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Digital Hadid: Landscapes in Motion
Patrik Schumacher, Birkhauser, London 2004
91 000 characters (with spaces)
101 images (13 projects)
I. The prehistory of the new digitally based architecture
The quest for new design media
Zaha Hadid in her own words
Post-modernism, Deconstructivism, Folding
Mechanisms of Invention
II. Current work – towards a new digitally based architectural language
Centre for Contemporary Art, Rome
Art Centre, Graz
Quebec National Library, Montreal
One North Masterplan, Singapore
BMW Central Building, Leipzig
Ice-storm, Lounging Environment
Z-Scape, Lounging Furniture
BBC Music Centre, London
Fine Arts Centre, University of Connecticut
Fast Train Station, Florence
Fast Train Station, Naples
Temporary Guggenheim Museum, Tokyo
Guggenheim Museum, Taichung
Digital Hadid will explore the contribution of Zaha Hadid and of Zaha Hadid Architects to the development of the new architectural language and paradigm that is fast becoming hegemonic within avant-garde architecture today. There is an unmistakable new style manifest within avant-garde architecture today. Its most striking characteristic is its complex and dynamic curvelinearity. Beyond this obvious surface feature one can identify a series of new concepts and methods that are so different from the repertoire of both traditional and modern architecture that one might speak of the emergence of a new paradigm for architecture. It seems difficult to give a unified name to this new paradigm that succinctly captures the essence of the current trend. One difficulty lies in the question whether such a defining term should refer to the formal features, the guiding concepts or the methods/techniques that characterize this new paradigm. Contenders are Blob-architecture, Folding , Deformation, Parametric Architecture, Digital Architecture. This new language (or style) of architecture seems to be based upon the adoption of a new generation of 3D modeling tools. Indeed a lot of commentators tend to construe a direct causal link from this new paradigm back to the IT revolution that has transformed the discipline in last 10 years. Indeed the choice of a representational/design medium has a huge impact on the character of the design results. The medium is never neutral and external to the work. It constitutes and limits the design issues treated and the universe of possibilities for effective design speculation. Design thinking is bound to the representational medium and its scope can be expanded by the expansion offered by the new digital design tools. The reflection upon “design worlds” (Mitchell 1990), and their embeddedness in the “discursive formations” (Foucault 1972) of the discipline, is a necessary component of taking a progressive stance towards the possibilities of design research. However, I shall argue and demonstrate that such a simple reduction of the new type of work to the availability of computing in architecture would be a fallacy. While it is undeniably true that the arrival of the new tools (3ds max a.o.) had a huge impact and that these tools have been able to monopolize the production of contemporary work - without these tools nothing goes - I will argue that the adoption of animation tools was not at all inevitable, but rather had to be prepared by certain conceptual and methodological advances that preceded the arrival of these tools. To uncover and explicate this pre-digital pedigree of the current digital architecture will be the task of the first part of the book. In this prehistory one can locate Zaha Hadid’s most original and path-breaking contributions to the development of contemporary architecture. In this era – the 1980s - Hadid was one of the key protagonists in a field of radical conceptual and formal architectural research, and her pre-eminent reputation was established on the basis of pictorial research without the completion of a single building during this first decade of her career. During this period the computer was absent from Hadid’s design studio. However, the innovation of certain analog design media deployed was crucial in the formation of her work.
The second part of the book will focus on the development of the work since the introduction of the computer in 1990. Here I will introduce a series of key projects and key concepts that have been important with respect to the development of the current flourishing of “digital architecture” both within and beyond Hadid’s practice. This period in also the period in which Hadid’s architecture has made the transition from concept to material realization without compromising its innovative thrust. The involvement of the 3D modeling tools in this process of realization will be explained. Finally, I will present and discuss the most recent work of Zaha Hadid Architects which is marked by the fact that a new level of structural complexity, tectonic fluidity and plastic articulation has been mastered with precision and confidence. While the book presents two parts representing two phases in the development of Hadid’s oevre pre-digital and (post)digital - I think the work has a strong continuity overall. The computer was introduced in the late eighties, early nineties, when we started with simple forms of 3D-modelling with Model-shop and later FormZ. That was a process parallel to hand drafting and painting. They were quick three-dimensional sketches. The computer was used because it was helpful for what was already established as an architectural language. The computer programs that work with splines and smoothly deformable meshes were introduced much later, in the second half of the nineties. The 2D computer-drafting, for the plans and sections, started in the mid-nineties. That was a big shift, because it meant not just working in layers, which you can also do on transparent paper, but it meant that we could work on all plans simultaneously. The latest shift is the introduction of 3D modeling and complex curvelinearity. That made more complex compositions possible. But the desire for complex form was always building upon the formal and conceptual innovations achieved previously. The tools came in as soon as they were available, keenly taken up to support the ambitious design manoevers already under way. It was a dialectic amplification, in which the new work spurned the search for new tools and the introduction of new tools facilitated the work further, pushing the most ambitious tendencies to new extremes. This process was an evolution of many smaller steps, not of a few singular breaks.
I. The prehistory of the new digitally based architecture
One of the most significant and momentous features of architectural avant-garde of the last 20 years is the proliferation of representational media and design processes.
In the early eighties Zaha Hadid burst onto the architectural scene with a series of spectacular designs embodied by even more spectacular drawings and paintings. The idiosyncrasies of these drawings made it difficult to read them as straightforward architectural descriptions. This initial openness of interpretation might have led some commentators to suspect ‘mere graphics” here.
There is an obvious parallel here with the skepticism which confronted the early, abstract experiments in computer surface modeling in the mid-nineties. However, these unusual modes of representation played a fundamental role in the development of a series of highly original and influential expansions of the formal and conceptual repertoire of architecture. Modes of representation in architecture are at the same time modes of generation. The creative process to a large extent resides in these modes and means. The creativity and information processing capacity of the “imagination” or ”inner eye” is rather limited and itself dependent upon being trained and developed in conjunction with the development of the media. That is why “Digital Hadid” is part of a significant series of investigations. Computer technology, i.e. the new digital design tools have had an important and increasing influence on the work of Zaha Hadid Architects over the last 10 years. This concerns primarily the handling of increasingly complex geometries within the designs. However, the desire for such tools to be imported from the animation industry originated in the fact that the tendency towards complexity and fluidity was already manifest in the work before those tools were available. Hadid’s early elaborate techniques of projective distortion - deployed as a cohering device to gather a multitude of elements into one geometric force-field - were already setting the precedence of the current computerbased techniques of deformation and the modeling of fields by means of pseudo-gravitational forces. Hadid used axonometric and perspective projection in a new way to dynamize the implied space. Initially such projections were deployed according to their proper function as means of representation. However, it soon became apparent that there was a “self-serving” fascination with the extreme distortion of spaces and objects that emerged from the ruthless application of perspective construction – no0t unlike the anamorphic projectionsone can find in certain 17th Century paintings. Hadid built up pictorial spaces within which multiple perspective constructions were fused into a seamless dynamic texture. One way to understand these images is as attempts to emulate the experience of moving through an architectural composition revealing a succession of rather different points of view. Another, more radical way of reading these canvasses is to abstract from the implied views and to read the swarms of distorted forms as a peculiar architectural world in its own right with its own characteristic forms, compositional laws and spatial effects. One of the striking features of these large canvasses is there strong sense of coherence despite the richness and diversity of forms contained within them. There is never the order of monotonous repetition, but the field continuously changes its grain of articulation. Gradient transitions mediate large quiet areas with very dense and intense zones. Usually these compositions are poly-central and multi-directional. All these features are the result of the use of multiple, interpenetrating perspective projections. Often the dynamic intensity of the overall field is increased by using curved instead of straight projection lines. The projective geometry allows to bring an arbitrarily large and divers set of elements under its cohering law of diminuation and distortion. The resultant graphic space very much anticipates the later (and still very much current) concepts of field and swarm. The effect achieved is very much like the effects currently pursuit with curve-linear mesh-deformations and digitally simulated “gravitational fields” that grip, align, orient and thus cohere a set of elements or particles within the digital model.
A second prevalent feature of Hadid’s large paintings is the technique of layering and the concomitant technique of rendering elements as transparent to reveal the depth of the composition. This transparent superposition of the elements of a drawing anticipates the literal spatial interpenetration of geometric figures in order to create more complex organizations. A third characteristic of Hadid’s early work that anticipates a pervasive preoccupation of the recent avant-garde is the idea of manipulating the ground plane by means of cutting and warping. (Tomigaya, Al Whada, Duesseldorf) This elaboration of the ground as manipulated/moulded surface anticipates the current use of digital surface modelers and the attendant idea of architectural articulation by means of surface foldings implying the concept of the building as a single continuous surface.
Zaha Hadid in her own words:
Here is what Zaha Hadid had to say about the role of design media in general and digital media in particular in an interview with the Chairman of the Architectural Association School of Architecture Mohsen Mostafavi (El Croquis 103): MM: You touched on the question of mechanisms or means of representation. How do you think your approach has changed in the last 5 or 10 years? What is the tension between your own drawings/conceptualisations and the way in which in your own office computers are playing such a central role ? ZH: I still think that even in our later projects, where the computer was already involved, like for instance the IIT project, the 2-dimensional plan drawings are still seminal. I still think the plan is critical. The computer shows what you might see from various selected viewpoints. But I think this doesn't give you enough transparency; it's much too opaque. Also, I think it is much nicer on the screen than when it is printed on to paper, because the screen gives you luminosity and the paper does not unless you do it through a painting. Further I think if you compare computer renderings with rendering by hand I must say that you can improvise much more with hand drawing and painting. As you go along, there is another layer of operation, while you're working on the drawing which is somehow missing in the computer rendering. Some people still have this raw talent. Some people can do drawings and plans (by hand or by computer). They can manipulate them so much. Somebody like Patrik can do plans like nobody else. Some people have an incredible way of dealing with 3-dimensional modelling in the computer; but they don't have the same value. You can achieve certain things through technology. But you can't abstract in the same way. When drawing a perspective by hand you can decide that you want to show and edit out some other things. It's not about wire-framing. Rather you can decide to focus on the thing you want study at the time as you're doing the drawing. It focuses you more on certain critical issues. However, because I'm sitting there with 15 or 20 computer screens in front of me and I can see them all at the same time, it gives me yet another repertoire. You can see at the same time the section, the plan and several moving 3-D views, and in your mind you can see them in yet a different way. So I'm not sure if it weakens or strengthens your view. I just think it's a different way. And we still do physical models all the time, and I still do the sketches. MM: With your drawings you were often dealing with a certain notion of distortion, which allowed certain conventions to be looked at again. ZH: Yes, but what is interesting is that these ideas, at the time we did these drawings, allowed us to see a project from every possible and impossible perspective. May be you can do that now with the kind of animated fly-over. You can. But the nice thing about the elaborate drawing is that, because they take such a long time to construct, they give you the time to add many layers. With physical models it is the peculiar nature of the material which affords design opportunities. Because I am always doing the contouring of the site in plexi we began to see a similarity between liquid space and rock. Such “discoveries” can be productive. By the sheer use of the model, almost by total accident, you begin to look at things in different ways. So I'm saying that the presentation began to inform the work and it gives you ideas. In the case of the Tomigaya project in Tokyo we did these every difficult drawings where we saw everything simultaneously in 3-D. This coincided at the time with the appearance of the plexi model, about 15 years ago. What does it mean to see in a transparent way through a building? One of the implications for us was the realisation that we do not have to have the vertical circulation operate like an extrusion or vertical core but rather allow the vertical path to shift from one level to the next. This was discovered because we had the different plans overlaid with each other, to construct a way to connect the levels in a new way. I think that in a way one can say that these very elaborate, complicated drawings – without saying that they are definitely finished - did their job at the time. At the time I could not present the work in a normative way. The work could not be done just through a simple set of plans and sections only. There was an element of shock, really, which was to shock or challenge normal conventions. But it's not enough to just, say, do anything formally different. I think that 20 years ago, when my formal repertoire has developed over a number of years, in every project, the idea of the project was first challenged, and then it was worked on formally. We never set out explicitely with the intention of formal discovery, through a drawing with the prediction that we would discover something. All these drawings which were quite elaborate needed a scenario. These drawings were developed over a considerable length of time. Therefore I would say, the formal repertoire that emerged was not completely accidental, perhaps a bit of accident at the beginning may be, prior to the development of the project. But then those accidental discoveries have been worked out through very precise drawings. Graphic Space The predicament to start (and ultimately stay) with drawings, i.e. with objects lacking the third dimension, has been architecture’s predicament ever since its inception as a discipline distinguished from construction. As Robin Evans pointed out so bluntly: architects do not build, they draw. Therefore the translation from drawing to building is always problematic – at least under conditions of innovation. Architecture as a design discipline that is distinguished from the physical act of building constitutes itself on the basis of drawing. The discipline of architecture emerges and separates from the craft of construction through the differentiation of the drawing as tool and domain of expertise outside (and in advance) of the material process of construction.
The first effect of drawing (in ancient Greek architecture) seems to be an increased capacity of standardization, precision and regularized reproduction on a fairly high level of complexity and across a rather wide territory. Roman architecture could benefit from this but also shows hints towards the exploitation of the capacity of invention that the medium of drawing affords. Without drawing the typological proliferation of Roman architecture is inconceivable. Since the Renaissance (via Manerism and Baroque) this speculative moment of the drawing has been gathering momentum. But only 1920s modernism really discovers the full power and potential of the drawing as a highly economic trial-error mechanism and an effortless plane of invention - in fact inspired by the compositional liberation achieved by abstract art in the 1st decade of the 20th Century. Drawing accelerates the evolution of architecture. In this respect modern architecture depends upon the revolution within the visual arts that finally shook off the burden of representation. Modern architecture was able to build upon the legacy of modern abstract art as the conquest of a previously unimaginable realm of constructive freedom. Hitherto art was understood as mimesis and the reiteration of given sujets, i.e. re-presentation rather than creation. Architecture was the re-presentation of a fixed set of minutely determined typologies and complete tectonic systems. Against this backdrop abstraction meant the possibility and challenge of free creation. The canvas became the field of an original construction. A monumental break-through with enormous consequences for the whole of modern civilisation. Through figures such as Malevitsch and vanguard groups such as the DeStijl movement this exhilarating historical moment was captured and exploited for the world of experimental architecture. My thesis here is that the withdrawal into the two-dimensional surface, i.e. the refusal to interpret everything immediately as a spatial representation, is a condition for the full exploitation of the medium of drawing as a medium on invention. Only on this basis, as explicitly graphic manoevers, do the design manoevers gain enough fluidity and freedom to play. They have to be set loose, shake off the burden to always already mean something determinate. Obviously, this stage of play and proliferation has to be followed by a tenacious work of selection and interpretation. At some stage architectural work leads to building. But not in every “project”. Some architectural projects remain “paper projects” which are “translated” later, by other projects. The discipline of architecture has learned to allow for this. Major contributions to the history of architecture have been made on this basis. Today we see architectural experiments and manifestos proliferating within the virtual space afforded by the computer. Although the working interface (computer screen) as well as the various output media (printing, video-projection) remain strictly two-dimensional, the virtual three-dimensionality afforded by 3D modeling software offers a new way of working that combines the intuitive possibilities of physical model making with the precision and immateriality of drawing. Further, as will discussed in more depth below, certain 3D modeling and animation tools introduce whole new series of “primitives” and manipulative operations which are highly suggestive with respect to new architectural morphologies and the conceptual build up of an architectural composition. However, these new compositional techniques still share some of the productive under-determination of the experimental drawing. 3D modeling can be equally abstract and ambiguous with respect to the final translation into physical constructs. One of Hadid's most audacious moves was to translate the dynamism and fluidity of her calligraphic hand directly into equally fluid tectonic systems. Another incredible move was the move from isometric and perspective projection to literal distortions of space and from the exploded axonometry to the literal explosion of space into fragments, from the superimposition of various fisheye perspectives to the literal bending and melt down of space etc. All these moves initially appear rampantly illogical, akin to the operations of the surrealists. The level of experimentation reached a point where the distinction between form and content within these drawings and paintings, was no longer fixed. The question which features of the graphic manipulation pertain to the mode of representation rather than to the object of representation was left unanswered. Was the architecture itself twisting, bending, fragmenting and interpenetrating or were theses features just aspects of the multi-view-point fish-eye perspectives? The answer is that over an extended process and a long chain of projects the graphic features slowly transfigured into realizable spatial features. The initial openness in this respect might have led some commentators to suspect ‘mere graphics” here. Within Zaha Hadid’s studio this uncertainty was productively engaged through a slow process of interpretation via further drawings, projects and finally buildings. These strange moves which seemed so alien and “crazy” - once taken seriously within the context of developing an architectural project - turn out to be powerful compositional options when faced with the task of articulating complex programmes. The dynamic streams of movements within a complex structure can now be made legible as the most fluid regions within the structure; overall trapezoidal distortions offer one more way to respond to non-orthogonal sites; perspective distortions allow the orientation of elements to various functional focal points etc. What once was an outrageous violation of logic has become part of a strategically deployed repertoire of nuanced spatial organisation and articulation. Painterly techniques like colour modulations, gradients of dark to light or pointillist techniques of dissolving objects into their background assume significance in terms of the articulation of new design concepts like morphing or new spatial concepts like smooth thresholds, “field-space” and the “space of becoming”(Eisenman). These concepts came to full fruition only with the latest digital 3D modeling and animation software. Jeff Kipnis deserves recognition here as someone who has theorised such possibilities of “graphic space”. But it was Zaha Hadid who went first and furthest in exploring this way of innovating architecture – without as well as with support of advanced software. Zaha Hadid has been a persistent radical in the field of architectural experimentation for the last 20 years. The importance of her contribution to the culture of architecture lies primarily in a series of momentous expansions - as influential as radical - in the repertoire of spatial articulation available to architects today. These conquests for the design resources of the discipline include representational devices, graphic manipulations, compositional manoeuvres, spatial concepts, typological inventions and (beyond the supposed remit of the discipline proper) the suggestion of new modes or patterns of inhabitation. This list of contributions describes a causal chain that significantly moves from the superficial to the substantial and thus reverses the order of ends vs. means assumed in normative models of rationality. The project starts as a shot into the dark, spreading its trajectories, and assuming its target in midcourse. The point of departure is the assumption of a new representational media (x-ray layering, multi perspective projection) which allow for certain graphic operations (multiple, over-determining distortions) which then are made operative as compositional transformations (fragmentation and deformation). These techniques lead to a new concept of space (magnetic field space, particle space, continuously distorted space) which suggests a new orientation, navigation and inhabitation of space. The inhabitant of such spaces no longer orients by means of prominent figures, axis, edges and clearly bounded realms. Instead the distribution of densities, directional bias, scalar grains and gradient vectors of transformation constitute the new ontology defining what it means to be somewhere. These innovations have been (and continue to be) produced within an international collective/competitive milieu of experimenters. The totality of discoveries emerging within this milieux is immediately appropriated - and rightly so - by each and every contributor. This assessment of Hadid's oeuvre in terms of the expansion of architectural methods and formal resources is independent of the success and merit the various built and unbuilt projects with respect to the particular tasks they are addressed to solve. Rather than fulfilling only their immediate purpose as a state of the art delivery of a particular use-value - e.g. a fire station or an exhibition venue - the significance and ambition of these projects is that they might be seen as manifestos of a new type of space. As such their defining context is the historical progression of such manifestos rather than their concrete spatial and institutional location. The defining ancestry of e.g. the Vitra Firestation or the Millennium Mind Zone includes the legacy of modern architecture and abstract art as the conquest of a previously unimaginable realm of constructive freedom. A key example for such a manifesto building is Rietveld's House Schroeder. The value and justification of this building does not only depend on the particular suitability to the Schroeder's family interests. It operates as an inspiring manifesto about new compositional possibilities which much later are further extended in the Vitra Firestation - Hadid's first built manifesto to be understood within Zaha Hadid's oeuvre at large. Both these manifesto buildings radically violate the typological and tectonic norms of their time and dare to suggest compositional moves hitherto unknown to the discipline of architecture. Hadid's oeuvre in turn can be defined as an attempt to push ahead with "the incomplete project of modernism". This is the most general account Zaha Hadid has - on many occasions - given of her work. The "incomplete project of modernism" as Hadid understands it is more tilted towards Russian Constructivism rather than German Functionalism giving greater prominence to formal innovation than to scientific rationalisation. But this opposition is one of degree rather than principle. For all shades of the modern movement the historical intersection of abstract art, industrial technology and the social revolutions succeeding in the aftermath of the 1st world war have been the indispensable ingredients. The introduction of categories such as "manifesto", "the discipline of architecture " and "oeuvre" suspends but does not cancel or deny concerns of utility. These categories are not set absolute, autonomous and forever aloof from the functional concerns of society. Rather the concrete uses and users are bracketed for the sake of experimenting with new, potentially generalisable principles of spatial organisation and articulation with respect to emerging social demands and use patterns. Functional optimality according to well corroborated criteria is thus renunciated for the experimental advancement of social practises of potentially higher functionality. The very nature of the kind of iconoclastic research of "the avant garde" is that it thrusts itself into the unknown and offers its challenging proposals to the collective process of experimentation in a raw state rather than waiting until the full cycle of experimentation, variation, selection, optimisation and refinement is complete to present secure and polished results. Despite the often precarious status of its partial and preliminary results I will argue that this radicalism constitutes a form of research; an unorthodox research in as much as it's methods include intuitive groping, randomisation and automatic formal processes, i.e. the temporary relaxation and even suspension of rational criteria. Post-modernism, Deconstructivism, Folding Hegel grasped that the New in artistic and intellectual history is always consuming its immediate precursor as its defining opposite, maintaining and carrying it along like a shadow. And this shadow carries a further shadow etc., so that a cultural innovation can only be identified and appreciated by those who are able to place it within the whole historical evolution. Such appreciation therefore becomes a relative, graded and ultimately infinite act. (And it is essential for the culture of architecture to insist that a new architectural position can not be reduced to an isolated form or gesture, but - like a scientific idea - involves a whole network of historically cumulative assumptions and ambitions.) This process, which Hegel called sublation, is borne out by the fact that the definition of the New, e.g. of deconstructivism or folding in architecture, stretches across hundreds of magazine and book pages, broadly retracing architectural history, referencing classic as well as modernist tropes. But - and this is beyond the grasp of hegelian dialectic - each time the sequence is traversed it is twisted and retro-actively realigned by current contingencies and emerging agendas. The history of (architectural) history reveals how distinctions and relative newness are redistributed, emerge and collapse under the force of current innovations and concerns, a force that thus works to a large extend against the arrow of time and this has bewitching consequences: A thought might no longer speak the language of its own beginning. As Derrida puts it "... all is not to be thought at one go ... " and "The necessity of passing through that erased determination, the necessity of that trick of writing is irreducible".(Derrida 1974) However easy and natural the latest innovations (layerings, deformations) might seem to us now, they did constitute radical violations of the implicit rules of architectural order and for the mainstream audience this oppositional character still dominates their perceived meaning. The innovative architect has no choice but to reckon and work with this dialectic determination by opposition or contrast. It will take time for the differences internal to the new language to emerge from the shadow of the stark difference of new vs old. One argument here is that while the current avant-garde language of architecture - with its incredible surge of creative energy and power, fuelled by the ongoing IT revolution, is conceptually still working out the ramifications of a series of dialectical reversals first launched by “deconstructivism”. Further we should not forget that the follow on movement of “folding” too was initially elaborated with pen and paper before it soaked up the new digital possibilities. Folding was counterposed to deconstructivism by a series of further reversals and oppositions – defined within the framework established by deconstructivism. The rapid succession of these three movements within avant-garde architecture (1970s to 1990s) created the conceptual and formal resources from which the current digitally liberated work took off in the second half of the nineties. Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction, and Colin Rowe’s Literal and Phenomenal Transparency offered seminal conceptual innovations that can still guide ambitious design agendas today.
Peter Eiseman’s method of transformational series, whereby he was working with series of successive over-determinations of an initial platonic primitive, anticipates the method the CAD-systems use in modeling 3D solids via the Boolean operations of addition, subtraction and intersection. Eisenman’s process is explicating his complex compositions as the end result of an explicit and retrievable series of such operations. This is mirrored in the ability of the CAD-system to keep a retrievable record of the history of object construction. The designer is enabled to retrace his steps and intervene in the recorded history of design steps, and depending upon the combinatoric dependencies between operations, he can make alternative choices at any point in the sequence of over-determination. Eisenman was also the first – inspired by Colin Rowes insightful analysis of cubism - to employ the method of superposition of incongruent geometric organizations. The resulting accidental clashes and interferences were cherished as interesting new compositional effects. It was Tschumi’s contribution to foreground and radicalize this method most effectively in his seminal project for the Parc de La Vilette in Paris. (The competition drawings were much more striking and influential than the built project which took many years to complete.) This project stated the principle of layering in crystal clear radicality. Multiple, divers spatial reference systems were occupying the same site. However, at this stage in the development of a new language of spatial complexity the layered spatial reference systems – point-grid, meandering line, system of platonic figures - were indifferent to each other. The layers are breaking through each other without registration of each other. There is no mutual inflection, adaptation or any attempt at integration. This was first achieved by Zaha Hadid who realized a seamless coherence in her complex and deep pictorial textures. Even her contribution to the competition for La Vilette already displays the seeds of these characteristics. The interarticulation of various spatial layers went hand in hand with the curvelinear distortion and dynamization of the complex spatial arrangements.
It was Jeff Kipnis’ and Greg Lynn’s contribution to elaborate the theoretical terms that allow us to focus our attention on these most advanced formal characteristics. Concepts like smooth vs striated space (taken from Deleuze & Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus), deformation as registration of programmatic and contextual information, multiple affiliation, and intensive coherence were offered as poignant descriptions and worthy ambitions. Greg Lynn soon moved ahead with the strategic deployment of brand new animation software tools to explore effective design techniques that could help to deliver the spatial qualities described in those concepts: meta-balls (=blobs), nurb meshes, inverses kinematic skeletons etc. Zaha Hadid Architects was quick to upgrade their digital toolkit to continue and intensify their exploration of dynamic and organically integrated complexity. In fact, even before these new software systems were brought in Zaha Hadid Architects were already using the Xerox machine to partly mechanise some of the most pertinent design moves: smearing drawings across the xeroxmachine following a curved or s-curved trajectory produced the desired dynamisation and smoothing effects. While it is important to reveal the genealogy of the formal and conceptual apparatus of the current architectural avant-garde (which includes Hadid as one of its practitioners and precursors), such a genealogy is not written in a spirit that wants to reduce what is going on now to what has been, or foreclose the current and future potential for developing the repertoire in new directions. That can not be the purpose of “Digital Hadid”. We nearly reached the point in our argument where we have to pose the question – given this genealogy - what is fundamentally new now and what points towards further radical mutations of architecture in terms of its methods, concepts and forms. The best way to approach this question might be via a review of the most recent series of projects coming from Zaha Hadid Architects. However, before we do this we should make yet another short excursion into the methods and mechanisms of invention that have been prevalent in Hadid’s previous work: Mechanisms of invention.
Re- combination: Collage and Hybridisation
A key mechanism that has to be mentioned here is the dialectic of re-combination and hybridisation. The important reminder here is that the result of combination is rarely just a predictable compromise. Synenergies might be harnessed: Unpredictable operational effects might emerge and, on the side of meaning, affects are engendered as the whole taxonomy of differences is forced into an unpredictable realignment. The new combination re-contextualises and reinterprets its ingredients as well as its surroundings. Currently it is the various morphing tools that afford the most sophisticated form of formal hybridization resulting in hybrids that appear as seamless wholes, leaving no trace of any conflicting figures in their origin. Kolatan & Macdonald focused attention on this form of hybridization, introducing the suggestive term chimera to denote the resultant effect.
Abstraction implies the avoidance of familiar, ready-made typologies. Instead of taking for granted things like houses, rooms, windows, roofs etc. Hadid reconstitutes the functions of territorialisation, enclosure and interfacing etc. by means of boundaries, fields, planes, volumes, cuts, ribbons etc. The creative freedom of this approach is due to the open-endedness of the compositional configurations as well as the open-endedness of the list of abstract entities that enter into the composition. To maintain the liberating spirit of abstraction in the final building a defamiliarising, "minimalist" detailing is preventing that volumes immediately denote rooms and cuts turn into windows again. This minimalism withdraws the familiar items that otherwise would allow the inhabitants to fall into habitual patterns of behavior. Instead they confronted with an abstract composition that needs to be discovered and made sense of in a new way. Instead of points, lines, and planes we now work with control points, splines, nurb surfaces, and force-fields etc. Analogies Analogies are fantastic engines of invention with respect to organisational diagrammes, formal languages and tectonic systems. They have nothing to do with allegory or semantics in general. Hadid's preferred source of analogical transference is the inexhaustible realm of landscape formations: forests, canyons, river deltas, dunes, glaciers/moraines, faulted geological strata, lava flows etc. Beyond such specific formations abstract formal characteristics of landscape in general are brought into the ambit of architectural articulation. The notion of an artificial landscape has been a pervasive working hypothesis within Hadid's oeuvre from the Hong Kong Peak onwards. Artificial landscapes are coherent spatial systems. They reject platonic exactitude but they are not just any "freeform". They have their peculiar lawfulness. They operate via gradients rather than hard edge delineation. They proliferate infinite variations rather than operating via the repetition of discrete types. They are indeterminate and leave room for active interpretation on the part of the inhabitants. Ultimately anything could serve as analogical inspiration. Often such analogies become to be considered as the concept of the project: The Cardiff Opera House as an inverted necklace, the Copenhagen Concert Hall as a block of terrazzo, the Victoria and Albert Museum extension as 3D TV, i.e. a three-dimensional pixelation etc. Most recently Zaha Hadid Architects are exploring the possibility to exploit analogies with organic systems.
Hadid's audacious move to translate the dynamism and fluidity of her calligraphic hand directly into equally fluid tectonic systems, her incredible move from isometric and perspective projection to literal distortions of space, from the exploded axonometry to the literal explosion of space into fragments, from the superimposition of various fisheye perspectives to the literal bending and melt down of space etc. - all these moves resemble the illogical operations of the surrealists. The initially "mindless" sketching of graphic textures (see Vitra sketches) in endless iterations operates like an "abstract machine" proliferating difference to select from. Once a strange texture or figure is selected and confronted with a programmatic agenda a peculiar form-content dialectic is engendered. An active figure-reading mind will find the desired conditions but equally new desires and functions are inspired by the encounter with the strange configuration. The radically irrational and arbitrary detour ends up hitting a target. This "miracle" can be explained by recognising that all functionality is relative, that all well articulated organisms have once been monstrous aberrations and might later seem crude and deficient - relative to other "higher" and more "beautiful" organisations. Before we dismiss arbitrary formalisms we need to realise that all our time-tested typologies themselves adhere dogmatically to the arbitrary formalism of orthogonality and platonic simplicity derived from the constraints of measuring, making and stabilising structures handed down to us from a rather primitive stage of our civilisation. To remain locked in within these figures at this time and age would be more than arbitrary. The only way out is radical proliferation and testing of other options. All points of departure are equally arbitrary until tested against presumed criteria. There is no absolute optimality. Every measure starts with a finite array of arbitrary options to compare, select from, adapt and thus working away from absolute arbitrariness. It is significant in this respect that the logic of evolutionary innovation starts with mutation: mutation, selection and reproduction. Hadid has been a vital engine of mutation with respect to the culture of architecture.
II. Current work – towards a new digitally based architectural language
The work presented and discussed here is a selection of projects of the last five years which demonstrate the increasing impact of the new 3D modeling and animation software on the development of a new language for architecture. Starting with the seminal winning competition for the Italien Contemporary Art Centre in Rome – now on site – and ending with the design for a new Guggenheim museum in Taichung, Taiwan. This string of projects is a quest for an increasingly organic approach to the articulation of architectural space and form. The projects selected are those projects within Zaha Hadid Architects which strongly manifest this ambition towards a new organic language. The author of this book is also the co-designer of the string of projects featured here.
The analogy of building and organism is as old as the self-conscious 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 which implies strict rules of arrangement and proportion for all parts. It also assumes a state of completeness and perfection. The organism is a closed form: nothing can be added or substracted. The Palladian Villa is perhaps the best example in of this idea of the organism as ideal of perfect order.
Our projects remain incomplete compositions, more akin to the Deleuzian notion of assemblage than to the classical conception of the organism. Our concept of organic integration does not rely on such fixed ideal types. Neither does it presuppose any proportional system, nor does it privilege symmetry. Instead integration is achieved via various modes of spatial interlocking, by formulating soft transitions at the boundaries between parts and by means of morphological affiliation. The parts or subsystems that are brought together to form a larger organic whole do not remain pure and indifferent to each other, but are mutually adapting to each other. The extreme example of organic fusion is perhaps our design for the lounging environment Ice-storm. Here a series of previously discreet elements are interarticulated by means of morphing them into a larger encompassing structure. In this fashion everything becomes literally continuous – a seamless form that is modulated and transformed to join the exact sectional profile of the embedded furniture pieces or to establish something akin to key to key-hole relations.
Another example is our design for a new Guggenheim Museum in Taichung. Here the two gallery wings are mediated by letting both meld into the central communication space which itself is made continuous with the surrounding park-scape. All transitions are made smooth. Changes in surface material never coincide (reinforce) changes in geometry. There are no add-on parts that could easily be 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 across the central public space between the two gallery wings is not a neutral grid but an irregular triangulation that is adapted to the wedge-shaped gap between the two wings. Those structural beams are formally affiliated to the pedestrian bridges that cross this canyon-space below. The glass-mullions of the roof glazing are continuing 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 that are respecting the integrity of the surface.
In the case of the project for a new Music Centre for the BBC in London the openings are created like worm-holes by means of turning the surface inside out so that the most inner surface of the very deep wall fuses with the most outer envelope.
In the case of the Florence Train station the openings are as three-dimensional and curvelinear as the overall body of the building itself - and not the imposition of plantonic figures on an otherwise organic form.
These various treatments of the problem of articulating openings within an envelope are examples of our concept of organic interarticulation. In each case the attempt is made to avoid an arbitrary interference or interruption of the envelope. Instead the quest is to integrate the openings into the structural and tectonic system of the envelope. In a similar way all compositions are seen as tasks for creative organic interarticulation. A refined organic architecture resists easy decomposition – a measure of its complexity. Centre for Contemporary Art, Rome The Centre for Contemporary Arts addresses the question of its urban context not by means of stylistic pastiche but by an assimilation in terms of urban geometry. The project appears like an ‘urban graft’, a second skin to the site. The initial design move was to flood the site with streams of parallel walls. Those walls variously converge and dissect, thus generating a pattern of interior and exterior spaces. The next step was to differentiate those walls into those bounding major linear spaces and those inbetween which were lifted to become ribs structuring the roofs and ceilings of the major spaces.
The result offers a quasi-urban field, a „world” to dive into rather than a building as signature object.The Campus is organised and navigated on the basis of directional drifts and the distribution of densities rather than key points. This is indicative of the character of the Centre as a whole: porous, immersive, a field space. An inferred mass is subverted by vectors of circulation. The external as well as internal circulation follows the overall drift of the geometry. Vertical and oblique circulation elements are located at areas of confluence, interference and turbulence.
The premise of the architectural design promotes a disinheriting of the ‘object’ orientated gallery space. Instead, the notion of a ‘drift’ takes on an embodied form. The drifting emerges, therefore, as both architectural motif, and also as a way to navigate experientially through the museum. The ‘signature’ aspect of an institution of this calibre is sublimated into a more pliable and porous organism that promotes several forms of identification at once.
In architectural terms, this is most virulently executed by the figure of the ‘wall’. Against the traditional coding of the ‘wall’ in the museum as the privileged and immutable vertical armature for the display of paintings, or delineating discrete spaces to construct ‘order’ and linear ‘narrative’, we propose a critique of it through its emancipation The ‘wall’ becomes the versatile engine for the staging of exhibition effects. In its various guises - solid wall, projection screen, canvas, window to the city - the exhibition wall is the primary space-making device. By running extensively across the site, cursively and gesturally, the lines traverse inside and out. Urban space is coincidental with gallery space, exchanging pavilion and court in a continuous oscillation under the same operation. And further deviations from the Classical composition of the wall emerge as incidents where the walls become floor, or twist to become ceiling, or are voided to become a large window looking out. By constantly changing dimension and geometry, they adapt themselves to whatever curatorial role is needed. .By setting within the gallery spaces a series of potential partitions that hang from the ceiling ribs, a versatile exhibition system is created. Organisational and spatial invention are thus dealt with simultaneously amidst a rhythm found in the echo of the walls to the structural ribs in the ceiling that also filter the light in varying intensities.
It is important to note that the whole project was initially composed of 2D splines and the crucially lifted into 3D (in 3dsmax) where the integration between the primary levels was elaborated by means of voids, terracing galleries and ramps. Art Centre, Graz The determining factor for the proposal was the desire to project and cantilever the building high over the street towards the riverbank. These considerations lead to the concept of a large canopy (raised 12m over the ground) that covers a tall volume of flexible space and acts as a large public room, transparent and inviting. Arising from a forest of mushrooms the canopy has a depth (height) varying between 3 to 6 metres. The underside is perhaps the stongest feature where the various structural stems bleed into the surface of the cantilevering volume. The composition was build up from contour lines and has been developed by a game of symmetry and deformation – creating figures of distorted symmetry. Its morphology is on the one hand derived from the urban context- as it was projecting forward the profile of existing fabric on the back of the site – and on the other it has developed from the structural logic of the tapering mushroom columns. The art centre is entered below the strongest cantilever. The main vertical circulation through the building moves through the hollow stem of the large mushroom.
The volume below the canopy is a clear, open spatial expanse, which offers the lobby, commercial spaces and an exhibition area on the ground floor as well as the flexible exhibition area on a flat level above ground. In contrast the space within the canopy is enclosed, even compressed and highly articulated. It provides for those spaces, which require intimacy, acoustic enclosure and darkness such as lectures and performances, the media centre and the photography forum. The structure comprises inverted “trumpet forms” and cores organised to act as primary “inhabited” vertical supports. These forms are of reinforced concrete construction with doubly curved surfaces to prevent deformation. The effect of splaying the fans out at the top allows large hoop tensions at the upper levels of the form giving way to hop compression at the bottom. The splays also assist in reducing the spans of the horizontal plates. The upper floors are interconnected with walls to allow the formation of a three dimensional “vierendeel” structure with the horizontal plates acting as flanges. Cantilevers over the existing building and road are then made possible. The rigid horizontal form merges into the vertical fans with a seamless junction transferring vertical loads down to the ground. Quebec National Library, Montreal The overall massing proposed fills the urban block while leaving a well sized urban plaza on the corner. The structuring of this mass emphasizes the pattern of public circulation through and within the building. A deep visual penetration of this mass is offered by means of deep cuts and crevices articulating access points as well as internal movements revealing the manifold choreography of public events within the thick skin of the building.
The two bulk heads of the site are articulated as public entrance rooms, piercing deep into the building.
The main architectural concept is based on the articulation of a continuous navigation space that sequentially unfolds the various bodies of human knowledge contained in the different collections of the library. This navigation space follows the branching logic of successive disciplinary differentiation - the tree of knowledge. The navigation space is architecturally expressed as the veins eroding the solid mass of the building. The actual circulation through the buiding traces these voids and crevices allowing for diagonal vistas and good orientation across levels.
BMW Plant - Central Building, Leipzig The Central Building is the active nerve- centre or brain of the whole factory complex. All threads of the building’s activities gather together and branch out again from here.This planning strategy applies to the cycles and trajectories of people - workers (arriving in the morning and returning for lunch) and visitors - as well as for the cycle and progress of the production line which traverses this central point - departing and returning again. This dynamic focal point of the enterprise is made visually evident in the proposed dynamic spatial system that encompasses the whole northern front of the factory and articulates the central building as the point of confluence and culmination of the various converging flows. It seems as if the whole expanse of this side of the factory is oriented and animated by a force field emanating from the central building. All movement converging on the site is funneled through this compression chamber squeezed between the three main segments of production: Body in White, Paint Shop and Assembly. The primary organising strategy is the scissor-section that connects groundfloor and first floor into a continuous field. Two sequences of terraced plates - like giant staircases – step up from north to south and from south to north. One commences close to the public lobby passing by/overlooking the forum to reach the first floor in the middle of the building. The other cascade starts with the cafeteria at the south end moving up to meet the first cascade then moving all the way up to the space projecting over the entrance. The two cascading sequences capture a long connective void between them. At the bottom of this void is the auditing area as a central focus of everybody’s attention. Above the void the half-finished cars are moving along their tracks between the various surrounding production units open to view. The cascading floor plates are large enough to allow for flexible occupation patterns. The advantage lies in the articulation of recognisable domains within an overall field. Also the global field is opened up to visual communication much more than would be possible on a single flat floorplate. The close integration of all workers is facilitated by the overall transparency of the internal organisation. The mixing of functions avoids the traditional segregation into status groups that is no longer conducive for a modern workplace. A whole series of engineering and administrative functions is located within the trajectory of the manual workforce coming in to work or moving in and out of their lunch break. White collar functions are located both on ground and first floor. Equally some of the Blue Collar spaces (lockers and social spaces) are located on the first floor. This way the establishment of exclusive domain is prevented. The potential problem of placing a large car- park in front of the building had to be turned into an integral architectural feature that carries the scheme by turning it into a dynamic spectacle in its own right. The inherent dynamism of vehicle movement and the ‘lively’ field of the car bodies is revealed by giving the arrangement of parking lots a twist that lets the whole field move, colour and sparkle. The swooping trajectories across the field culminate within the building. The architecture we are developing is no longer the architecture of repetition and pre- conceived forms. Rather, it is an organic architecture that is able to adapt and mould itself to the peculiarities of the terrain, to orient itself to the various directions of access and to synthesise a complex series of concerns into a seamless and integrated whole. This is made possible by the curvilinear morphology that can incorporate a multitude of forms and directions without fragmentation. New numerically controlled manufacturing techniques make this quasi-natural process of formal variation possible and affordable. The result is aiming to come closer to the compelling beauty of living organisms. Ice-storm, Lounging Environment
Ice-storm is an installation that was conceived and created for the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna. It is a built manifesto towards the potential for a new domestic language of architecture, driven by the new digital design and manufacturing capabilities. The installation is suggestive of new types of living/lounging environments. In this respect it is a latent rather than manifest environment. Neither familiar typologies nor any codes of conduct are yet associated with its morphology.The installation collects and fuses a series of previously designed furniture elements and installations: Glacier, Moraine, Stalagtite, Stalagmite, Ice-berg, Z-Play and Domestic Wave including Ice-flow. These diverse elements are drawn into a dynamic vortex. In addition, two new hard sofas have been designed to be integrated into the installation. The semi-abstract, molded surface might be read as an apartment that has been carved from a single continuous mass. The rhythym of folds, niches, recesses and protrusions follows a willful formal logic. This formal dynamic has been triggert by a series of semi-functional insertions which hint towards the potential for sofas, day-bed, desk, tables etc. The design language explored here emphasizes complex curvelinearity, seamlessness and the smooth transition between otherwise disparate elements. This formal integration of divers forms has been achieved by the technique of “morphing”. Via this morphing operation the preexisting furniture pieces are embedded within the overall fluid mass of the ensemble and become integrated organs of the overall organism. Those elements which are not contiguous with the overall figure - the Z-Play pieces - are nevertheless morphologically affiliated and appear like loose fragments that drift around the scene at random. The installation asks the visitors to occupy the structure and to explore for themselves this new open aesthetic which invites us to reinvent ourselves in terms of posture, demeanor and life-style. Z-Scape, Lounging Furniture Z-scape is a compact ensemble of lounging furnitures for public and private living rooms. The formal concept is derived from dynamic landscape formations like glaciers and erosions. The different pieces are constituted as fragments determined by the overall mass and its diagonal veins. Along these veins the block splits offering large splinters for further erosive sculpting. Four pieces emerged so far: Stalactite, stalagmite, glacier, moraine. Others are yet to be unearthed. The pieces thus derived are then further shaped - if rather loosely - by typological, functional and ergonomic considerations. But these further determinations remain secondary and precariously dependent on the overriding formal language. We do not want to offer optimized and thus predetermined use-patterns. A margin of strangeness and indeterminancy is desired. Stimulation emerges between abstraction and metaphor.
BBC Music Centre and Offices, London
The design task is the creation of a powerful landmark building acting as iconic gateway into the BBC White City Campus. The key challenge we face as designers in this respect is the fact that this landmark is to be composed of two separate components with rather different functions: The BBC Music Centre on the one side and an office building - that might or might not be occupied by the BBC itself - on the other side. A further difficulty is that the two components may not be constructed at the same time. Therefore independent successive construction needs to be possible.
Fine Arts Centre, University of Connecticut
The building we are proposing is a sensation that speaks to all the senses.
Fast Train Station, Florence
The key challenges of the architectural project is to create an urban event space and communication hub which is initiated by a train that is buried 25m under the ground. The task is to give expression to this hidden life-line and to bring this underground event to the urban surface.
Fast Train Station, Naples
The key challenge of the architectural project is to create a well organized transport interchange that can simultaneously serve as a new landmark that announces the approach to Naples – a new gateway to the city. This is the first reason why we chose to conceive the new station as a bridge above the tracks.
The Temporary Guggenheim, Tokyo
Odasiba Island seems a perfect place to establish a site of cultural experimentation. Here emerges a very dynamic urban space, built upon synthetic land and animated by the entrepreneurial spirit of rapid development. In this context the 10 year intervention of the temporary Guggenheim will be an instant cultural hotspot and a catalyst for related activities.
Guggenheim Museum, Taichung
The design proposal is based on the concept of the museum as an ever-changing event space. To emphasise the aspect of transformability of the space we would like to explore the possibility to equip the new museum with something like a “stage-machinery”. We devised a series of large-scale kinetic elements that offer the option to radically transform the arrangement of the gallery spaces. We would also like to make this dramatic transformation of the space itself a spectacle, visible even on the outside appearance of the building. Thus the internal reconfiguration of the exhibition spaces creates a public sensation within the urban scenery.
William J. Mitchell, Design Worlds,
Chapter 3 in: The Logic of Architecture, M.I.T. Press 1990
Michel Faucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, 1969, 1972
Michel, Foucault, The Order of Things, London 1970, French org. 1966, (Capters 2, 5)
Michael Benedict, Cyberspace, New York 1992
Colin Rowe & Robert Slutzky, 'Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal', in: The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and other Essays, M.I.T. Press 1976
Jeffrey Kipnis, P-Tr's Progress, in: Peter Eisenman 1990-1997, El Croquis 83, Madrid 1997
Steven R. Holtzman, Digital Mantras - The Languages of Abstract and Virtual Worlds, chapter 6 Postwar Serialism, chapter 7 Chomsky, chapter 8 Coda
Brian Massumi, Sensing the Virtual, Building the Insensible, in AD: Hypersurface Architecture, London 1998
John Rajchman, The Virtual House, Any Magazine No. 19/20, 1997
John Frazer, Introduction to 'An Evolutionary Architecture', Architectural Association 1995
El Croquis 103, Zaha Hadid 1996-2001 - Landscape as a Plan
LATENT UTOPIAS - Experiments within Contemporary Architecture, Ed. Zaha Hadid & Patrik Schumacher, Springer Verlag, Wien/New York 2002
Mechanisms of Radical Innovation
in: Catalog of Exhibition Zaha Hadid Architektur, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna
Editor: Peter Noever, Publisher: Hatje Cantz Verlag
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