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Zaha Hadid


Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre (2007)

Zaha Hadid has described the design of the Performing Arts Centre as: ‘A sculptural form that emerges from a linear intersection of pedestrian paths within the cultural district, gradually developing into a growing organism that sprouts a network of successive branches. As it winds through the site, the architecture increases in complexity, building up height and depth and achieving multiple summits in the bodies housing the performance spaces, which spring from the structure like fruits on a vine and face westward, toward the water.’

The building’s distinct formal language is derived from a set of typologies evident in organizational systems and growth in the natural world – natural scenarios formed the release and subsequent decline of energy supplied to enclosed systems. The PAC’s ‘energy’ is symbolized by the predominant movements in the urban fabric along the central axis of the pedestrian corridor and the cultural centre’s seafront promenade – the site’s two intersecting primary elements.

Growth-simulation processes have been used to develop spatial representations into a set of basic geometries and then superimposed with programmatic diagrams into a series of repeated cycles. The primary components of this biological analogy (branches, stems, fruits and leaves) are then transformed from these abstract diagrams into architectonic design.

Rock London Gallery (2011)

The Roca London Gallery is a single space of 1100m2 including connected, semi-open zones for product displays and a meeting room space seamlessly incorporating a range of interactive technologies and audio visual resources. Designed as a versatile multi-purpose environment, the Gallery will host a wide range of social and cultural events, including exhibitions, meetings, presentations, debates and receptions. Zaha Hadid Architects has fully addressed this need for a place defining harmony between form and function in which visitors experience the very essence of Roca.

The design brings about a connective language between the architecture and the bathroom products, with the movement of water ‘carving out’ the interior and moving through the Gallery as individual drops. A flowing, all-white space made of faceted GRG (gypsum) panels serves as a central axis of the Gallery. Around this a number of smaller connected semi-enclosed spaces can be viewed through openings in walls. As a result, the visitor never feels enclosed in one space, but can always see beyond it into the space through overlapping and cutaway forms that enable a pleasing permeability to the Gallery.

The design theme of water movement extends to the dynamic façade of the Roca London Gallery, which appears initially to the visitor approaching the architecture like a set of ripples in movement across the exterior of the ground level space. The grey façade has large apertures for the main entrance and windows and an appearance of tactility, creating a sense of intrigue on the street as the visitor approaches.

Water defines the landscape of the interior space, creating a sense of mobile liquidity reinforced by a series of elongated, illuminated water drops. These cascade around the ceiling as a set of lighting fixtures, down the walls as shelves for books, media and small products, and onto the floor as tables and seating. Their fluid lines of convergence both lend each area of the space an individual identity and connect them by the way they define a feeling of movement.

All the panels, which are made of GRC, or fibre reinforced concrete and extend up to 2.20 metres in height, have been pre-fabricated in moulds and constructed on-site. The façade is made of 2 x 4 metre panels of 800kg each. The panels creating the interior walls are 6cm thick and made of two waffled concrete layers sandwiching a honeycomb mesh that can stress in different directions and is very robust as a composite material. The furniture is made from GRP, or reinforced plastic, including the cove-shaped reception desk. The lighting scheme created by Isometrix is also innovative in a complementary way, with special features including washing the walls in light and a mix of direct and dispersed mood lights.

Part of the brief was to include a series of bathroom product ensembles integrated in the space, and the Gallery’s walls give way in six locations to semi-enclosed, cave-like spaces of GRC panels for the product displays, as well as to the bar and reception area. The cocoon- like meeting space has a wall of GRG, a continuation of the Gallery’s central axis. A special feature of the Gallery is the floor of the product exhibition areas, which has a mosaic of porcelain tiles designed exclusively for the space by Zaha Hadid Architects. With each one cut and laid individually, the design creates an optical effect inspired by a water current.

The geometry is akin to natural forms, with no one point in the space being projected vertically. The language of fluidity and natural movement is driven by ZHA’s commitment to parametric design tools and to the creative possibilities arising from the constant evolution of manufacturing processes and techniques. Both panels and the moulds used to create them were realised via 3D modelling, and produced in a sequence so that they would be fully compatible. 

Born in Baghdad Iraq in 1950, Zaha Hadid commenced her college studies at the American University in Beirut, in the field of mathematics. She moved to London in 1972 to study architecture at the Architectural Association and upon graduation in 1977, she joined the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). She also taught at the Architectural Association (AA) with OMA collaborators Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis.

She began her own practice in London in 1980 and won the prestigious competition for the Hong Kong Peak Club, a leisure and recreational center in 1983. Painting and drawing, especially in her early period, are important techniques of investigation for her design work. Ever since her 1983 retrospective exhibition at the AA in London, her architecture has been shown in exhibitions worldwide and many of her works are held in important museum collections.

Known as an architect who consistently pushes the boundaries of architecture and urban design, her work experiments with new spatial concepts intensifying existing urban landscapes and encompassing all fields of design, from the urban scale to interiors and furniture.

She is well-known for some of her seminal built works, such at the Vitra Fire Station (1993), Weil am Rhein, Germany, the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome (1999) Greenwich, UK, a ski jump (2002) in Innsbruck, Austria and the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (2003) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Parallel with her private practice, Hadid has continued to be involved in academics, holding chairs and guest professorships at Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, the University of Visual Arts in Hamburg and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.


Artist's information: excerpted from The Pritzker Architecture Prize website

Images and work descriptions: excerpted from Zaha Hadid Architects Website

Al Wakrah Stadium (2014)


Beethoven Concert Hall (2009)

Overcoming the inherent limitations of an earlier 1950s building, the new Beethoven Symphony Hall links city to Rhine promenade, creating and enriching public life besides this great river.

The new structure rises as a porous, multifaceted crystalline mass, growing out of earth, seeming to float on water – presenting a dramatic atrium, the ‘Rhine Foyer’ to both river and city. Welcoming and exciting visitors in anticipation of a unique musical and architectural experience.

Visitors circulate through and around the building at many levels, moving through an artificial landscape typified by terraces, elevated foyers and exterior plateaus. Primary access from Bonn is via a long, diagonal passage or ‘erosion’ connecting city centre to the Rhine Foyer, from which staircases descend to both promenade and river. Here, curved seating faces out over seasonal floating performance area as light descending from within the structure transforms the hall into a performer in its own right.

Within the building, inlays to the larger wooden symphonic hall mimic the resonance of a musical instrument; its formal counterpoint is a smaller recital chamber. Both spaces are effectively ‘wrapped’ within their own skins – both volumes are subtly visible through the exterior envelope – further enhancing the sensation that this is a natural arena formed by rock arrangements and erosions. 

Bergisel Ski Jump (2002)

Overlooking and visible from downtown Innsbruck, the new ski jump (opened 2002) is a major landmark – one element in a broader refurbishment project for the Olympic Arena. It replaces an earlier ski jump which no longer meets international standards.

The jump itself contains ski ramp and sports facilities, public spaces including a tower-top café and viewing terraces within a single structure. Rising to a height of almost 50 meters, its distinctive form (part tower/part bridge) and unique silhouette pulls and extends the topography of the ski slopes below into the sky above.

Structurally, the jump comprises a vertical concrete tower and spatial green element, within which the ramp and café are both integrated. Two elevators carry visitors to the café, which stands 40m above the peak of Bergisel Mountain, from where they can enjoy the surrounding alpine landscape and watch the ski jumpers below soar across the Innsbruck skyline.

Our ski jump on Bergisel mountains contains ski ramp and sports facilities, public spaces, including a tower-top café and viewing terrace. Rising to a height of almost 50m the structure’s distinctive form (part tower/part bridge) and silhouette extends the topography of the ski slopes below into the alpine sky above. 


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