The breath-taking photography, done by Hélène Binet, lends her designs an extra dimension – as if they needed that!
The exhibition Zaha Hadid in Italy, can be visited in the Maxxi in Rome, and runs until 14 January 2018. Go & see it, and get inspired to do some experimenting of your own, in whatever you’re into!