Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Zaha Hadid: Part II

Zaha Hadid, Antwerp Port Authority, to be finished 2013

Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950 the Architect has often been called the Diva of Architecture, a title she takes issue with, saying, and I’m paraphrasing “If I were an excellent but stubborn and aggressive male architect I would not be called a Diva.”

An interesting aside, my goddaughter is a world-class executive chef and freely admits to also being a “DIVA.” I say why not – if you are especially good at what you do, understand just how good you are, and push hard to be successful in your career – you should accept the title "DIVA" as an accolade.

Zaha Hadid’s life is summarized in several sources on the Web, and I’ve detailed these in my notes. Instead of spending time writing about her life, I would rather write about her curvilinear creations. As stated in my last journal entry, it is as though her buildings have suddenly appeared in our time/space continuum from another dimension. They interrupt our architectural history, seeming to hover around and among the structures in their urban environment including historic structures, modernist shoeboxes and the postmodern deconstructed structures of modernism and their disjointed mixture with historic artifice. They refuse to be viewed from any one direction, forcing us to walk around and through them, walls, ceilings, and floors sometimes morphing into one another, as though oscillating in and out of our current time/space frame. They reflect our disjointed and conflicted contemporary culture much as Mannerist art and architecture reflected the conflicted post Renaissance in Italy and surrounding European nations, a time when the Catholic Popes had overstepped the bounds of their worldly power, and suffered the consequences.

view of bridge and port with Port Authority Headquarters

Let’s examine several examples of these Twenty-first Century Mannerist masterpieces. First, The new Antwerp Port Authority headquarters in Belgium, slated to be completed in 2013. The design incorporates an existing historic firehouse with a new structure designed to bring 500 employees together from various buildings. This combination of the past with the new is a trope that has been used over and over again since the Postmodern and it has saved many an historic structure from being raised. However in Hadid’s hands, the design interrupts our standard conception of how the old and the new might be incorporated into one seamless program. Instead of joining the buildings, the new crystalline structure in the shape of a powerboat hull (the reference is obvious enough) hovers above the existing firehouse, transformed into something that looks like a light-filled flying wedge. Refusing to be philosophical about the integration of the two structures, Hadid said, “…the dichotomy between the reflective, faceted form of the new extension and the powerful structural mass of the existing fire station creates a bold and enigmatic statement for the city.” “Enigmatic, “ indeed! Her choice of words leaves the question of how this oppositional structure exists - within the frame of the city and port in which it is located, with the symbolic port suspension bridge behind allowing the new building to literally and figuratively hover - in and among our discordant ideas about city and port as congested difficult places of refuge. Also, how fitting the port bridge is behind since the port authority is the bridge that controls the flow of traffic between locations and conflicted cultures.

Three quarter view of Antwerp Port Authority with bridge

To be continued.


Hadid, Zaha, "Zaha Hadid," in Wikipedia, , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaha_Hadid. Last modified August 8, 2011, viewed 9:21 AM EDT, August 16, 3011.

* “antwerp port authority headquarters by zaha Hadid architects,” in designboom, http://www.designboom.com/, copyrighted 2000-2010. Viewed 10:00 A.M., EDT, Sunday, August 14, 2011. It is thought that one time use of copyright material for intellectual purposes is within legal parameters of United States copyright law.

Antwerp Port Authority Headquarters by Zaha Hadid, in the Contemporist, http://www.contemporist.com/. Posted January 21, 2009, viewed, 9:00 AM. EDT, Tuesday, August 16, 2011.

Antwerp Port Authority Headquarters/Zaha Hadid, in eVolo, http://www.evolo.us/. Posted October 11, 2010, viewed 9:10 AM. EDT, Tuesday, August 16, 2011.

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