View Full Version : Zaha Hadid Retrospective at the Guggenheim

June 2nd, 2006, 03:29 PM

June 2, 2006
Architecture Review
Zaha Hadid: A Diva for the Digital Age

Slide Show: A Zaha Hadid Retrospective (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2006/06/01/arts/20060602_HADID_SLIDESHOW_1.html)

ZAHA HADID has never built anything in New York. But to her followers around the world, that hardly matters. You can admire Renzo Piano's exquisite detailing or Frank Gehry's turbulent forms, but Ms. Hadid is architecture's diva, the most precocious talent in her profession.

"Zaha Hadid: Thirty Years in Architecture," her first major retrospective in the United States, gives New Yorkers a chance to see what they've been missing. The show, which opens tomorrow in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's rotunda, spirals through Ms. Hadid's career, from her early enchantment with Soviet Constructivism to the sensuous and fluid cityscapes of her more recent commissions.

It illuminates her capacity for bridging different worlds: between traditional perspective drawing and slick computer-generated imagery, between the era of utopian manifestos and the ambiguous values of the information age.

Born in Baghdad in 1950, Ms. Hadid came of age in an era when the Middle East was enchanted by Modernity: its glamorous forms, progressive aura and faith in the future. Early on, she soaked up the cosmopolitan values that bound cities as diverse as London, New York, Moscow, Beirut and Berlin.

She was raised in one of Baghdad's first Bauhaus-inspired houses. In the late 1950's she observed the construction of Gio Ponti's planning ministry, a replica of his Pirelli Tower in Milan, a symbol of postwar Italian style.

She bounced to Switzerland and Lebanon before settling in the mid-1970's in London, where she cut her teeth as a student at the Architectural Association, then a center of experimentation. It was there that she met Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis and Bernard Tschumi, architects who would leap to the forefront of experimental European architecture in the following decade.

Shaped by the 1968 student protests, those architects were groping for a way to distinguish themselves from their immediate forebears without sundering their ties to Modernity. Many of them found inspiration in the utopian forms of the Soviet Constructivists, an attraction that had the romantic benefit of having been crushed in its infancy by Stalin.

The show whirls us back to that time with a reinterpretation of a 1976 painting from Ms. Hadid's graduate thesis. (The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art declined to lend the original.) Inspired by one of Konstantin Malevich's "Tektonics," in which overlapping geometric forms suggest a fragmented city floating through space, Ms. Hadid uses a similar vocabulary to propose a 14-story inhabited bridge spanning the Thames. The work also hints at a theme that would obsess her for the rest of her career: the idea, minus the revolutionary rhetoric, of a society in perpetual motion.

Before long, you encounter the project that signaled her breakthrough to stardom at an obscenely early age: a 1983 design for the Peak, a country club in Hong Kong. Appropriately set off in their own gallery, a series of remarkable paintings depict a cluster of splintered horizontal forms thrusting out from the edge of a mountain as if they were about to shoot into space.

For those who have seen them only in books, the paintings are striking for their meticulousness. To create a bird's-eye perspective, Ms. Hadid began by sketching hundreds of abstract buildings in ink, then transferring them onto paper mounted on canvas. Each of the surfaces was then painted in a different color.

Any experienced draftsman will recognize the years of practice and repetition it takes to work at this level of precision. The inking alone, and the steadiness of hand it requires, takes years of training: skills that have been virtually lost in the age of the computer. This is part of what distinguishes Ms. Hadid's work from the synthetic imagery churned out by computer software in a culture that is too often obsessed with surfaces.

The Peak project also reflects how quickly Ms. Hadid matured in just a few years. Malevich's geometric forms hover in space; Ms. Hadid's are packed with energy. And they were meant to exist in the real world. For all its flamboyance, the Peak's jagged, cantilevered structures are based on basic engineering principles, those common to freeways, for example. In this way she also subtly ties them into the city's infrastructure.

Similarly sensitive to her surroundings, Ms. Hadid has ingeniously capitalized on the shape of the Guggenheim's rotunda in overseeing the installation of her work. Contrary to common assumptions, Frank Lloyd Wright's ramp is hardly a fluid experience. As you round each level, the rhythm is continually interrupted, encouraging you to take a pause.

To take advantage of that pattern of movement, Ms. Hadid deliberately slows and then accelerates the pace. The relatively even spacing of the paintings on the lower levels leads to a busy bottleneck of architectural models. Further up, an undulating billboard physically unfurls within the space of the ramp, shifting the tempo.

The sense of a building that is an extension of the city around it is reinforced as you proceed. In many of Ms. Hadid's paintings the buildings she has designed seem almost secondary, their forms fading into vast surroundings following the curvature of the earth. These views are drawn in a series of shifting perspectives: as your eye glides across the surface, you sense that the work of art itself is gliding or revolving.

In "The World (89 Degrees)," from 1983, several of her earliest designs are collected into a single image: a city of ebbs and flows in which each building is conceived as a fragment of a larger urban vision. These works anticipate, to a remarkable degree, the networks that we now take for granted yet that are a revolutionary development of the electronic age.

Later, the ground plane that she engineers for her buildings becomes as important to her structures as the existing buildings that surround them. The sleek, streamlined Zollhof 3 Mediapark (1993) in Düsseldorf, Germany, for example, represented here by a model, breaks open at one end like the shards of a glacier. She creates a cracked, shifting ground plane for the Cardiff Bay Opera House and the Guangzhou Opera House in China. And the new Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany, is lifted onto supports that allows cars and pedestrians to flow through underneath.

Ms. Hadid is not interested in emulating period styles, Modernist or otherwise. Yet her buildings are obviously deeply rooted in their context. By taking their cues from the vectors of the roads, bridges and freeways that converge at a site, they seek to draw in the active street life around them. Barriers are circumvented.

It leads you to reflect on how, for decades, America seemed conversely to have given up on its cities, or at least the vast public works projects that had held them together.

Europe's break with the Modernist vision of the city was never so traumatic. By the 1980's the kind of bold urban planning characteristic of early European Modernism was still thriving there. Ms. Hadid's vision is an outgrowth of that vision: her buildings can be understood only as part of a more continuous urban pattern.

Slathered in images of her current projects, the undulating billboard makes clear that Ms. Hadid is finally getting commissions worthy of her talent, except in New York of course. The projects unfurl along its length, piled atop one another, alas, like so many advertising images. While they have a powerful visual impact, they lack the energy of the early drawings. Nor do they provide the kind of information — conceptual or practical — that can be gleaned from the models.

By the time you reach the rotunda's upper levels, Ms. Hadid's forms look as fluid as mercury. The curving roof of a design for London's Olympic Aquatic Center, composed of a series of parabolic arches, and the molded white Corian form of a prototype kitchen are slightly hedonistic, descendants of the sensual Modernism envisioned by architects like Ponti, Carlo Mollino and Oscar Niemeyer half a century ago but pushed to an extreme that none of them could have imagined.

And here is where her architectural magic coalesces. For all the apparent radicalism of her forms, Ms. Hadid's work forms a bridge from early Modernism to the digital age. By collecting such disparate strands into one vision, she defiantly embraces a cosmopolitanism that is hard put to assert itself in our dark age.

It is as close to a manifesto for the future as we have.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

July 24th, 2008, 01:12 AM
A 7,500-Square-Foot Ad for Chanel,
With an Artistic Mission

Toshio Kaneko
The London architect Zaha Hadid designed the Mobile Art pavilion, which has already made a stop
in Tokyo. The structure is made of lightweight panels that are packed in 51 shippable containers.

More Photos > (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/07/24/arts/design/20080724_ZAHA_index.html)

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/arts/design/24zaha.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion&oref=slogin)

July 24, 2998

A rectangular patch of sand in Central Park may be the last place you’d expect to find a gleaming “Star Trek”-style spacecraft. But an art pavilion that resembles just that will make a temporary landing there this fall.

Called Mobile Art, the structure itself was designed by the renowned London architect Zaha Hadid and will occupy the Rumsey Playfield, midpark at 70th Street, from Oct. 20 to Nov. 9. (It is Ms. Hadid’s first New York building, albeit temporary, and has already made stops in Hong Kong and Tokyo and is headed later for London, Moscow and Paris.)

Yet beyond its artistic mission, the pavilion is a provocative advertisement. Chanel, the fashion brand, commissioned Ms. Hadid to create the traveling structure to house works by about 15 hot contemporary artists. Each was asked to create a work that was at least in part inspired by Chanel’s classic 2.55 quilted-style chain handbag, so named because it was first issued in February 1955.

Maureen Chiquet, Chanel’s global chief executive, declined to give specifics on financial arrangements. But officials familiar with the project, requesting anonymity in deference to Chanel, said that the fashion house was donating a sum “in the low seven figures” to the Central Park Conservancy. Chanel will also pay the city a “use fee” of $400,000.

Artists recruited for the project include Sophie Calle of France, Sylvie Fleury of Switzerland, Subodh Gupta of India and the Russian collective Blue Noses. The resulting works in the show, organized by Fabrice Bousteau, editor in chief of Beaux Arts magazine, include sculpture, photographs, videos and installation pieces.

Many of the artists explored the notion of the handbag as a cultural symbol, often with a dash of irreverence. Mr. Gupta produced “All Things Are Inside,” a video installation that is a meditation on people in transit, like an Indian laborer who returns from Dubai. It also includes clips from Indian films in which the handbag emerges as an element in a human drama.

Blue Noses created “Fifty Years After Our Common Era or Handbags Revolt,” an installation of packing boxes in which videos show satirical moments in the life of a handbag. Ms. Fleury created a giant Pop Art-style quilted handbag lined with pink fur; inside is a makeup compact in which you can view a video of women shooting handbags with guns.

The genesis for the project was the handbag’s 50th anniversary in 2005, when Chanel’s designer, Karl Lagerfeld, issued a new version of the purse, Ms. Chiquet said. The project took several years to come to fruition.

Admission to the exhibition in Central Park will be free, although visitors
are advised to book timed tickets at chanel-mobileart.com (http://chanel-mobileart.com/).

With the weakened dollar New York has become a magnet for European and Asian visitors, and city officials are hoping that the art pavilion will be a draw for tourists. They cited precedents like Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “Gates,” in which 7,500 gates festooned with saffron-colored fabric panels were positioned along Central Park’s pathways for 16 days in 2005, or the four waterfalls designed by the artist Olafur Eliasson that grace the shores of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Governors Island this summer.

“Right now Central Park is one big international duty-free zone,” said Adrian Benepe, the city’s parks commissioner. “You can’t walk through it without hearing lots of different languages.”

Douglas Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, said the pavilion would fit perfectly on the 1.5-acre playfield. “It’s low enough so it won’t disturb people,” he said. “We wouldn’t use the Great Lawn or Sheep Meadow. It’s not taking over someone else’s space. It’s a neat little surprise.”

He and Mr. Benepe described Chanel’s donation as a windfall for the park. The money will go toward enhancing its horticulture, particularly in the area from 85th Street to the Harlem Meer.

Asked whether he anticipated criticism for allowing Chanel to advertise one of its products in the park, Mr. Benepe countered, “Everything has a sponsor.”

“Artists in 17th-century Italy wouldn’t have been in business were it not for their patrons,” he added, noting that ING lends its name to the New York City Marathon, which generates millions of dollars in tourist revenue each year.

The convergence of art, architecture and fashion is commonplace these days. A Louis Vuitton bag designed by the artist Richard Prince is constantly spotted on the streets of New York, Basel and London. The Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s creations for Louis Vuitton were sold in a special shop that formed part of a Murakami retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The architect Rem Koolhaas has helped define the look of Prada shops, and Frank Gehry recently designed a line of jewelry for Tiffany & Company.

“Art is art. Fashion is fashion,” Mr. Lagerfeld said. “However, Andy Warhol proved that they can exist together.”

Noting Ms. Hadid’s star status — she won the architecture profession’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, in 2004 — he suggested that “the most important piece of art is the container itself.”

In an interview in her London office, Ms. Hadid said that even though she has not yet designed a permanent building in New York, she liked the idea that the pavilion “lands, creates a buzz and disappears.”

The challenge, she said, was to create a pavilion that was both visually compelling and could be easily transported. Each piece had to fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Using computer software Ms. Hadid designed a 7,500-square-foot doughnut-shape structure with a central courtyard. Its lightweight panels can be packed in 51 shippable containers; no panel is wider than 7.38 feet.

Skylights admit natural light, and computer-generated lighting casts a rainbow of colors around the base of the exterior that glows day and night.

Visitors entering the pavilion will be given MP3 players. On a track created by the sound artist Stephan Crasneanscki they will hear the French actress Jeanne Moreau discussing everything from sex and love to the secrets at the bottom of a woman’s handbag.

After “Mobile Art” makes its last stop in Paris in 2010, Chanel will have the option to buy all the art. As for Ms. Hadid’s pavilion, Ms. Chiquet said, Chanel owns it but is not yet sure what it will do with it.

Its transitory nature, everyone agreed, will be part of the allure. “It’s like an alien spacecraft that lands in the park and, before you know it, takes off again,” Mr. Benepe said.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company


Photo: Zaha Hadid Architects
A computer rendering of the Mobile Art pavilion,
designed by the London-based architect Zaha Hadid.

Photo: Toshio Kaneko

Photo: Toshio Kaneko
The artist Sylvie Fleury’s video installation "Cristal Custom Commando,"
inside a giant Pop Art-style handbag, at the Mobile Art pavilion in Tokyo.

Photo: Virgil Simon Bertrand
A view of the Mobile Art pavilion in Hong Kong.

Photo: Jochen Luebke/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Zaha Hadid, pictured in front of the building housing the "Phaeno" Science Center
and museum in Wolfsburg, Germany, in 2005.

Photo: Fototeca