The dreams of architect Zaha Hadid rise in the desert
The question was all the more poignant as she had reservations about the interest of the Arab world in her work, even as she began to receive commissions in the region at the end of her 40-year career. “My biggest failure was in the Arab world,” she once said in an interview. “I don’t think the Arabs respect [me] enough, because I am Arab. Arabs love foreigners…. If I was American, they would love me. An American. In addition, the commissions she received had a high death rate, victims of regime changes, oil price fluctuations, budget cuts and the Arab Spring.
Along with the Central Bank, and then a handful of other projects, Arab power brokers in more stable environments were emerging, bringing it back to a world that had marginalized one of its own. “She was keen to work in the Middle East and was very interested in new opportunities there,” said Sara Sheikh Akbari, Anglo-Persian associate director working at Zaha Hadid Architects. “She felt at home there” In fact, her office grew exponentially – and fame exponentially – between 2007 and around 2011, and the Central Bank headquarters was one of half a dozen commissions personally gratifying Arabs of this period or soon after which open or are nearing completion this winter at an arc stretching from Morocco to the Gulf.
Hadid’s fatal heart attack in 2016, at the peak of her career and talent, meant she would never live to see nearly half of her major projects built, including upcoming ones. With some thirty substantial buildings completed in the past five years or in preparation, the architect has arguably proved himself as eminent in death as in life. And despite the infighting that surrounded his estate (executors battled it out in court for years), never since Eero Saarinen’s posthumous masterpieces such as the TWA Terminal and the International Airport of Dulles, an architectural afterlife has never been so successful.
For his new Arab clients, Hadid was the right architect at the right time. Its cutting-edge, world-class buildings are icons for a booming Middle East. Leaders eager to raise their country’s profile as a progressive state, while leaving a personal architectural legacy, commissioned photogenic monuments that would enhance its stature and cultural cachet. Charismatic in a way Hadid herself was charismatic, each “Zaha” declared her individualism and cultural independence: the slow fluidity of her lava-like buildings broke with the rigid classical columns of the colonial era and the modernist boxes, grids and symmetries of Europe. Besides, the shapes were captivating, flowing like dunes: If you squint, their sinuous lines were reminiscent of Arabic calligraphy.
A Zaha would guarantee urban press and screen time. Her fame – she was a star of the art world and the Arab world – would rub off.
Some orders, like that of the Iraqi bank, had a personal dimension. According to Hadid’s office, al-Shabibi told bank executives that there was only one architect to consider for their headquarters. Hadid was the most famous living Iraqi, widely admired for her global triumphs. Her aura of Joan of Arc, the pride of her compatriots for her success and the confidence in this indigenous girl with a historic family name (in a country where relationships matter deeply) sealed the deal. After signing the contract in an official ceremony attended by Iraqi diplomats at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Hadid said his father was “in the room”.
The 34-story concrete, glass and steel skyscraper is nearing completion in Baghdad, on the banks of the Tigris. The organically shaped mullions on its heliotrope facades intertwine like rods, rotating geometrically with the path of the sun to shield the building’s interior from Iraq’s brutal solar load. Hadid and his team sculpted the blast-resistant podium into long, rolling outlines; the spaces within are bubbling like living water. Hadid and his colleagues derived the shapes from the angles of the sun and the flow of rivers. As shaped by nature, it looks like a tall plant growing along the Tigris. Hadid also designed the high-tech tower as a kind of construction college, where local engineers, architects, builders and craftsmen could bring their expertise to competitive international standards: his Iraqi peers took a crash course in the building.
His office worked on the skyscraper during the recent unrest in Iraq, including the IS crisis, and, since 2014, without pay. Jim Heverin, project manager and one of the heads of Zaha Hadid Architects, says, “We stayed involved because we wanted to do the building for Zaha.
Like Frank Lloyd Wright with her cane, cape and porkpie hat, Hadid made her mark wearing Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, complete with her searing lipstick, gravelly voice and year-round tan. But his inventive designs, not his aplomb, won him commissions and fame. Many projects have been won in competitions, such as the Angular and Elastic King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (started in 2009 and completed in 2017) and the King Abdullah Financial District Metro Station in Riyadh, where its design met the high Saudi standards. aspirations. “They wanted the best and most beautiful transport project in the world,” says project director Gianluca Racana. “The goal was ‘iconicity'” – a building that could be recognizably identified with the city.
Drivers in this car- and highway-crowded capital can now ditch their vehicles by parking in the belly of the metro station, a building that imports a Saharan mirage of stacked dunes into an otherwise eventless, treeless cityscape. The facade, a porous sunscreen of undulating arches, cools and veils the four stories and six railway platforms within. The columns, bent and tilted in waves, oppose the thrust of the slowing trains. like wood mashrabiya which cover the windows of traditional Arab houses, the latticework shades the interiors, allowing the breezes inside, induced by the whoosh of trains. The structure, which mixes transport with shops, restaurants and workspaces, breathes like a lung. “The movement of the trains suggested air waves,” says Racana, “reminiscent of the winds shaping the dunes we evoked in the facade.”
If the architects imported the metaphor of the desert in the heart of the Saudi capital, they were dealing with the real desert of the United Arab Emirates for a headquarters at the cutting edge of technology in terms of the environment and waste management. In 2013, Sheikh Sultan III of Sharjah, one of the emirates, summoned six architects to his mansion in Sussex, England, to choose the winner of a competition for the Bee’ah Centre. He started by reviewing Hadid’s design, and the Emir never quite got past his models and designs; he liked them so much he had to be persuaded to see the others, and during the discussion he considered moving the site itself to a place where he could see the building from his palace.
Hadid and his fellow architects channeled the desert through the idea of wind. Using 3D modeling software to mimic nature’s patterns, they composed a building of intersecting dunes that grow out of the sandy landscape, swept into ridge shapes surrounded by an oasis of palm trees and pools. . The architects perforated the dunes with computer-generated patterns that created dazzling constellations of light, evoking decorative Arabian stars. For all its beauty, Bee’ah checks all the environmental boxes: LEED Platinum certification, low carbon footprint, and solar energy captured and stored in Tesla batteries.