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Zaha Hadid: Maker of the 21st Century (archdaily.com)
63 points by pseudolus 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

Without questioning her skill and professionalism, I don't really like any of her buildings, because I don't like unnecessary, uncalled-for shape. Today, architecture has a whole new range of possibilities thanks to new materials and technologies, but just because one can doesn't mean one should.

And when I say this, I also have in mind other kinds of design, from cars, furniture, shampoo plastic bottles, fonts and GUIs. If any shape is possible, aesthetics usually goes down the drain.

In the particular case of buildings, these are made to last and have an imposing quality of their own, given their size and location. And famous architects have an visionary aura that only adds to the disappointment and dismay of the common citizens that will have to live in the shadow of those behemoths, whether they like it or not.

I think it boils down to the lack of grand vision. "Celebrity architects" nowadays mostly focus on the looks, slapping a fancy sculpture of a building into an environment they don't care about (like that one [1], the block might just as well "fit" literally anywhere else) and splitting it into the same old office/apartment boxes on the inside. Surely it looks good on renders, but there is no idea, it's just pure ornament. Compare and contrast with Barbican Estate [2] [3], which is a social experiment and an embodiment of a vision first and housing project second. None of those generic house-sculptures will be revered and studied in 40 years. It's a shame the current crop of star architects is so obsessed with bling.

[1]: https://www.archdaily.com/907124/zaha-hadid-maker-of-the-21s...

[2]: https://www.wallpaper.com/architecture/the-barbican-estate-b...

[3]: https://robots.thoughtbot.com/barbican-estate-walking-throug...

> there is no idea, it's just pure ornament

Exactly. It feels like a complete void.

I was trying to find examples of a kind or architecture that is the complete opposite, thought of F. L. Wright, and found this:


The UK is interesting because we have award winning architects like Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Terry Farrell et all yet we produce the most dismal housing for people to live in. There is a new housing estate behind my house that looks like it was designed by the foreman one Friday afternoon, everywhere I look it's the same.

I'm not very partial to any of the big, prestigious buildings (by any architect), but I think that apartment building on NY 520 West 28th is a thing of beauty. The all-glass facade also gives a lot of options for playing with natural lighting inside.

It's just an expensive exercise in modern construction practices and a vehicle to sell luxury flats. Just notice how generic it is. Can you tell which city (or which part of NY) it is if not for the caption? How is it different from any other luxury apartment development except for the looks?

If theres one reason for Zaha Hadids exceptionalism its wealth. Her career was subsidised for decades and wealthy connections brought the work in when it first came.

Now of course its not the same and the practice can support itself at least to some extent, but whether it can do this over the long run is still a question.

Her treatment of young staff which varies from exploitative to abusive to helpful depending who you ask, is not very different to other Starchitects.

"If theres one reason for Zaha Hadids exceptionalism its wealth."

She was by all accounts from the time, and in retrospect, a star student during her time at Architectural Association. Not just a top student but an exceptional student. She was also fierce in her determination to succeed, something still difficult for a woman at that time in a male dominated industry full of egos. She persevered, and like a lot of women of that time who did, were punished for it.

As well, I've heard plenty of stories about her treatment of staff which is inexcusable behavior, however that's immaterial to her artistic vision and capability.

Her connections certainly helped her career, yes, they always do in business. She wasn't exceptional because of her wealth.

This is a bit strange. There are a lot of exceptional people who will not get anywhere because they are poor. So it's nice and all, but don't just say her exceptional wealth has nothing to do with anything.

First of all you have to be incredibly wealthy to study at the AA as a foreign student in the first place.

I'm not sure where you get your info that she was a star student - by all accounts I know of she struggled at times at the AA, and often didn't get great grades. She was quite headstrong (which is kind of what they teach you) and got on with some people and not with others.

There's other great women in the world of Architecture too like Sejima or Carme Pigem (both themselves Pritzker prize winners) who get much less attention by non-architects. And run their practices in a much less exploitative way

>Her career was subsidised for decades and wealthy connections brought the work in when it first came.

In architecture, this is the rule rather than the exception.

You seem to know a lot about her management style. Care to share some more details?

The stories I've heard through the grapevine include a lot of humiliation of young employees. One for example was Zaha throwing a phone at someone during late (unpaid) overtime, insulting them then ordering them to fix it for her.

Its not uncommon at Starchitects to be like this, but Zaha to my knowledge was one of the worst.

This is architecture for car drivers who zoom past while burning carbon. Spend more than 10 seconds, it stops looking cool and becomes boring. Yet another example how car destroys our cities.

It is not walkable, it is not human-scale, it does not integrate with surroundings. I love how they do advertisement renders where their buildings stand in an empty field. As if the rest of the city never existed and should not be cared for!

You can't walk past these buildings every day and enjoy it. First of all, they are too large and far apart. It will be boring and long not to mention wind, rain and snow to which it offers no protection.

Moreover, it's a legitimization of awful 70s architecture with slightly more effort. Even her New York building looks like something people from 70s would build when they dismantle some beautiful neoclassical or moderne building.

Isn't her New York building a complete counterexample to your argument? It's built along Manhattan's elevated walking trail, the Highline and enjoyed by thousands of people [0]. Until the Vessel is completed, it's likely the main attraction on the walking path.

[0] https://goo.gl/images/e1XZ4v

It looks passable, but as I have said any Art Noveau building would give more eye candy, and there's a huge number of such building around the world, it's not we praise each and every of their architects.

It also looks like a side of any cruise ship. Last time I have checked cruise ships were not considered masterpieces of architecture, and they also float.

Arguably the Flatiron building looks like the prow of a ship and it certainly is an architectural work worthy of admiration.


Yes it does look nice-ish, but this is stage when human-scale disappears. It would look much less bland if it was ten story high and not twenty.

Having that coffin to the left does not help. It wants to dominate the landscape but it's dwarfed by a messy box.

She changed East Lansing with the design of the Broad Art Museum. I smile everytime that I drive by it on Grand River Avenue. Who wouldn't want a touch of the Guggenheim in Bilbao in their town? It has the best light for the display of art of any museum I've ever visited. There were visitors from over forty countries in the first thirty days after it opened.


I am resentful for the crime she committed against the city I live in, Vienna.

Google: zaha hadid haus wien

Such an atrocity!

I think it doesn’t look to bad, at least from the river side.

It‘s a result of the compromise: building the flats where old, legally protected structures should remain. Giving the constrains, it‘s quite a success.

The house is literally empty since 2015.

Woah, crazy. Compared to her better known projects, it's hard to believe she was in any way connected to this one.

She said it wasn't created in her spirit and that she wanted to do it differently. I heard she rejected being connected to the project and you were not allowed to talk about it in front of her.

Not sure why so many negative comments here; I found her architectural style a breath of a fresh air comparing to prevailing trends favoring shapes that looked like being sculpted with a software from the 80s. So many non-distinctive boxes everywhere around, her work was actually inspiring and in some ways resembled trends outlined by Gaudi. I consider her one of the best.

Yes, her works may be nice when compared to 80s.

But if you compare them to the turn of XX century, they don't look so nice. People may smile when zipping along her creations, but you can walk along some of Art Nouveau buildings every day for years and never stop smiling. E.g. https://yandex.ru/maps/-/CBF84WbZ8D

> Hadid entrusted young architects with important roles on major commissions.

It's true, and the most important takeaway of why she was such a good leader.

But the fact that her savvy treatment of young people is newsworthy does not bode well for the architecture profession.

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