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EXHIBITION

REVIEW

Zaha Hadid: Architecture and Design At the Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1, until 25 November

There's a continuity in the Design Museum staging its Zaha Hadid show straight after its Luigi Colani exhibition.

Colani is the master of organic, large-scale industrial design, his free-owing, organic, (possibly) aerodynamic forms envelop vehicles for air, sea and land.

You are particularly reminded of this (perhaps serendipitous) connection by Hadid's threewheel hydrogen-fuelled Z Car for London art gallery owner Kenny Schachter.

It sits on the top oor of this show along with other Zaha things (a cutlery set, door handles, shapes to lounge on) and, in the brightly lit space overlooking the Thames, two rows of perspex-boxed models of buildings. The car's parallel in the Colani show was a twoperson city runabout of roughly similar size, but that was cheerful - where, if it's possible for a car to represent emotion, Hadid's broods.

On the oor below, though, everything is brooding. The whole of the secondfloor gallery, now revealed as a huge, high black box, is gloomily lit; much of the ambient light reected from the changing images projected on a 30mlong side wall. Down the middle is a giant amorphous Hadid shape dividing the space roughly into two and lying, as you might expect, slightly aslant the orthogons.

And greeting you is that entrancing Swarm chandelier for Established & Sons, made from some 1,000 nylon mono-laments weighted by small dark crystals, grouped to create an enigmatic Hadid form suspended in the space you're about to explore.

You have to go round the exhibition clockwise from the entrance - and you have to read the labels. Someone new to Zaha, whom I met at the show, complained of the irrelevance to the client of the giant abstractions of The Peak competition paintings. But if they'd gone round the right way, before the painterly abstractions they would have seen the conventional model and the plans and sections that persuaded the client that Hadid should be the winner.

Admittedly, the very first images in the show are also abstractions, without accompanying drawings, but you can't include everything.

The point is that, like her old AA contemporary Will Alsop, Hadid uses painting as a means for getting to the heart of her various projects.

For puritan England there is more than something of the night about that approach to architecture. And there is no way of ignoring the genuine distaste with which a lot of architects view Hadid's work - along with Alsop's, Libeskind's, Tschumi's, Koolhaas', and those other participants in that extraordinary 1970s ferment brewed by chairman Alvin Boyarsky at the AA. Judging by negative comments on the exhibition's blog, there's clearly visceral feeling about her out there.

More considered is the argument that if you look at, say, that old Expressionist, Hans Scharoun, you get the dynamism and the extraordinary spaces without any part of the building becoming unusable - whereas Hadid is pro igate with unusable space. I suppose the response to that is that if clients are happy to 'waste' space in the Hadid fashion, so what?

Then, with her Opus Building in Dubai, she goes and designs a perfectly orthogonal commercial office building - except that she blasts an ugly molten hole right through the middle of its main elevation.

So ugly is the other issue with Hadid's forms. It should be said that there is often a distinct difference between the model, however accurate, and the reality. Take the Phaeno Science Centre, Wolfsburg, whose qualities the lumpy shape under the perspex can't possibly convey. But, so the argument goes, the faults with Hadid's forms is that they erupt from the turmoil of her imagination, which is why they are often brooding and heavy.

Some used to say unbuildable as well, but her favourite engineers, Adams Kara Taylor and Arup, have shown that's not so. And even if you don't respond to every Hadid shape here, she has not joined those 'blobbists' who - as Colani did with his streamlining - maintain that their forms are simply the result of rational computergenerated processes and not some ecstatic inner vision.

Moreover, when you exit the Design Museum and see the architectural dross across the river, an ecstatic inner vision doesn't seem a bad thing.

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