Lisa Lamkin
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Lisa Lamkin

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  • AIA Dallas/Modern Luxury 2021 Recap

Critique: Zaha Hadid Architects: Redefining Architecture and Design

“We begin with an arresting recent portrait of Zaha fashionably draped in a fluidly architectural black jacket proclaiming ‘I believe there should be no end to experimentation.’”

In contrast to the world of fashion, where unique and sometimes irrational forms are often celebrated profusely, architects who invest in creative ‘formalism’ are risking dismissive criticism. In the words of Patrik Schumacher, “it is taken for granted that the creative investment into the elaboration of forms detracts from the concern for function.” His densely packed foreword invites us to consider the compelling design approach led by Zaha as a formal repertoire, a problem-solving repertoire. He catches our attention by proclaiming: “A moments reflection reveals that all concern for a design’s function must be achieved by working on its form...Form delivers function.”

Schumacher asks which major expansionary moves that Hadid gifted to our discipline and confidently answers “we can identify four wholly original and empowering ‘discoveries’: explosion, calligraphy, distortion and landscape.” Suggesting that these “expansions” of formal repertoire are in the hands of a designing architect, he makes the case for aesthetic criteria as a functional achievement: “We must grasp the instrumentality of visual appearance…a building functions only if its organization is legible and navigable to its users.”  

This beautifully produced volume is presented as an important pivotal chapter in a novel yet to be finished. Through recently completed work, we see the end of Zaha’s remarkable career and the end of her personal story, upon her death in 2016. It describes her work—from the London Aquatics Center (which began in 2005 and was completed in 2014) to the closing project symbolically selected for the cover imagery, Mathematics: The Winton Gallery (which opened in December 2016). In-progress designs are described throughout, presenting a continuation of work still resonating with her presence.

Tautly written project descriptions provide factual context and a light project overview, giving breathing space for the compelling images to speak on their own terms.

The volume concludes with a profile of the company, 400-people strong, and now led by Principal Patrik Schumaker who worked with Zaha for 30 years. “Her working methods and principles continue to drive and inspire us every day,” he says. “Through research, experimentation, and collaboration we make the discoveries we did not think were possible, working on new ideas, pushing them into the mainstream to raise standards and benefit all. Zaha Hadid Architects maintains it commitment to her ideals of fluidity, innovation, originality and organic progression.”  

We can look forward to the next chapter as the firm seeks to be more than what she left behind; “building a sustainable engine of experimentation with no end in sight.”

Reviewed by Lisa Lamkin, FAIA, a principal with BRW Architects.

Zaha Hadid Architects: Redefining Architecture and Design
Produced by The Images Publishing Group
Sr. Editor: Gina Tsarouhas           
Foreword by Patrik Schumacher