Zaha Hadid

Building an Icon

British-based Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid is a force to reckon with. From the DNA-inspired sci-fi futurism of Singapore’s Biopolis to the deconstructionism of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Centre, Hadid has created sculptures out of buildings. So when CapitaLand announced in July 2008 that the renowned architect will be designing its seven 36-storey apartment blocks worth S$3 billion on Farrer Road, many wondered what her next work of art will look like.

“Ms Zaha Hadid is one of the most sought-after international architects today. She was also the first woman to receive the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004,” said Patricia Chia, CEO of CapitaLand Residential Singapore on why she was chosen.

CapitaLand expects 50% of the buyers to be Singaporeans while the remaining 50% are likely to be international buyers.

Born in secularised Baghdad in 1950, Hadid came from an influential bourgeois family. Her father was a politician and economist who industrialised Iraq from the country’s oil revenues. He was also a co-founder of the Iraqi National Democratic and a leader of the Iraqi Progressive Democratic Parties. Her family fled the country when Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party came to power in 1963.

Hadid came to London via Beirut in 1972 where she studied at the city’s best architecture school, the Architectural Association (AA). She was awarded the Diploma Prize in 1977. She then became a partner of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) where she taught at the AA with OMA collaborators, Rem Koolhaas (now a global superstar) and Elia Zenghelis. Hadid subsequently led her own studio at the AA until 1987.

Since then, Hadid has held the Kenzo Tange Chair at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University and the Sullivan Chair at the University of Illinois, School of Architecture, Chicago. She also had guest professorships at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg; the Knolton School of Architecture, Ohio and the Masters Studio at Columbia University, New York. In 2002, she was made Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture and Commander of the British Empire.

Despite her academic achievements, Hadid was always hungry to build and see her creations come to fruition. Academia was a phase she had to go through to realise her dreams.

Initially however, many weren’t quite sure what to make of her works. In 1982, for instance, when she won her first competition to replace the Peak Club in Hong Kong, many wondered if it could ever be constructed. Her gravity-defying creations complete with splinter-like structures baffled many who thought she was too ahead of her time. In the end, her design was never built but it did propel her name to international prominence.

“My ideas come from observation: of the site, of nature, of people moving in the city. Over the past thirty years, we’ve been working to articulate complexity with a new architectural language of fluidity inspired by natural systems, said Hadid on her design inspirations which span the entire spectrum of design – from large-scale urban architecture to interiors, furniture and exhibition spaces.

A decade later, Hadid has proven her detractors wrong with her innovative and out-of-this world architectural works, courtesy of her own firm, Zaha Hadid Architects. Her firm’s winning designs has gone on to grace cities around the globe and they include Kurfürstendamm, Berlin (1986), Düsseldorf Art and Media Centre (1992/93), Cardiff Bay Opera House, Wales (1994), Thames Water/Royal Academy Habitable Bridge Competition (1996), the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (1998), University of North London Holloway Road Bridge (1998), the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Rome (1999), the Bergisel Ski-jump in Innsbruck, Austria (1999), Placa de les Artes in Barcelona (2001), one-north master plan for Singapore’s Science Hub (2001), the Ordrupgaard Museum Extension in Copenhagen (2001) and the temporary Guggenheim Museum in Tokyo (2002).

Most remarkably, she made her mark in pop culture by designing a number of stage sets for the Pet Shop Boys 1999/2000 World Tour.

As we speak, her firm is currently working on a variety of projects in Asia. Her impression of Asian architecture is nothing short of fascinating.

“When I first visited Asia almost three decades ago, I was fascinated with the porosity of the developments. This language of urbanism encourages interaction with the layering of public spaces in mixed-use developments that follow the Corbusian model. Twenty years ago, around the world, there was an anti-urban trend that favoured suburban lifestyles over metropolitan lifestyles. Asian cities showed us that living and working within an urban environment that functions well is exciting and beneficial,” she enthused.

In Asia, her projects include designing the Guangzhou Opera House in China and the Guggenheim Museum in Taichung. Given her envelope-pushing architecture, designing those buildings whilst maintaining their Asian identity proved to be challenging.

“In Asia, certain analogical thinking makes sense to people – whereas in the West this is not so prevalent. For example, at our Guangzhou Opera House project, the concepts of pebbles and rocks at the side of the river are actually very meaningful to the people of the city. However, for us, this is more of a technique to articulate the relationship of landscape and object. So we are usually not thinking as a metaphor, but more in terms of an analogy – the landscape analogy,” explains Hadid.

Her firm tries to find middle ground by having a very open, formal and diverse repertoire whilst sticking to several guiding principles.

“Of course we are always interested in expanding our repertoire and doing different things in different contexts but there are some principles which we always adhere to. One of these principles is that we always attempt to embed a project into its context with a whole series of articulate relationships. We draw out features and lines from the context so that in the end there is the sense of the project being part of the surrounding local landscape,” Hadid added.

With CapitaLand’s yet-to-be-named residential project in the pipeline, Hadid is set to make another mark in Singapore.

“We approached Ms Hadid as we love her signature style of flowing lines and sensuous architectural silhouettes, which we felt would bring out the best in the Farrer site. It will allow us to create a distinctive high-rise development that would at the same time, stand proud against the skyline of a predominantly landed neighbourhood,” added Chia.

The mid to high-end development on Farrer Road is inspired by growth in nature and will offer residents lush views of Bukit Timah Hill, Singapore Botanic Gardens, MacRitchie Reservoir as well as Orchard Road’s city skyline. It is set to obtain its final Temporary Occupation Permit by 2013.

“We have been working in Singapore for almost a decade and the Farrer Road development is a continuation of our detailed research into the urban fabric of the city. The seven tower development on one of Singapore’s most prominent sites represents further exploration into the tower typology and our studies into organisational systems and growth in the natural world. The towers are subdivided into petals according to the layout of each level to form a series of diverse and distinctive towers,” Hadid disclosed on what to expect.

Hadid is currently Professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria. Her firm is currently on site at the “Central Plant Building” for BMW in Leipzig, Germany, the Contemporary Arts Centre “MAXXI” in Rome, Italy; the Ordrupgaard Museum extension in Copenhagen, Denmark and the “Phaeno Science Centre” in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Source : Property Report

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