AS 2016 DRAWS TO AN END, MS HADID’S HERITAGE CONTINUES TO UNRAVEL AND MESMERISE:
“I think there should be no end to experimentation,” Dame Zaha Hadid once said. By all possible accounts, this precise sentence defines her work, spanning decades of excellence and innovation. This year has stripped the world of many living legends and, in combination with several social and political disasters that will later unfold their real consequences, it’s safe to say that 2016 has not been a great year.
One of the losses we have mourned the most has been the premature passing of Zaha Hadid, the world’s foremost architect and designer, an extraordinary woman who broke a once unbreakable glass ceiling. But despite her departure, Ms Hadid left us with a timeless legacy.
A pioneer in her field, she was born in Baghdad in 1950 and studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before studying architecture in 1972 at the Architectural Association in London. By 1979, Ms Hadid had established her own practice in London – Zaha Hadid Architects – garnering a reputation across the world for her theoretical works, including The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994).
Ms Hadid was a Pritzker Laureate and had been recently been awarded with the RIBA Gold Medal. Her first realised building was the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, in 1993. Her vision and ethos were thoroughly adopted and will continue to be executed by the marvellous team of architects in her practice.
December 8th marked the opening of two very important exhibitions in London, both remembering and celebrating Zaha Hadid, her exceptional talent and strength, her artistry and ability to turn visions of the future into real, stunning objects of countless sizes.
Partnering with Swarovski, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of Serpentine Galleries and Yana Peel, CEO to complete the project that had initially started with Ms Hadid herself, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is now showing a never-before-seen exhibition titled “Zaha Hadid – Early Paintings and Drawings”.
The exhibition reveals Ms Hadid as an artist with drawing at the very heart of her work, and includes her calligraphic drawings and rarely seen private notebooks with sketches that reveal her complex thoughts about architectural forms and relationships.
The show focuses on her early works, before her first building was erected in 1993 in Germany, presenting drawings and paintings from the 1970s to the early 1990s. The exhibition runs from 8th December until 12th February next year, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which was renovated and beautifully extended by Zaha Hadid Architects back in 2013 – a most befitting send-off for the legendary architect.
Technology and innovation have always been central to the work of Ms Hadid and her architecture firm, and many of her paintings prefigure the potential of digital processes and the software required to render virtual reality. Connecting directly with the individual paintings in this exhibition, four experimental virtual reality experiences were developed in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture – the in-gallery experiences offer a dynamic and immersive insight into Ms Hadid’s architectural vision.
“Swarovski was honoured to collaborate with Zaha Hadid for over a decade, creating an incredible body of work which ranged from lighting installations to sculpture, jewellery and home décor,” said Nadia Swarovski. “Her vision always pushed us outside our comfort zone, and the results were breath-taking. I feel extremely privileged to have known her both as a friend and as a creative collaborator”.
Zaha Hadid was a long-time friend of the Serpentine Gallery, joining it as a Trustee in 1996. Her artistic side never got in the way of her designs – on the contrary, it further amplified them into extraordinary works, many of which grace the skyline of numerous cities across the globe. On that note, artist Brian Clarke added: “Zaha was both architect and artist. As she said: ‘I get the same goose bumps from Bacon as I get from Niemeyer’”.
On the same day, last week, another piece of Zaha Hadid’s incredible legacy was unveiled, this time at the Science Museum. A superb new permanent gallery that reveals the importance of mathematics in all our lives through remarkable artefacts, stories and designs opened on 8th December – the Winton Gallery was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and it looks like something built from the distant future as it overlooks the inspiring past.
More than 100 treasures from the Science Museum’s world-class science, technology, engineering and mathematics collections were selected to tell powerful stories about how mathematics has shaped, and been shaped by some of our most fundamental human concerns – from trade and travel to war, peace, life, death, form and beauty.
The Winton Gallery is the first of Zaha Hadid Architects’ projects to open in the UK since Ms Hadid’s sudden death in March 2016. She first became interested in geometry while studying mathematics in Beirut, and the strong connection between the two disciplines made all the sense in the world for her when she first decided that Zaha Hadid Architects would submit their entry for the Science Museum’s architectural competition for the Winton Gallery.
The challenge was happily accepted and, according to Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, they were “hugely impressed by the ideas and vision of the late Dame Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher when they first presented their design for the new mathematics gallery over two years ago”. He went on to say that the Winton Gallery “will be a lasting tribute to this world-changing architect and provide inspiration for millions of visitors for many years to come”.
The gallery itself is redesigned as a visually immersive experience, allowing visitors to simply walk in and let their eyes take them on a ride along the curves and lines of Zaha Hadid Architects’ architectural design, before settling on the many fascinating objects exhibited within.
The world has, indeed, lost one of its foremost visionaries of the architecture and design fields. But fortunately, Dame Zaha Hadid’s legacy will outlive us all. She’s earned her page in human history with her forward thinking and fearless designs, and her architectural firm continues to develop and share her innovative spirit.
As the year comes to an end, we focus more on celebrating her life and incredible heritage, rather than anything else. Zaha Hadid Architects is currently working on a diversity of projects worldwide, including the new Beijing Airport Terminal Building in Daxing, China, the Sleuk Rith Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and 520 West 28th Street in New York City, USA.
Although Dame Zaha Hadid is no longer with us, it is appropriate to say that she will never leave us. Most importantly, her vision will continue to unfold and influence through incredible designs and extraordinary buildings that break from singular dimensions – because, as she once said: “There are 359 other degrees, why limit yourself to just one?”