Ar­chi­tec­ture The Legacy of Zaha Ha­did

From the ex­plo­sive frag­men­ta­tion of sharp, pointed forms to the or­ganic and en­velop­ing curves of her later works, an un­pre­dictable path spawned by the ges­tu­ral ex­pres­sive­ness of draw­ing

Domus - - CONTENTS - Text by Pippo Ciorra

Is there a vis­i­ble aes­thetic of the 21st cen­tury? From one bi­en­nale to an­other, from one mu­seum to an­other, young ar­chi­tects stage a tan­gled va­ri­ety of im­pulses — po­lit­i­cal, eco­log­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal, artis­tic, re­li­gious, tech­no­log­i­cal, gen­der-cen­tric and gen­er­a­tional — but are these drives ac­com­pa­nied by any am­bi­tion to achieve a cer­tain form and spe­cific ex­pres­sive tech­niques? Or is there now a clear sep­a­ra­tion be­tween ‘cu­rated’ ar­chi­tec­ture on the one hand, un­der­stood as a con­scious and ac­tive form of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the present, and the chameleon­like prag­ma­tism of the con­struc­tion in­dus­try on the other, which is in­evitably at the ser­vice of power and cap­i­tal? As an ag­gra­vat­ing cir­cum­stance, these two as­pects, while re­main­ing clearly sep­a­rate, are of­ten just two sides of the same coin. In other words, they can be the work of the same au­thors, all ag­it­prop by day on the panel of some bi­en­nale, and thriv­ing pro­fes­sion­als at night, when they churn out hair-rais­ing ren­der­ings for sheikhs and in­vestors, who might not al­ways be very po­lit­i­cally cor­rect. A use­ful con­tri­bu­tion to out­line pos­si­ble an­swers to this dilemma comes from the spirit and works of Zaha Ha­did, who was cer­tainly one of the most suc­cess­ful ar­chi­tects in the ‘new mar­kets’. Staunchly re­fus­ing to sep­a­rate ar­chi­tec­ture from the idea of a clearly iden­ti­fi­able pro­duc­tion of form and de­sire, Ha­did left her of­fice and the world a recog­nis­able and pow­er­ful legacy, which is both a key to un­der­stand­ing her work and a user’s man­ual for those who have to con­tinue it. Ha­did’s rel­e­vance, in par­tic­u­lar, un­folds to­day in a num­ber of ways that are worth re­mem­ber­ing. The first is cer­tainly her con­ti­nu­ity with a strand of 20th-cen­tury cre­atives of ex­tra­or­di­nary force and ex­pres­sive ca­pac­ity, run­ning from Boc­cioni to the Fu­tur­ists, Le Cor­bus­ier, the

Con­struc­tivists, Nervi, Mus­meci and Moretti. Above all, this lat­ter ar­chi­tect and the great Ital­ian en­gi­neers en­abled Ha­did to trace a per­sonal ge­neal­ogy, seek­ing to con­ceive ar­chi­tec­ture in which sen­su­ous­ness and de­sire are cre­ated by an un­par­al­leled — and to­day par­tic­u­larly use­ful — mix of math­e­mat­ics, art, a sense of colour and ma­te­ri­als, and an abil­ity to ab­sorb the val­ues of the con­text. Ha­did drew on this legacy and trans­lated it into a work­ing vo­cab­u­lary for our time. It would seem that Ha­did’s legacy can make a vi­tal con­tri­bu­tion in an age where tech­nol­ogy is cen­tral, ev­ery­thing needs to be re­lated to the body, and ev­ery­one de­sires in­di­vid­u­al­ity within the large num­bers typ­i­cal of the dig­i­tal age. Draw­ing is un­doubt­edly an­other ar­chi­tec­tural field that Ha­did will con­tinue to in­spire. She saw draw­ing as an in­de­pen­dent de­vice whose task was not to rep­re­sent but to ex­pand ar­chi­tec­ture. Draw­ing gen­er­ates the­o­ries and new vi­sions, but above all it en­ables ar­chi­tec­tural and spa­tial think­ing to in­crease di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with its view­ers, speak­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously to their brains and senses. Be­sides, much like the han­dling of form, draw­ing serves to re­assert the in­ten­tion of never re­nounc­ing the au­tho­rial value of ar­chi­tec­ture at any cost. For Ha­did and her heirs, 21st-cen­tury ar­chi­tects in­di­vid­u­ally ab­sorb mes­sages com­ing from tech­nol­ogy, so­ci­ety and the land­scape, and they con­tinue to trans­form these mes­sages into an at­trac­tive and r ecog­nis­able per­sonal code. In Ha­did’s view, the ‘po­lit­i­cal’ na­ture of their work is re­solved in the cen­tral­ity of ur­ban val­ues and pub­lic space. The work’s tech­no­log­i­cal char­ac­ter, mean­while, makes sense if it en­hances and in­ter­twines with the search for form.

Above: Zaha Ha­did, draw­ing for the ‘Vi­sion for Madrid’ ex­hi­bi­tion, Spain, 1992. This draw­ing and the two pre­sented on the fol­low­ing pages were dis­played at the Zaha Ha­did: Early Paint­ings and Draw­ings ex­hi­bi­tion at the Ser­pen­tine Gal­leries, Lon­don, 8.12.2016-12.2.2017

Pippo Ciorra (Formia, Latina, 1955), ar­chi­tect and ar­chi­tec­ture critic, is pro­fes­sor of de­sign and the­ory at the Uni­ver­sity School of Ar­chi­tec­ture and De­sign in As­coli Pi­ceno. Since 2009 he has been se­nior cu­ra­tor for ar­chi­tec­ture at the MAXXI in Rome.

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