Wednesday 16 October 2019
Zaha Hadid: an Architectural Superstar
Mr Colin Davies
Summary by Derek Latham:-
Zaha’s career fell into two distinct phases: firstly what Prof Davies described as her artistic period, when she gave full rein to her vivid imagination; influenced by avante-garde practitioners such as Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright her early designs were fanciful and often impracticable. Later came the practical phase, when she condensed her ideas into achievable yet still way-out, modernistic projects. Some of the illustrations Prof Davies showed us of the first phase needed his interpretation to unfurl. One such was a hotel which formed part of Hungerford Bridge. Another example which at first glance appeared to be a painting of a random mish-mash of buildings and landscapes was, he showed us, in fact an aerial map of London. Centered on what was just about recognisable as the church of St Martin in the Fields he pointed out the river and a number of prominent London landmarks and it all began to make some sense. Prof Davies stressed that this free-thinking and imaginative outlook was key to the later development of the achievable application of architectural principles in Zaha’s highly successful public designs. So there was a time before the full development of Zaha’s practical skills when her attempts at commercial designs did not bear fruit. Zaha was bitterly disappointed when although it was pronounced the winner of the competition her submission for an opera house in Cardiff Bay was not accepted by the authorities.
However Prof Davies then showed us a succession of the buildings designed by Zaha which did come to fruition and which have won her the accolade of being called the world’s greatest female architect. Outstanding in these is the London Aquatics Centre built for the 2012 Olympic Games, the Heydal Alizev Cultural Centre in Baku, the Guangzhou Opera House and the Beijing Daxing Airport, both in China, the Maxxi Imperial Museum in Rome and the Vitra Fire Station in Germany (now a museum). A project for BMW in Leipzig (an extraordinary design in which the car production line is merged with administrative offices) was hailed as a highly successful example of Zaha’s architectural talents. Closer to home is the magnificent Riverside Museum of Transport in Glasgow, which several of us have visited without realising it is the work of Zaha Hadid.
The style of Zaha Hadid’s work has been described as “deconstructivism”. All curves, and not a 90deg angle in sight. Prof. Davies pointed out how in a practical sense she had embraced the freedom which CADCAM (Computer Aided Design, Computer Aided Manufacture) allowed her. For instance In the Baku project one structure had 10,000 differently shaped cladding panels, no two of them the same, but CADCAM permitted a totally successful and eye-catching outcome.
Apart from her post at the Architectural Association Zaha taught widely in America and Europe, and won many accolades for her work. She was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004) and she also won the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011, among numerous other international awards . Zaha held dual Iraqi and English nationality and was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2012 for services to architecture. Dame Zaha Hadid died of a heart attack in Miami at the age of 65. She never married or had a partner – her work was her life.