Saturday, June 25, 2011

HADID - mania

HADID - mania

It's the first century BC - a Roman architect Vitruvius writes a treatise on architecture in which he states that architecture should exhibit three basic qualities: firmitatis, utlitatis, venustatis - solidness, usefulness and beauty.

Today, over two thousand years after Vitruvius, Zaha Hadid writes her treatise. This popular Iraqi rejects the Vitruvian trio and introduces a new doctrine that can be summarized in one word: celebriting.

I've talked to many young people aspiring to become architects, and noticed their level of knowledge on architecture is simply appalling. The only name that comes to their mind when they hear the word architecture is Hadid. Thousands of years of architecture are every now and then crushed by Ms Hadid's new projects. I simply cannot imagine the faces of all these people who having started their dream studies, will be stigmatized by their professors' heresies about there being other architects before Zaha Hadid. We are currently witnessing the process of creating Hadidmania.

Hadid, called the empress of architecture has won several prestigious awards. These include the architectural Nobel - The Pritzker Prize. The prize is worth mentioning not only because of its symbolic value, but also because of the aspects of giving it to Hadid. First of all, she's the first woman to have received the prize in the thirty-two year-old history of the award. Pritzker is not an award for individual projects, but for the whole architect's activity. One has to present a big and impressive port folio to the jury. In Hidad's case it was different. She couldn't demonstrate any big projects, in fact she had only done one significant design in her career then, but she still received the prize. It might seem strange that Peter Zumthor - who has worked in the field much longer than Zaha, and at the time when she received the award had far more significant projects in his portfolio - received the prize only five years later. For Hadid the Pritzker has worked as an Oscar in a way. Once a film is nominated for the Academy Awards, its worth, also in the media, goes up, and even more so when it actually wins the prize. This is what happened in Zaha Hadid's case, she did her most import_____ant projects only after receiving the prize.

The MAXXI museum of contemporary art in Rome is considered by critics the gem of her portfolio. It's worth to mention that the design was first presented in 1998 and actually realized only after eleven years. Shortly after opening the building to the public, it was proclaimed the building of the year 2009. I'm scared to think what might have happened if it had been built earlier. The building resembles Hidad herself. It is gaudy and flashy just like the ring and Prada bag the artist wore to the opening. In the midst of narrow streets and little houses a colossus has erected, designed by this extravagant Briton. The artist's intention was to create an impression that the building is floating. And indeed, it is floating - in no direction at all. Yet, thanks to the accomplishments and the famous name of its creator, it will certainly not end up the way Titanic did.

The interior itself is actually quite interesting if we forget the function it was supposed to fulfill. Inside, MAXXI is truly impressive and this is the biggest problem. After all, it's a museum. The exhibits should be most import_____ant, not the building, which might be lavish and draw attention on the outside, like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, but the interior should not be a distraction from the exhibits. Frank Ghery, who designed the aforementioned museum and the Walt Disney concert hall, once said that when he worked on the concert hall design the most import_____ant thing for him was to remember that architecture was a secondary thing there, the music was most import_____ant and everything else had to be subordinate to it. In her Roman design Hadid forgot about this rule.Her museum is one big labyrinth with no particular direction. Visitors who come to the museum are forced to focus more on the route than on the works of art. The only chance they will remember anything from their tour is that right behind that sculpture you have to turn right and perhaps you will find an exit.

Don't Get me wrong, it's not that I don't like Ms Hadid's work. Quite the opposite, I think she has created a few very good designs. The mountain railway in Innsbruck with each station designed to adapt the specific site conditions, is simply phenomenal. Thanks to the material used, the stations seem to be sculpted in ice. Generally, I am under the impression that she can only create small-scale architecture. She's also good with interiors and furniture. I'm afraid to write all this, I know the feminists will answer right away and write me off as Aaron Betsky's fan. In his book Building Sex: Men, Women, Architecture and the construction of sexuality he uses biological comparisons and advances some rather biased thesis. In his opinion, architecture is a sign of men's domination over women. Men erect huge buildings to show their greatness. Betsky sees them as phallic symbols. A woman's domain is the interior. That's why men build and women decorate. Betsky was severely criticised, as according to many architecture critics his thesis have nothing to do with the reality. I agree his thesis is wrong. But I also think that Hadid may be an exception that proves the rule.

MAXXI is not her only failure. Take Dorobanti Tower in Bucharest for example. On the whole it's pretty and elegant. The problem is, however, that it simply looks like a giant cigarette lighter. And this is a good example proving that Hadid should only do small-scale projects, and stay away from the big ones as any self-respecting conceptual artist, because there's nothing that would make you look more like an idiot. Hadid's flagship failure is a dwelling house in Spittelau located, and that's a good one, right above a flyover, which means that trains pass your house every single day. Additionally, there's a highway right nearby. The design itself is pretty and probably anyone would love to live there until they actually do.

Hadid's design look as if the artist had decided what to build in a certain place without even visiting the site. Most of her designs are detached from the surroundings. Peter Zumthor visits the place he is supposed to work in several Times before actually deciding if he wants to realize a project there. So does the famous architects duo Herzog and de Meuron. When they were offered to design the stadium in Beijing, they said they would not propose anything until they went to China. They don't want to decide what to do if they don't feel the atmosphere of a place. This is what Hidad forgets about. Unlike other fields of art, architecture is not mobile. It makes sense only if it comes to exist in a certain space. It doesn't have to fit the surroundings, it may be a contrast to it. This way or another, it should provoke some form of a dialogue with space, and not just scream.

Hadid is the biggest celebrity among architects. She is a bit like Lady Gaga. Each next work of hers is to be a hit. Today MAXXI is triumphing, tomorrow it will be something else. The problem is however that Lady Gaga can be turned off, Hadid can't.




Best regards!

The Krasnals