Monday, October 2, 2017

Zaha Hadid, by Katherine Molinet

"I was very fascinated by abstraction and how it really could lead to abstracting plans, moving away from certain dogmas about what architecture is." – Zaha Hadid


Born in 1950 to an upper-class family, Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid's striking parametric designs feature sweeping curves and perspectives, while creating a sense of fragmented reality. The first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Hadid--later dubbed "Queen of the Curve"--passed way in March 2016, after a 40-year career. Hadid had studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut. Afterwards, she attended the Architectural Association School in London, and established her own firm--Zaha Hadid Architects--in 1979.

Hadid's style is difficult to classify, and she claimed she did not identify with any particular school or movement. However, critics have used labels such as deconstructivist, parametric, and abstractionist to describe her work. Hadid herself once said of her style: "The idea is not to have any 90-degree angles. In the beginning, there was the diagonal. The diagonal comes from the idea of the explosion which "re-forms" the space. This was an important discovery."

Selected works

In addition to her stunningly modern architectural structures, Hadid also produced a plethora of paintings and sketches to document her ideas. These work differ from the practical architectural drawings so common to the genre in that they are works of abstract art in and of themselves. The relationship between her drawings/paintings she creates during her design process, and the finished building, is something I find very interesting. While I've long been an admirer of Hadid in an architectural context, I want to further understand how she used abstract drawings and paintings as part of her creative architectural process.

Grand Buildings Trafalgar Square
Zaha Hadid - 1985 - painting

Earlier in her career, these dynamic paintings such as the one above--which captured her idea to redesign Trafalgar Square in London--were instrumental in helping her build her reputation as an architect. None of her buildings was actually constructed until 1993; in the meantime, she used paintings to market her work to a wider audience. Although these paintings were useful in advancing her work and reputation, they certainly weren't created for that sole purpose. In fact, Zaha used abstract sketches and paintings as an integral part of her creative process throughout her entire career. Take, for instance, two of her drawings from the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art project between 1997 and 2003:

Sketch: Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
Zaha Hadid - 1997-2003

Spatial diagram: Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
Zaha Hadid - 1997-2003 - painting

These images are just two of many such examples from this project, but they provide a glimpse into Hadid's mindset for the building. The visual simplicity of the line drawings belies the depth of the exploration of abstraction and fragmented geometry. The painting seems to expand on some of the motifs in the sketches--particularly in the way it uses a series of overlapping rectangles to create form, and in its dynamic motion and use of space. The multitude of perspectives captured in the one image borders on a more cubist interpretation of a collage.

For comparison purposes, below it a view of the completed Rosenthal Center's fa├žade; note the use of rectangular masses to create the structure, and how the form compares to Hadid's earlier concept drawings.

Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
Zaha Hadid - 2003 - photograph

Works cited

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