In memory of Zaha Hadid, Trendesign presents a collection of her 11 most triumphal architectural achievements.
When Dame Zaha Hadid passed away in Miami on March 31 of this year aged just 65, the reverberations of the loss were felt across the worlds of architecture and design. Not only did her work push the boundaries of what had previously been thought possible on an architectural level, but she also inspired a generation of architects with her sharp wit and refusal to be categorised. Though she was considered by many to be a pioneer, both as a woman and as an Iraqi, she was adamant not to be known for these aspects alone. “People used to think that women did not have enough logic. Well that is absolute nonsense,” she famously said. And, as the first woman to win both the Pritzker Prize and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s annual gold medal for her body of work, her architecture projects truly spoke for themselves.
MAXXI NATIONAL MUSEUM OF 21ST CENTURY ARTS (2009)
Hadid won the 2010 RIBA Stirling Prize for the MAXXI building, the most prestigious architectural accolade in the United Kingdom. A multifaceted space devoted to “experimentation and innovation in the arts and architecture,” its façade is relatively simple, designed by Hadid to be “fashion-proof” – after all, there is a lot of the 21st century left for it to weather. It is inside where the real genius of the design becomes apparent; five distinct structures lean against each other, designed to withstand shocks, as Italian regulations have dictated since the country’s 2002 earthquake. A strange rhythm of tunnels, walkways and interior avenues invite visitors to experience the space in their own way, as there are multiple ways to access different areas. A viewing platform juts out from the main enclosure so that people can look back at the whole building as if from outside, while still remaining within.
Hadid clearly considered every need of the museum in minute detail; daylight floods in, but it is filtered through screens on the roof to reduce its intensity and it can be blocked out entirely should an exhibit require. Concrete ribs on the ceiling can be used to hang floating walls that create new spaces as required, or used to suspend sculptures of up to a tonne. Even the fittings, from air-conditioning grilles to light switches, are hidden so as not to detract from the art or the space.
PHAENO SCIENCE CENTRE (2005)
Hadid’s design practice won the bid for the Phaeno Science Centre in an architectural design competition in 2000. The centre, which provides an educational and interactive experience, was imagined as a “Cathedral of Science” – a monumental structure with soaring ceilings and an awe-inspiring sense of space. The entire building was erected on vast concrete stilts, and when it is illuminated from beneath at night, the vast construction appears to float weightlessly in testament to the way that Hadid could so easily balance might with delicacy. The juxtapositions continue inside, where a series of complex and dynamic spaces are punctuated both with swooping curves and jagged angles.
NORDPARK CABLE RAILWAY (2007)
Hadid’s transformation into the “Queen of the Curve” can be seen in the four stations that she designed for the Hungerburgbahn in Innsbruck. The hybrid funicular railway runs between the city centre and the district of Hungerburg, providing access to the higher mountain areas even in heavy snow. The four stations are a vision of soft contours and fluid shapes, inspired by the natural ice formations to be found in the region during the wintertime. The roofs, tiled in stark white, seem to float on their concrete supports, complementing and enhancing their alpine surroundings without distracting the eye from the savage beauty of nature.
VITRA FIRE STATION (1993)
Weil am Rhein, Germany
The Vitra Fire Station was Hadid’s first major build commission, earning her considerable international recognition. The international furniture brand commissioned the station to service its expansive design campus following a terrible fire that caused a great deal of damage to the site in 1981. The site has since been repurposed as an events and exhibition space, allowing more people to experience it first-hand. The structure, which was cast in concrete on site, is a cacophony of sharp lines, clashing planes and contrasting shapes that extend outwards at improbable angles, like a freeze-frame of an explosion. It was described by the Architectural Review as “A clear demonstration of the rhetorical power of architecture.”
MESSNER MOUTAIN MUSEUM CORONES (2015)
South Tyrol, Italy
The Messner Mountain Museum (MMM) is a project by famed mountaineer Reinhold Messner, the aim of which is to provide an education regarding “man’s encounter with mountains.” The museum is spread over six locations, including three castles and a First World War bunker; Hadid’s unique structure is the sixth and final of these. In glorious contradiction, though it is located 2,275 metres above sea level, the majority of MMM Corones is hidden underground, meaning that visitors can experience the hidden caves and grottos that make up the interior of the mountain in the same space where they can enjoy soaring views from its peak. An improbable 1,000 metres of floor space are located on three levels beneath the summit, joined by staircases that Hadid designed to mimic the flow of mountain streams. The only parts visible above the surface are the entrance on one side and the three cantilevered viewing points on the other side – two picture windows and a balcony that juts out by six metres. These outer areas are clad in a light-coloured, glass-reinforced fibre concrete that is reminiscent of rock and ice shards, while a darker shade is employed within to hint at the coal found deep below.
GUANGZHOU OPERA HOUSE (2010)
As part of the ongoing redevelopment of the Pearl River waterfront in Guangzhou, Hadid was commissioned to build a spectacular opera house – the design of which materialised as two large structures, described by the architect herself as “like pebbles in a stream smoothed by erosion.” The larger of the two houses the main auditorium, a freestanding hall set within a frame of granite, exposed steel and glass, while the smaller is home to a multi-purpose performance space. The main auditorium is entirely unique; not only is it asymmetrical, but it also does not contain a single straight line. Despite these idiosyncrasies, or perhaps because of them, the sound is incredibly balanced, both for Western-style operas and their Chinese cousins. The Guangzhou Opera House, with its smoothly flowing curves and meandering spaces that mirror the river it neighbours, perfectly exemplifies Hadid’s exploration of contextual relationships between architecture and landscape.
RIVERSIDE MUSEUM (2011)
Despite having called the United Kingdom home for over 40 years, Hadid did not complete a major project there until 2011’s Riverside Museum in Glasgow. Nicknamed “Glasgow’s Guggenheim,” the Riverside won the European Museum of the Year Award in 2013. The structure is most notable for its 36-metre glass front which looks over the river Clyde, not to mention its striking zigzag zinc roof.
SHEIKH ZAYED BRIDGE (2010)
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Named for the driving force behind the UAE’s formation and former President, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge has been described as the “most intricate bridge ever constructed.” The 842-metre cantilevered suspended deck carries a two-way, four-lane highway across the Khor Al Maqta, linking Abu Dhabi Island to the south shore of the mainland. Its curved sinusoidal arches were inspired by the undulating sand dunes found throughout the deserts of the UAE, and at night it is lit by subtly changing colours that flow along its spine.
LONDON AQUATICS CENTRE (2012)
Constructed for the 2012 London Olympics, the London Aquatics Centre is now open to the public, described by The Guardian as the “most jaw-dropping municipal swimming pool in the world.” Its undulating roof – inspired by a wave, though others claim it looks more like a whale – incorporates two 50-metre pools and seating for 2,500 people. Enormous windows that run the length of the two sides flood the whole space with light, creating a cathedral-like atmosphere.
HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTRE (2012)
Despite concerns about the site’s human rights records, the Heydar Aliyev Centre was dubbed “the pinnacle moment” of Hadid’s career, winning the accolade of Design of the Year from London’s Design Museum in 2014. The 57,507 square-metre complex houses a museum, auditorium and multi-purpose hall. The façade is a symphony of curves that rise up like the peaks in whipped cream as the walls turn into the roof and back again before merging with the floor. Architect Piers Gough, juror on the Design of the Year board, summed it up by saying “It is as pure and sexy as Marilyn’s blown skirt.”
Photography: Courtesy of Corbis