Nov 20, 201301:41 PMPoint of View


Zaha Hadid's Curvy New Gem on the Caspian

(page 2 of 3)

The gestural flourishes of the exterior, the excessive bulges and nip-and-tucks that really leave nothing to the imagination, give way to the more austere interiors. The The undulating walls mask quite a bit of engineering, not to mention steel in the form of a sprawling, continuous space frame. This structure made it possible for Bekiroglu and ZHA to do away with rectilinear columns, whose absence was necessary if the fluidity of the design were to prevail. “The space frame system enabled the construction of a free-form structure and saved significant time throughout the construction process,” explains Bekiroglu.

The construction photos depict a flowing mesh of steel bars and joints that seems like a gleefully warped version of the visionary space frame projects of the 1970s. Shorn of its generic cladding material, the structure at least looked like it came from a recognizable history—one with a heritage of tectonics and technological expression—and not merely dropped in from an anonymous future. In some ways, the naked space frame seems more futuristic than the final built design, whose motivations, apart from formal experimentation, seem vague and muddled. 

Courtesy Hufton + Crow

Squint and you might find the calligraphic lines Bekiroglu makes reference to; or you may notice how the tile grid overlay and its bombastic transformations evoke a kind of ornament. But then you could be missing the point altogether. While the architects couch the design language in the syntax of the region's historic architecture, the building really could be anywhere. What you, or more accurately, the residents of Baku are really getting is a shiny new Zaha Hadid, Model E-C (Extra-Curves). It has its own quirks, for sure, but it handles very much like many of ZHA's recent efforts, particularly the cultural buildings. Still, had any other starchitect or large architectural office been given the commission, it's doubtful they could have produced something with this much verve. 

Courtesy Hufton + Crow

Courtesy Hélène Binet

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