– By Shannon Moore
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which opened to the public in September 2013, is one of the newest projects by London-based architect, Zaha Hadid. Housing art and a restaurant, the structure branches out from an old gunpowder store and makes an impression on its visitors through its tent-like silhouette that speaks volumes of Hadid’s lifelong interest in movement and dynamic form.
Located in London’s Kensington Gardens, surrounded by trees and a lake, the gallery draws from nature. Its seamless fluidity is immediately visible from the curves of its pure-glass walls and its ebbing roofline. The building’s form is strong and remarkable, just as is its creator, one of the most powerful and significant contemporary figures of our time.
Salone Del Mobile 2013, Milan, Italy, photograph by Jacopo Spilimbergo
For more than two decades, Hadid has been designing edifices that share some of the signature characteristics found in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. She has established a reputation for herself as a visionary and has been praised by many for her radical approach to architecture that poetically challenges normative form. Whether creating bold buildings with stark angles and sharp projections or smooth structures that favor curvilinear and fluid spaces, Hadid is constantly pushing the boundaries and embracing her status as an avant-garde creator.
Chanel Mobile Art Container, Hong Kong, photograph by Marc Gerritsen
Although Hadid is known primarily for her designs of museums, offices, factories, schools, cultural centers, and stadiums, the Pritzker Architecture Prize winner has recently established herself as a fashion icon; not necessarily for the garments that she wears, but for the contributions that she has made in the fashion industry. She creates dynamic objects that are vivid and embedded in visual movement, and her attentiveness to form is just as traceable in the work that she has done for fashion houses around the world as it is in her architecture itself. For her, “There is a connection between architecture and fashion because of the way the body is placed within that space.” In her design for Chanel’s mobile art pavilion, the white walls and smooth layered arches are a microcosm of her larger architectural commissions, just as her shoes for Lacoste reflect her proposal for the National Stadium in Japan. Her attentiveness to form is prominent in both fashion and architecture, with similarities that are entirely noticeable between the two.
Board Art Museum East Lansing, Michigan,USA, photograph by Iwan Baan
This profound interest in and articulation of form began at a young age. Hadid said in an interview for the Telegraph in 2013, “I was brought up in Baghdad in the Fifties and Sixties in a world where we believed in modern architecture, design, politics, philosophy, [and] women’s education. I remember going to Moscow for the first time when there was still a belief in sputniks, outer space, reaching for the stars… that idea of progress I knew from childhood was really exciting.”
She began her education at the Architectural Association in London where she discovered her interest in the Russian Avant-Garde and Suprematism movements that encouraged geometry in modern art. Her student paintings, completed under the instruction of Dutch-born architect, Rem Koolhaas, were filled with color and defined by their abstraction, reflecting her signature concern with modernism and energetic form.
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, Baku, Azerbaijan, photograph by Farid Xayrulin
Her earliest commissions reacted to these concerns. Her buildings sat low to the ground and ran parallel to their surroundings in a fashion that was similar to the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright; but, unlike the modern master who embraced rectangular forms, Hadid reached beyond the confines of this shape and opted for jutting angles instead. She wanted to create buildings that evoked a sense of “frozen movement” and achieved this as early as 1993 in the design of the Vitra Fire Station in Germany. Known as one of her first commissions, the building features triangles and polygons that branch out from its body and appear to take flight.
Graphic study of Zaha Hadid, London Aquatics Centre
In recent years, Hadid’s style has evolved and taken on new form. Her concern with abstraction has been replaced by an interest in landscape, topology, and fluidity. Her origins in Iraq and her projects in countries all over the world including Austria, Spain, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia (to name a few), in addition to the broad spectrum of her designs ranging from stadiums, galleries, footwear, and jewelry, have established her presence as a powerful global phenomenon. Although her style has evolved over the course of her career, it has remained rooted in her desire to achieve a visually appealing form. She recently told The Telegraph “I’m an architect, so I create forms. What’s the point of an architect who doesn’t?” All of her designs have formed her visual language, one that has shaped aesthetic codes worldwide and reflects the meeting points of cultures and perspectives.
In 2012, Hadid secured her first commission in the country of her childhood, Iraq. The project for the Central Bank of Iraq will bring the architect back to the home that she left more than thirty years ago, to a nation that has changed dramatically since her departure. Hadid’s presence as a leader in the architectural profession will allow her to bring her global aesthetic to this symbolic part of the world.
Since her beginnings, Hadid has challenged multiple boundaries to become one of the greatest architects of her time. When asked about whether or not she has ever experienced struggle due to her gender, Hadid said, “It’s hard to believe, but it’s still difficult for women to break the business barrier. Through perseverance and hard work, I’ve been able to do so, but it’s been a long struggle… Women are always told, ‘you’re not going to make it, it’s too difficult’… they need confidence in themselves and people around them to help them to get on.” Simply put, Hadid has succeeded in overcoming stereotypes and has established herself as a role model to designers everywhere.
MAZZI National Museum of XXI Century Rome Italy , photograph by Hélène Binet
MAZZI National Museum of XXI Century Rome Italy , photograph by Bernard Touillon
Pierresvives, Montpellier, photogrph by Hélène Binet
Above all, Hadid is a living icon. Koolhaas once described her as “a planet in her own inimitable orbit,” and while this is still true, Hadid has expanded her trajectory over the course of her career to establish an art that is considerate of its audience. Her designs respond to their surroundings and have an impact on the city in which they are grounded, in addition to the people that inhabit them. As for the award-winning designer herself, she will never stop pushing the boundaries and challenging herself to create an art that lasts. “I will never give myself the luxury of thinking ‘I’ve made it.’ I’m not the same as I was 20 years ago, but I always set the bar higher.” 10 From fashion to architecture, Hadid will forever be an ambitious designer, a progressive inventor, a creative pioneer, and an unforgettable artist of the highest caliber.
Chanel Mobile Art Container, photograph by John Linden