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Vol. 9, No. 2

Notes on Design

by Zaha Hadid

Notes On Design Zaha Hadid

[Co-authored with Patrik Schumacher, senior partner of Zaha Hadid Architects]

In recent years our design firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, has completed a series of small- to medium-size buildings—the Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati being the most prominent amongst them. Larger buildings in Wolfsburg and Leipzig, Germany, will be opening this summer. The office has grown to over eighty people and is gearing up toward faster and bigger projects. However, our ambition remains to innovate the discipline of architecture rather than merely to build more and larger buildings.
     We are expanding and refining our formal repertoire and experimenting with new computer-aided manufacturing techniques. In this respect exhibition designs, interiors, and small projects are effective vehicles. Through these experimental efforts we stay in close communication with other innovators in the field. We see ourselves as participating in the development of a new language for contemporary architecture.
     This new architectural language is marked by a need to be organized within ever more complex urban contexts, while reducing visual complexity by integrating multiple elements into a coherent form. We are promoting an architecture without corners because corners pollute the visual field without signifying anything. The general challenge is to find modes of composition that can articulate complex arrangements and relationships without losing legibility and the capacity to orient users—leading to an intricately layered spatial formation that presents itself as a unified whole.
     The analogy of building and organism is as old and self-conscious as the discipline of architecture itself. Traditionally the analogy focused on key ordering principles, like symmetry and proportion. These principles were seen as integrating the various parts into a whole by means of setting those parts into definite relations. In this conception the organism is approximating an ideal type that implies strict rules of arrangement and scale for all parts. It also assumes a state of completeness and perfection. The organism is a closed form: nothing can be added or subtracted. Perhaps the best example of this ideal is the Palladian villa.
     Our projects remain incomplete compositions, more akin to the Deleuzian notion of assemblage than to the classical conception of the organism. Our idea of organic integration does not rely on such fixed ideal types. Neither does it presuppose any proportional system, nor does it privilege symmetry. Instead the parts or subsystems mutually adapt to each other, achieving integration by various modes of spatial interlocking, soft transitions at the boundaries between parts, and morphological affiliation.
     An example is our design for a new Guggenheim Museum in Taichung, Taiwan. Here, the two gallery wings are mediated by allowing both to meld into the central communication space, which itself is continuous with the surrounding park-scape. All transitions are made smooth. Changes in surface material never coincide with or reinforce changes in geometry. There are no add-on parts that could be easily separated out of the overall composition. The ramps and paths are cuts and folds molded into the ground surface, as well as into the envelope of the building. The lattice of the roof bridging the central public space is not a neutral grid but an irregular triangulation that is adapted to the wedge-shaped gap between the two gallery wings. The structural beams are formally affiliated with the pedestrian bridges that cross this canyon space below. The glass mullions of the roof glazing continue this game of triangulation on a smaller scale. The openings within the building envelope are not punched out as arbitrary shapes; instead the surface is spliced along its lines of least curvature to create louvered openings, akin to gills, which respect the integrity of the surface.
     The ambition is to avoid an arbitrary interference in or interruption of the envelope. A refined organic architecture resists easy decomposition—a measure of its complexity. The work presented here demonstrates the development of this new approach to the articulation of architectural space and form.

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