How I fell out of love with Zaha Hadid's architecture

Posted on April 4, 2016 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

The peak by Zaha Hadid

The Peak leisure club – Zaha Hadid's competition winning-design in Hong Kong (1982-83), though the project was never realised

 

Like most people, the death of world-renowned British Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid came as a shock when I heard it on the radio one afternoon. Suddenly, memories came flooding back, as she was someone I admired when I was an art student. Yet over the years, my admiration faded; while many of her star architect friends paid tribute to her and her legacy, I would like to contribute in my way, which consists of both positive and negative views of the controversial architect.

When I was doing my art foundation course in London years ago, I considered studying architecture partly because my cousin was studying at the Architectural Association (also known as AA) at the time. I started hanging out with her and her AA friends, and I thought it was 'cool' to be around these future architects. It was also around that period that I became interested in all things avant-garde – art, film, music, design and architecture – especially in visionary architecture and Archigram (an architecture movement of the 1960s formed at the AA).

 

The peak by Zaha Hadid

The model of The Peak Leisure Club

 

I was fascinated by the idealistic visions derived from utopian notion, and even wrote a thesis on the subject at university ( though I was studying graphic design at the time). The highly conceptual architectural movement broke all the rules – it was provocative, imaginative and artistic. And one of these visionary architects was the Pritzker Prize-winning Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who founded the world-renowned architectural practice OMA. Koolhaas studied and taught at AA, and Zaha Hadid was one of his students in the 1970s.

When I first encountered Zaha Hadid's work, I was mesmerised by her stunning blueprints and sketches esp. the ones she created at the AA. Her earlier designs were heavily influenced by Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich and Suprematism, the art movement founded by the artist. It was notably palpable in her winning project for The Peak in Hong Kong (see the blueprint and model above), which unfortunately failed to realise and now the site is occupied by a hideous and obtrusive building.

In the 80s, Hadid's designs often featured angular and geometric forms – rather than the curvy styles that she was later known for – and most of her buildings were deemed as too conceptual, thus, unbuildable.

 

Chanel's mobile gallery by Zaha Hadid

Chanel's mobile gallery by Zaha Hadid

Chanel's mobile gallery by Zaha Hadid

Chanel's mobile gallery by Zaha Hadid

Mobile Art Chanel contemporary art container, Paris (2008 – 2010)

 

As an Iraqi and female architect working in a male dominated industry, Hadid did struggle for a long time. For more than 10 years in the industry, she only had a few small-scale commissions – mostly from outside of the UK – and it was only at the beginning of the 21st century that her luck began to change.

 

MAXXI museum Rome

MAXXI museum Rome

MAXXI museum Rome

The exterior of MAXXI museum (2010) in Rome

 

It would be fair to say that the building that established her as a star architect was the MAXXI museum (1998–2010) in Rome, which also won the prestigious Stirling prize of 2010. I visited the museum a few years ago, and as you can see in the photos, it is an impressive building full of bold and futuristic elements influenced by the two Russian art movements of the 1920s: Suprematism and Constructivism.

 

MAXXI museum Rome  MAXXI museum Rome

MAXXI museum Rome

The interior of MAXXI museum in Rome

 

However, as she became more prolific, she also became more controversial. Aside from being criticised for her extravagant style, personal attacks on her character, ethics and responsibility as an architect also became newsworthy. Hadid, the dormant architect for decades, was suddenly the talk of the town.

As someone who has been following her career since the 90s, I began to lose interest in her work as stardom and fame struck her. In my opinion, her later works became more egocentric and narcissistic (like many other star architects from her generation), and they were more about making statements than fulfilling briefs. Their conspicuous and distinctive buildings are similar to designer handbags stamped with logos all over. Hadid's curvy and fluid style was instantly recognisable, and she applied this to her vast range of products including lighting, furniture, jewellery (for Caspita and Georg Jensen), shoes (for United nude, Melissa, Lacoste and Adidas etc) and handbags (for Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Chanel). Her name became a commercial brand, and her designs were often criticised as style over substance.


roca gallery

roca gallery

roca gallery

roca gallery

roca gallery  roca gallery

Roca Gallery, London (2009–11)

 

About 5 years ago, I attended a talk by Zaha Hadid and another architect at the Southbank Centre. It was one of the most boring and odd talks that I have ever attended. She and her friend were chatting among themselves on stage, making in-jokes about their architect friends, it was as though they were having a conversation at home! They completely neglected the audience, and I, like many others were rather flummoxed by the talk.

 

The Serpentine Sackler Gallery

The Serpentine Sackler Gallery

The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (2009-2013)

 

Despite my disappointment with Hadid's later designs, I still consider her as one of most influential architects of our generation. Like I mentioned earlier, her earlier conceptual projects were ground-breaking and unconventional; she was a true visionary architect. However, she became a victim of her own success as her commissions grew grander and more improvident, and only time will tell whether her legacy will last.

 

Zaha Hadid's London shop  Zaha Hadid's London shop

Zaha Hadid's London shop

Zaha Hadid's London shop

P1040313  P1040303

Zaha Hadid's London shop

Zaha Hadid's shop in Clerkenwell, London

 

Stuart Weitzman Hong Kong by Zaha Hadid

Stuart Weitzman shop in the IFC shopping mall, Hong Kong

 

 


This post was posted in Architecture, Contemporary and was tagged with contemporary architecture, Zaha Hadid

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